Hierarchy of Phonological Awareness Levels


Phonological awareness, like other stages in a child’s development, occurs in a sequence or along a continuum; Emerald Dechant has identified the following phonological awareness levels. Supporting activities are included on subsequent pages.


Dechant Levels

Phonological Awareness Levels



Awareness of Gross Differences:  Recognizing that words represent a sound unit-word awareness.

Students are provided with some sort of counter, such as peanuts and a small container. After reading a story to students, the teacher selects a sentence and says it aloud.  The sentence is then slowly repeated and the students are asked to drop a peanut into their bag every time they hear a word.


Awareness of Rhyme:  Hearing and recognizing rhymes.

“Listen to this poem and tell me the rhyming words you hear.”


Segmentation of Words into Syllables: Detecting that words are made up of different part-syllables. 

After reading through a story, the teacher selects some words that have single and multiple syllables and invites students to clap out the parts as individual words are read aloud.


Awareness of Initial Consonant Segments:  Generating a word that has a given sound at the beginning, middle, or end.

“Let’s name some words that begin with /b/.”


Alliteration: Identifying words that have a given sound.

“Listen to this sentence and tell me how all the words begin.”


Awareness/Segmentation of Onset and Rime:  Hearing and manipulating the onset and rime of words.

Using one-syllable words from a story, show students how to separate the initial consonant sound from the rest of the word.


Phonemic Segmentation:  isolating sounds at the beginning of a word or in an entire word.  Sometimes the task requires hearing and counting; other time it requires producing the actual sound.

Hearing and Counting:  “Tell me how many sounds you hear in the word cat.”   (3)

Producing Sounds:  “Tell me the sounds you hear in the word cat.”  /c/ /a/ /t/


Blending of Phonemes and Syllables:  Putting sounds together to form a word.

“I’m thinking of a word that names an animal.  It is a /d/ /og/.  What’s the word?” (dog)


Phonemic Manipulation: substituting, adding, or deleting sounds to create new words.

Substituting:  “What word do we have if we change the /d/ in dog to /l/?”

Adding:  “Add /k/ to row.  What’s the name of our bird?” (crow)

Deleting: “Take away the first sound in cat.  What’s your new word?” (at)