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Skill Overview

What is onset and rime?

Onset and rime are two parts of a word.  The onset is the initial consonant sound, blend, or digraph in a single syllable word or syllable.  Not all words have onsets, such as the word oar.

The rime is the first vowel phoneme followed by all the other phonemes (at in ratesh in fresh). Words that share the same rime are considered rhyming words (e.g., fresh, mesh, flesh).


What tasks should students be able to demonstrate to indicate mastery of this skill?

  • Blend onset and rime

  • Segment onset and rime

  • Recognize rhyming words

  • Produce rhyming words


Why is understanding onset and rime important to reading?

Understanding onset and rime, as well as rhyming, builds students' awareness of common word parts. Exposing students to word families lays a foundation for automaticity in decoding and also helps with spelling and writing. Additionally, learning to blend and segment by onset and rime lays the foundation for the more advanced phonological awareness tasks of blending and segmenting by phoneme, which eventually leads to decoding.

What diagnostic can be used to determine if onset and rime is a deficit?

Structured Literacy Tools

Sequential and Cumulative

Systematic and Explicit

To Mastery

Onset and rime is the second skill on the phonological awareness continuum.  For students to master onset and rime, they should engage with onset and rime by being taught each of the tasks in the following sequence:

  • blend

  • segment

  • recognize rhyming words

  • produce rhyming words

In order to avoid gaps in learning, it is important to assess students to ensure they have mastered the task taught.  An assessment for mastery has been provided.  Teachers should assess after each task is taught and practiced a sufficient amount of time before moving on to the next onset and rime task. 


Pay close attention to the criteria for mastery on each assessment.  When students have mastered onset and rime at each task level, they are ready to move on to the next skill on the continuum.

Each task needed for onset and rime should be taught systematically and explicitly.  Below are skills cards that explain routines for teaching each of the tasks. These skill cards describe the  procedures for explicitly teaching each of the tasks.  Also, there are two recommended strategies for each instructional procedure.

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