Happy first #phonologicalfriday of 2020 everyone! I hope you have had a good start to the New Year.


I have several hopes for the new decade, and you can help me with one of them! I hope that more educators will learn about the important role phonological awareness plays in learning to read.  I hope early childhood educators and teachers will find ways to include different aspects of phonological awareness in their instruction.


Did you know there several different ways the written word can be examined?



If you have attended presentations by Dr. Louisa Moats, you may be familiar with a slide entitled “How We Recognize Words.” It looks similar to this:

It is important for every teacher to know and understand the difference between these five different levels of word analysis in the English Language.


At the word level, the reader just looks at the word for face value. Experienced readers can do this with thousands of words they have committed to memory. When the word has been committed to memory, a reader can recognize it by sight.


The whole – language method of reading instruction tries to teach young readers to read the whole word by sight, through repeated exposure to the language.


Morphemes are the smallest parts of words that can contain meaning. Morphemes come in various forms.


There are free base elements that are words in their own right (ex. sad) but their meaning can change with the addition of another morpheme (ex. <sad> + <er> = sadder).


Prefixes are morphemes that are found at the beginning of a word and changes the word’s meaning (ex. <un> + <fair> = unfair).


A bound base is a base element that cannot occur on its own (ex. <rupt>). Sometime bound bases are called roots.


Suffixes are morphemes that are found at the end of words (ex. <ed>). When suffixes are added to base elements, they can change the word to a different form (noun, verb, adjective or adverb).


When a reader looks at a word at the morpheme level, they examine parts of the word for meaning.


At the syllable level, the reader breaks the word into parts that contain one vowel sound with optional consonant sounds attached to it, or a syllable consonant.


There are six different types of syllables closed, open, vowel – consonant – e, the r-coloured vowel, the vowel team and the le pattern.


Once a reader understands these syllable types, they can break the word down into syllables, allowing them to read the word one syllable at a time before trying to blend the syllables together to make the word.


One level lower that the syllable level, is the grapheme level.  The grapheme is a letter or letter combination that is used to represent one speech sound or phoneme.  The grapheme b represents the phoneme /b/.


In order for students to be able to ‘sound words out’ they must understand the relationship between graphemes (letters) and phonemes (sounds).  They must be able to look at a letter and automatically know what sound that letter makes.  This is what teachers are trying to teach in phonics lessons.


Once students understand this relationship, they are said to have graphophonemic awareness.


The lowest level a word can be analyzed at is by the individual letters that are found in the word.  This is the level that we use when we are communicating how to spell a word, or if someone were to ask you how to say a word, they would tell you each letter found in the word.


In order to become a skilled reader, you must have an awareness of each of these levels.  Unfortunately, our current education system does not always put enough time aside for the appropriate instructional time needed for students to fully develop these skills.


I hope this is something we can change in this decade through education and advocation for the important role of phonological awareness in teaching children how to read.


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