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  • Writer's pictureTeacher Brett

What is Phonological Awareness?

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

What is Phonological or Phonemic Awareness?

Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate

the sounds within language. This is an overarching term that

involves working with sounds at the word, syllable, and phoneme

levels. Phonemic awareness is a subset of skills under the phonological

awareness umbrella. This includes working with sounds at the

phoneme level (blending, segmenting, and manipulating sounds).

Why is this important?

According to research, struggling readers often have lower phonological and phonemic awareness than their peers. Through phonological and phonemic awareness instruction, students begin to learn about individual sounds and how they are used in words. This understanding can then aid in reading and writing development.

What about letters?

Although phonemic awareness activities are often thought of as an oral exercise, research has found that phonemic awareness instruction using letters can be more effective. This provides students with a direct connection to understand how phonemic awareness skills apply to reading and spelling. Teachers should work to begin including letters in their activities as soon as students understand the concepts orally.

Pay Close Attention to Sounds:

Phonemes can be classified by how they are pronounced:

  • Continuous- These are sounds that can be stretched out (/m/, /n/, /ng/, /f/, /v/, /th/, /th/, /s/, /z/, /sh/, /zh/, /w/, /y/, /l/, /r/, all vowels)

  • Stop phonemes- These are sounds cannot be stretched out (/p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /k/, /g/, /h/, /ch/, /j/, /wh/)

Although we do not teach these terms to students, it is important for teachers to recognize them. When beginning phonemic awareness instruction, teachers should start with continuous phonemes. Words beginning with these sounds are often easier for students to work with because they can be stretched out.

A frequent error made by both teachers and students is adding an extra 'uh' sound onto consonants (especially stop phonemes like /b/ and /d/). Be careful to watch yourself and correct students if you hear this extra sound. For example, /b/ should not become /buh/. The phoneme should be clipped so the airflow stops immediately after the sound.

Sounds vs Letters:

As you work with individual phonemes you are listening for sounds. Some letters contain more than one sound (ex. the letter x makes two sounds /k/ /s/) and some sounds are spelled with more than one letter (ex. the letters ch make one sound). Be sure to focus on each sound or phoneme and not each letter. When your students are ready to incorporate letters into their practice, be sure to keep the letters for sounds like /ch/ together as one unit.

Making a Phonemic Awareness Kit:

You may want to put together a phonemic awareness kit in order to make it easier to keep your materials together for dedicated practice. In this kit, you can gather any manipulatives, picture cards, and printables. You may also want to include a whiteboard and markers as well as any curriculum or books you are working with. You may also want to print out oral exercises on small cards that you can place on a key ring and take with you. These can be used while your students are waiting in line or walking in the halls

Want to know more? Check out my YouTube channel below!

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