Johnny Key

Commissioner of Education

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Phonological Awareness

 
What is phonological awareness? What is phonemic awareness? Why teach phonological awareness?
Why teach phonemic awareness? When should you teach phonological awareness? How should you teach phonological awareness?
How should you make the sound of each phoneme? What other resources are available?  
 

What is phonological awareness?

  • Phonological awareness is the ability to notice the sound structure of spoken words.
  • Phonological awareness is an umbrella term that encompasses a continuum of skills from large to small, from syllables to onset-rime and finally down to phonemes (individual sounds) in words.
  • Phonological awareness tasks involve sounds, not letters.  When letters are added to the lesson, it becomes the teaching of phonics instead of phonological awareness.
  • Phonemic awareness is conscious awareness of the identity of speech sounds in words and the ability to manipulate those sounds.

basic phonological awareness chart

What is phonemic awareness?

  • Phonemic awareness is an awareness of individual sounds/phonemes in spoken words.
  • Phonemic awareness represents the most precise subcategory of phonological awareness.
  • Because letters are designed to represent spoken phonemes, phonemic awareness is the type of phonological awareness that is essential for reading.

Why should you teach phonological awareness?

  • Phonological awareness is necessary for learning and using the alphabetic code.
  • Phonological awareness predicts later outcomes in reading and spelling.
  • Poor readers have problems with phonological awareness skills.
  • Direct instruction in phonological awareness benefits noivce readers and spellers.
  • Phonological awareness is essential for skilled reading.
  • Phonological awareness continues to develop in typical readers beyond first grade.
  • Phonemic awareness is needed for efficient sight-word learning.
  • Advanced phonological awareness skills must be in place in order for orthographic mapping to take place.  Orthographic mapping is the proceses we use to store printed words in long-term memory.
  • Phonemic awareness and letter knowledge are the two best predictors of how well children will learn to read during their first 2 years in school.
  • Every point in a child's development of word-level reading is affected by phonological awareness skills.

Why should you teach phonemic awareness?

  • Phonemic awareness is needed for efficient sight-word learning.
  • Phonemic awareness and letter knowledge are the two best predictors of how well children will learn to read during their first 2 years in school.
  • Basic phonemic awareness skills: blending and segmenting of individual sounds.
  • Advanced phonemic awareness skills: deleting, substituting, and reversing individual sounds.

When should you teach phonological awareness?

  • Children are ready to play with language in preschool and should practice phonological awareness skills using nursery rhymes, silly songs, and listening practice.
  • Kindergartenn and first grade students should progress through the phonological awareness continuum as they work on basic phonological skills, including phoneme blending and segmentation.
  • Advanced phonological awareness (phoneme deletion, substitution and reversal) continues to develop until third or fourth grade.

Hierarchy of Phonological Awareness Skills

How should you teach phonological awareness?

  • When phonemic awareness is taught as an isolated skill, it improves reading outcomes but not as effectively as when students are also instructed on how to apply phonemic awareness skills to letters and written words.
  • This does not mean that phonemic awareness should be taught using letters, rather than using oral prompts and tokens without letters on them.
  • Phonemic awareness can act as a warm up for a phonics lesson: Say a word, ask what sounds they hear, ask them what letters might be used to spell the word, display the word (phonics at this point) and point out how the sounds in the spoken word align with the letters in the written word.
  • Activities need to integrate phonemic awareness and letter-sound knowledge while maintaining the distinction between the two.

Phonological Awareness Continuum

How should you make the sound of each phoneme?

  • It is important to clip off each sound to avoid saying "uh" at the end.

Phoneme Articulation Video

What other resources are available?

Phonemic Awareness Apps

More Phonemic Awareness Apps

Top 10 Resources for Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

Teaching Phonological Awareness to Older Students

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