Phonological Awareness 1: Count the phonemes

Dyslexia Tutorial

Phonological Awareness 1: Count the phonemes


According to the International Dyslexia Association, “dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin…. characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language…” For many students with dyslexia, it is difficult to hear smaller parts of words, such as rhymes, syllables, and phonemes (the smallest sound component), skills which greatly aids in reading and spelling.

The trained teacher/ therapist knows how to help the student develop phonological awareness. But first, the teacher must him/herself be able to identify these smaller parts of sounds.

The activity below provides practice for identifying phonemes. It is estimated that English contains 44 phonemes, written as one or more of the 26 letters in the alphabet. Phonological awareness activities such as this should be included in every academic language therapy session to strengthen the student’s phonological processing skills. Use Elkonin boxes and manipulatives to make this a multisensory activity.

Sample Problem

How many phonemes (speech sounds) do you hear in these words? Note: speech sounds might not equal the number of letters.

1. does
2. bring
3. shook
4. quake
5. think
6. staff
7. box
8. sleigh


1. does (3) (/d/, /short u/, /z/)
2. bring (4) (/b/, /r/, /short i/, /ng/)
3. shook (3) (/sh/, /oo/, /k/)
4. quake (4) (/k/, /w/, /long a/, /k/)
5. think (4) (/th/, /short i/, /ng/, /k/)
6. staff (4) (/s/, /t/, /short a/, /f/)
7. box (4) (/b/, /short o/, /k/, /s/)
8. sleigh (3) (/s/, /l/, /long a/)

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