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Help Your Child Learn to Read: Phonological Awareness Games for Preschoolers- Deletion/Substitution

We have finally arrived at the final part of our Phonological Awareness Games for Preschoolers series! In my three previous Phonological Awareness posts, we have identified the areas of Phonological Awareness that are vital for the foundation of reading, and we have also dug a little deeper into specific games/materials you can utilize at home to aid in your child’s development of Rhyming, Segmenting/Blending, and Isolation. Today, we will focus on the final two areas of Phonological awareness: Deletion and Substitution. Deletion involves having a child delete syllables and phonemes from words, and substitution involves having a child change individual sounds to create new words.

Deletion: When working on the skill of deletion with your child, you will first want to focus on syllable deletion. This involves removing individual syllables from compound words (i.e., “first say snowman. Now say snowman without snow.”) It can be helpful to use visuals for each part of the compound word (i.e., “snow” and “man”) when first targeting syllable deletion, so that your child can utilize visual cues throughout the tasks. After practicing syllable deletion with visuals becomes consistent, you can then move to working on deletion of compound words without visual assistance (i.e., just with the spoken words)! After mastering syllable deletion, the next area to target is phoneme deletion. Phoneme deletion involves deleting one or more individual phonemes in a word (i.e., “Say bat. Now say bat without “b”)—(answer is “at”). There are a variety of already made deletion activities available (both paid and free), but you also can target this skill with only the use of a CVC word list and a set of physical manipulatives for each sound (i.e. blocks, coins, colored notecards, mini toys, etc). Use a manipulative for each sound in the word, take away one sound, and then have them blend together the sounds that remain!

Substitution: Once your child demonstrates the ability to delete individual phonemes out of words, the final area of phonological awareness is substitution. Substitution is the ability to substitute (or change) the individual phonemes in words. For example, when targeting substitution with your child, you may say, “Say ‘cat’. Now, change the /c/ to a /b/.” (new word would then be “bat”). Physical manipulatives can also be a big help when working on phoneme substitution, since it gives a physical representation of each of the sounds in the word (without it being the actual letters). When starting with a CVC word, use one color block/coin for each letter sound. Have the child delete/take out the block desired phoneme in the word (initial/final phonemes tend to be easier than the medial phonemes in words), and have your child replace it with a new sound/block. Next, isolate each sound aloud, and lastly have the child blend together the “new” word. This skill may take lots of blocked practice, but you will soon see your child manipulating and substitution sounds in words like a pro in no time! As students practice and become more confident, they can begin to substitute phonemes completely mentally and without the need for manipulatives.

Deletion/Substitution Activities:

Syllable Deletion:

Phoneme Deletion/Substitution:


Thanks for staying tuned throughout the entire Phonological Awareness Games series! I hope that the explanations
and activities provided enhance your understanding as a parent and help to elevate practice at home. Once your
child has mastered each of these skills, their foundation for reading and spelling will be through the roof!

Good luck practicing!

Phonological Awareness- Elision