Today we will discuss the highest level of phonological awareness, phonemic awareness.
What is Phonemic Awareness?
Simply put, it is the ability for an individual to focus on and manipulate the phonemes in words.
Phonemic awareness includes skills such as blending individual phonemes together and segmenting a word into its different speech sounds.
The phonemes /f/ /a/ /s/ /t/ blend together to make the word fast.
Segmenting a word into its phonemes is breaking the word down into its individual speech sounds. This is not as easy as counting the number of letters used to spell a word.
Written English is a complex alphabetic language because it has 26 letters (grapheme) that represent 44 phonemes. There are over 220 different grapheme combinations that are used to represent these phonemes. These combinations can be made up of up to 4 graphemes to represent a single phoneme(Clarke, 2015; Ehri, 2004).
For example, the word eight has five letters but only two phonemes /A/ /t/.
Why is phonemic awareness important?
Phonemic awareness is one of the best predictors of how children will learn to read during their first two years of formal education (Share, Jorm, Maclean & Matthews, 1984).
Phonemic awareness includes the ability to blend individual phonemes into words. This skill is required when people are decoding words because they can sound out the word letter by letter and the blend the phonemes together to identify the word.
Segmenting phonemes helps when individuals are asked to spell words (encode).
Why is Phonemic awareness instruction important?
Unlike rhyme awareness, phonemic awareness does not seem to develop on its own, simply by exposing an individual to language; nor does it seem to develop on its own until it is required when an individual learns how to read (e.g. Adams, 1991; Liberman, Rubin, Duques & Carlisle, 1985; Mann, 1986).
However, with explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, children can develop these skills before they begin formal reading instruction.
Phonemic awareness instruction is a very effective way to teach students to analyze and manipulate phonemes in speech (Moats, 2004).
Research has shown that classroom teachers can effectively teach phonemic awareness to their students. Once their students have started to develop phonemic awareness, teachers can show their students how to use these skills by modeling its use during their teaching and providing them with opportunities to practice it (Moats, 2004; NICHD, 2000).
Phonemic awareness instruction includes:
- Teaching students to isolate the different phonemes in a word (beginning, middle and end)
Example: “What is the last sound in cart” (/t/)
- Teaching students to identify a common sound within a set of words
Example: “Listen to these words, which sound is the same in cat, car, kite” (/k/)
- Teaching students to identify which word does not belong in a list of words
Example: “Listen to these words, which one does not belong fire, forest, tree” (tree)
- Teaching students to differentiate between the onset and rime in a syllable/word (onset-rhyme manipulation)
Example: “Separate the first sound from the rest of the word chair” (ch-air)
- Teaching students how to blend phonemes together to make a word
Example: “What word do these sounds make /m/ /a/ /t/?” (mat)
- Teaching students how to segment the phonemes of a spoken word
Example: “Break up the word bat up into its sounds” (3 phonemes, /b/ /a/ /t/)
- Teaching the student how to remove a sound from a word (phoneme deletion)
Example: “Say flipwithout the /f/.” (lip)
A meta-analysis of peer reviewed research has shown phonological awareness instruction to be beneficial for students of all reading levels (typically achieving, at-risk and low achieving) as well as those from low, middle and high SES backgrounds (NICHD, 2000).
Given the importance of phonemic awareness and its explicit instruction for students, let’s do our best about spreading this information so every teacher knows what it is and how to teach it!
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Adams, M. J. (1991). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. MIT press.
Clarke, A. (2015). 44 sounds 222 spellings A4 chart. Retrieved from https://www.spelfabet.com.au/materials/44-sounds-222-spellings-a4-chart/
Ehri, L. C. (2004). Teaching phonemic awareness and phonics: An explanation of the National Reading Panel Meta-Analyses. In P. McCardle and V. Chhabra (Eds.). The voice of evidence in reading research. Baltimore, MD, US: Paul H Brookes Publishing Co.
Liberman, I. Y., Rubin, H., Duques, S., & Carlisle, J. (1985). Linguistic abilities and spelling proficiency in kindergartners and adult poor spellers. Biobehavioral measures of dyslexia, 1, 163-176.
Mann, V. A. (1993). Phoneme awareness and future reading ability. Journal of learning Disabilities, 26(4), 259-269.
Moats, L. C. (2004) The professional development of reading teachers. In P. McCardle and V. Chhabra (Eds.). The voice of evidence in reading research. Baltimore, MD, US: Paul H Brookes Publishing Co.
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). (2000).Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidenced-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction: Reports of the subgroups (NIH Publication No. 00-4754). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Share, D. L., Jorm, A. F., Maclean, R., & Matthews, R. (1984). Sources of individual differences in reading acquisition. Journal of educational Psychology, 76(6), 1309.