Phonological awareness for literacy

What is phonological awareness?

Phonological awareness is the understanding that words are made up of smaller parts (e.g. syllables and sounds). A very strong relationship exists between phonological awareness and the development of reading and spelling skills.

Children with phonological awareness difficulties may:

  • be confused about the difference between letters and sounds
  • have difficulty in recognising the same letters/sounds in different words
  • tend to have difficulty with sound-letter correspondence, especially for vowels
  • be slow at sounding out words when they read, and forget what they've sounded out before getting to the end of the word
  • guess words from the initial letter
  • have difficulty blending sounds together
  • alter the sound sequence, e.g. clamp > camalp
  • omit syllables when spelling, e.g. paradise > perdise
  • have difficulty identifying the sounds in consonant clusters, and omit or add letters when spelling, e.g., stamp > stap, cold > clold
  • omit or substitute vowels from multisyllabic words, e.g., beneath > bnith, orchestra > ochsta.

Phonological Awareness for Literacy (PAL) at La Trobe

La Trobe's PAL program was established in 2004 and is based on a program developed over the past decade at the University of Queensland. It was extensively revised and republished in 2008.

The program was developed to be run by speech pathology students under the supervision of qualified speech pathologists and is strongly evidenced based.

Objectives of PAL

  • To improve students' phonological awareness skills including identifying sounds in words, segmenting words into individual sounds, blending sounds into words.
  • To improve the accuracy and efficiency of students' letter-sound knowledge.
  • To make explicit to students the relationship between phonological awareness skills, letter-sound knowledge, word reading and word spelling.

Program structure

The program is organised into three stages. The first stage focuses on simple words with regular spelling (2-3 sound words). The second stage focuses on more complex words (i.e. those requiring advanced segmentation, blending and manipulation skills) with regular spelling. Finally, the third stage focuses on the reading and spelling of multisyllabic words where the spelling is not always regular. Rules for syllable breaking, and the addition of grammatical morphemes are included in this stage.

The current program format is  three hours over five consecutive  weeks (a total of 15 hours of instruction). Sessions are available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with limited places available, depending on the availability of Speech Pathology students. Participants normally commence with Stage 1 and depending on need may attend further blocks of intervention to continue through more advanced stages. Currently PAL runs once a year, around May.

Participants have speech pathology students assigned to work with them and advance at their own pace through a mixture of small group and one-to-one work under the supervision of a qualified Speech Pathologist.

Parents should note that the PAL program is not a comprehensive literacy program. It does not go beyond the word level and it targets very specific skills. These skills are fundamentally important for the acquisition of effective reading and spelling skills but some children with literacy difficulties will have moved beyond the skills targeted by PAL.


This program is recommended for children in Grades 2 to 6 with a specific reading disability, i.e. children with unexpected reading difficulties in view of their other abilities.

The program is not recommended for children with a significant language delay or disorder, moderate to severe visual or auditory impairment, intellectual disability, or behavioural problems.

Children are assessed before they commence the program in order to confirm that it will suit their needs. If an offer is made, the Speech Pathologist will discuss preferences for day and time of sessions. However, please note that we are not always able to offer all options in terms of day and time of session.

Application Forms

Please complete and return the following application forms.  These forms must be completed before a referral will be processed.

If any assistance is required to complete these forms, please call clinic reception on (03) 9479 1921 or email to request assistance.

Other important information

The PAL program is run once a year, usually in Semester 1.


Our fees are not refundable through Medicare or private health insurance. Concession is available on the presentation of a Health Care Card. Fees may be altered according to family income and individual circumstances. For other programs or group therapy, different fees will apply.