A student’s ability to decode words effectively begins with his/her appreciation of sounds and rhymes. Rhyming allows students to focus on the individual sounds, or phonemes, in language. The ability to attend to the sounds of speech in language, known as phonological awareness, provides students with the framework necessary for identifying words.

In addition to appreciating the specific sound elements of language, students must engage their attentional abilities. For example, saliency determination (the ability to focus on important details and filter out non-important details) is especially important when hearing how words rhyme.

Here are some strategies to help students develop an awareness of the sounds that provide the basis for words.

Helpful Hints

  • Play rhyming games to enhance students’ sensitivity to the sounds that make up words.  
    • Have students finish couplets by filling in a rhyming word, e.g., “I like to run. It’s so much ___.”  
    • Play a variation of the “operator game.” Give students a word. Have one student say a word that rhymes with the first; have a second student say a word that rhymes with the second, etc.  
  • Read rhyming books aloud to students, or have students listen to rhyming books on tape. This will reinforce the concept of rhyming and build students’ familiarity with rhyming patterns. Include books that play with the sounds in words, e.g., Dr. Seuss books.  
  • Have students practice identifying when words follow a rhyming pattern and when they don’t. For example, listening to the list of words man, pan, and pat, students should identify that man and pan rhyme, while pat does follow the same rhyming pattern.  
  • Have students group picture cards that rhyme together. For example, give students a card to start with (e.g., cat) and have them group rhyming cards with it (mat, bat, hat). Later, introduce cards into the pile that do not rhyme with the model card (mat, pig, bat, hat).