Happy #PhonologicalFriday!


This week we will discuss what Graphophonemic Awareness is.


First, let us review a few key concepts:

  • A phoneme is the smallest meaningful unit of speech.
  • Phonemic awareness is the ability to manipulate sounds within a word.
  • A grapheme is a printed or written letter that represents a phoneme.
  • Graphemic Awareness is the awareness of the letters in a language.


Graphophonemic Awareness connects phonemes with graphemes which in education is commonly called either letter-sound correspondence or grapheme-phoneme correspondence.


In any alphabetic language, it is important for the reader to understand that the letters of the alphabet represent sounds in the language. 


In some languages, this is fairly straight forward because there is a one to one relationship between letters and sounds. This means that there is only one letter (grapheme) for every sound (phoneme) in the written language.


However, it can be difficult to learn how to read in the English language because our writing system does not have a one to one relationship between the letters in our alphabet and the sounds found in our language. 


English uses the Roman or Latin alphabet which has 26 letters. The problem is, the English language has 44 phonemes. This means that some letters must represent more than one sound.  Written English also has groups of letters (digraphs and trigraphs) that can represent one sound.

Learning the relationships between the letters of the alphabet and the phonemes found in the language is the first step to learning how to read.

Reading instruction that includes teaching the relationship between the letters and sounds is usually considered phonics instruction. 


You may remember this from your own reading instruction where you would be taught something along the lines of:

            ‘a’ says /a/ for apple

            ‘b’ says /b/ for ball

            ‘c’ says /k/ for cat

            ‘d’ says /d/ for dog


This is the very surface level of phonics instruction, but unfortunately, instruction frequently stops at this level.

Even in introducing the first 4 letters, there are already problems because of ‘a’, like all vowels, can make several different vowel sounds. The letter ‘c’ can also make the /s/ sounds as in city. 


While there are students who will be able to learn these different rules about the different sounds letters can make, there are several students who will not make these connections without direct, systematic instruction on the various letter-sound correspondences found in written English.


Regardless of the debates related to best practices for reading instruction, I think most educators will agree it is important for students to have at least some level of letter-sound correspondence in their beginning reading instruction. Why? Because letters without sounds are just squiggles on the page.


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