It’s official, #phonologicalfriday is now a thing!


#phonologicalfriday is a day every week to help bring evidence-based best practices for reading instruction related to Phonological Awareness to anyone who wants to learn more about it.


This post will discuss what it is, how it develops, and why it is important.



Phonological awareness is an awareness to the sounds found in spoken language and the ability to manipulate them.


Any spoken English word can be analyzed linguistically on the following four levels:

  • Word (a unit of language used to convey meaning)
  • Syllable (an uninterrupted segment of speech)
  • Onset – rime (a syllable broken into the consonant sound before the vowel (onset) and the vowel sound in combination with additional consonant sounds (rime); c – at -> cat)
  • Phoneme (the smallest unit of speech)


I find thinking of phonological awareness as the Eiffel Tower to be helpful.

At the bottom, you have word awareness.

This part is the ground level that individuals who can comprehend spoken language understand.


The first level, you have syllable awareness.

 Most individuals are able to get to this level on their own but some need a little bit of help to get there.


The second level, you have onset-rime awareness. This is when the individual is able to separate the initial consonant sound from the rest of the syllable.

This takes a little bit more effort and there will be those that need a little extra assistance to get there.


The top of the tower is phonemic awareness. This is when the individual has the ability to break the word into its individual speech sounds.

This can be difficult because speech sounds do not always have a direct relationship to the number of letters found in a word.

Phoneme awareness is a skill that more individuals’ will need help developing.


*Just because someone knows how to read does not mean they are phonemically aware and it may actually harder for them to develop phonemic awareness at first because they know how to read.

Countless studies have shown that phonological awareness is a vital part in learning how to read (e.g. Torgesen & Mathes, 2000; Vellutino, Scanlon & Ried Lyon, 2000). It is one of strands found in Scarborough’s Reading Rope (Scarborough, 1998). Phonological awareness has been found to be an important factor in the reading, even if it is not an alphabetic language. (Goswami, 2002).


The development of phonological awareness is related to exposure of language, and it begins long before children enter school. It begins when they start paying attention to the sounds of spoken language and develops throughout the preschool years.


Once children are aware of the different words in spoken language, they then start to pay more attention to speech patterns, rhyming words and appreciate alliteration.


Generally speaking, children start off by recognizing the beginning and ending sounds in words before they pay attention to the middle sounds in words.


When a child can identify alliteration in text, it means that they realize the first sound in the words is the same.


When a child has developed an appreciation of words that rhyme, they realize that words have the same ending sound.


Once all of these skills have started to come together, an individual is able to start attending to the individual speech sounds in language.



It is critical that educators are aware that phonological awareness instruction should not stop once a child knows how to read. Several studies have shown that phonological awareness continues to develop in typically developing readers past the first grade (e.g. Kilpatrick, 2012; Lipka, Lesaux & Siegel, 2006).


Individuals with poorly developed phonological awareness tend to struggle when learning the alphabetic code, correlating phonemes to written letters, and it is the most common source of word-level reading difficulties (Stanovich, 1996).


Phonological awareness instruction is not just for children as they begin to read, it is important for children in preschool and kindergarten. Kaplan & Walpole (2005), suggested that explicit phonological awareness instruction could help mediate the effects of poverty.


The importance of phonological awareness is undeniable, but unfortunately, it has not always been covered in teacher education programs.


 Let’s make sure that all educators are aware of how phonological awareness instruction is important for all students, even after they have learned how to read!


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Goswami, U. (2002). Phonology, reading development, and dyslexia: A cross-linguistic perspectiveAnnals of Dyslexia52(1), 139-163.

Kaplan, D., & Walpole, S. (2005). A stage-sequential model of reading transitions: Evidence from the early childhood longitudinal studyJournal of Educational Psychology97(4), 551.

Kilpatrick, D. A. (2012). Phonological segmentation assessment is not enough: A comparison of three phonological awareness tests with first and second gradersCanadian Journal of School Psychology27(2), 150-165.

Lipka, O., Lesaux, N. K., & Siegel, L. S. (2006). Retrospective analyses of the reading development of grade 4 students with reading disabilities: Risk status and profiles over 5 yearsJournal of Learning Disabilities39(4), 364-378.

Stanovich, K. E. (1996). Toward a more inclusive definition of dyslexia. Dyslexia2(3), 154-166.

Torgesen, J. K., & Mathes, P. G. (2000). A basic guide to understanding, assessing, and teaching phonological awareness. Pro Ed.

Vellutino, F. R., Scanlon, D. M., & Reid Lyon, G. (2000). Differentiating between difficult-to-remediate and readily remediated poor readers: More evidence against the IQ-achievement discrepancy definition of reading disabilityJournal of Learning Disabilities33(3), 223-238.