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8 Ways to Build Phonological Awareness in Middle-Schoolers

By Kelli Johnson, MA

At a Glance

  • Struggling readers in middle school may lack phonological awareness skills.

  • Middle-schoolers with reading issues may need testing and instruction in phonological awareness.

  • Parents can help by advocating at school and practicing skills at home.

Kids with reading issues like may still struggle with in their middle school years. Very often, they need formal instruction in phonological awareness, including phonemic awareness.

Even if your child is already getting extra support with reading at school, you still have an important role to play. Here are some ways to help with phonological and phonemic awareness.

1. Get the facts.

If your child is a slow reader, she might still be struggling with decoding. And that might be due to having weak phonological awareness skills.

If you’re having her evaluated for the first time, ask that her phonological awareness skills be tested. Not all reading tests measure them. But experts believe that weakness in this area is a core problem for kids with dyslexia.

If your child has already been evaluated, see if these tests were included. If not, you can ask the IEP team about testing her for phonological awareness.

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2. Partner with the reading specialist.

It’s important to know what the specialist is working on with your child. Keep in touch about which specific skills are being targeted, and ask how you can practice with your child at home. Be sure you are using the same terms the teacher is using so your child knows exactly what you’re talking about.

3. Check the IEP.

If testing has shown your child has phonological awareness issues, be sure those skills are in the IEP goals. Also, keep current on how those skills are being taught. By middle school, special education teachers may not specifically teach those skills. So you may have to advocate for this support.

4. Sneak in some fun and games.

Your middle-schooler might roll her eyes at your idea of fun, but don’t give up. See if you can interest her in Mad Libs activities, where you ask her to fill in the blanks with words that start or end with a certain letter or that rhyme with a given word. Look for ways to use these kinds of phonological games to build on whatever she’s focusing on with the reading teacher.

5. Use her favorite accessory.

Your child’s cell phone gives you another way to slip some phonological practice into her day. Text her a daily challenge based on what she’s doing. For example, if she’s going to a bakery with her friends to get brownies after school, you might send a text or leave a voicemail saying, “Bring me something that rhymes with ‘puffin.’”

6. Use social media as a tool.

If your child spends time on social media, she may ask for your help with spelling or typing a word so she doesn’t make a mistake in front of her peers. Help her break down the sounds in the word before you type or spell it. Some kids find it helps if they can tap out the sounds on a table, or count them off on their fingers.

7. Talk to your child like a young adult.

Your middle-schooler may feel embarrassed that she’s still working on something so “babyish.” Explain in a direct, honest way the reasons she needs the support she’s getting. Make sure she understands why it’s important to keep working on these skills. At the same time, be sure you’re listening to her concerns.

8. Make reading fun.

While you’re focused on phonological awareness, don’t lose sight of the big picture. Make time to read as a family. Read aloud if she’ll still let you.

Keep looking for ways to encourage your middle-schooler to read. This includes supporting her choice of reading materials—whether it’s comics, magazines or audiobooks. Doing these kinds of things will help her stay motivated to keep working on the skills she’ll need to become a better reader.

Key Takeaways

  • Phonological awareness instruction can have a big impact, even in middle school.

  • Parents can help middle-schoolers practice phonological awareness while working on grade-level skills.

  • Talking openly—and making the activities fun—can help motivate middle-schoolers to keep working on these skills.

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  • Facebook
  • Twitter
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  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom