Children learn to do many things, but reading is and will always be one of the most important things a child learns to do. How can we as parents, guardians, and educators ensure that children are receiving the right type of instruction to become successful readers? Well, to make that happen, they need explicit instruction with phonemic awareness and phonics.
What is phonological awareness?
“Phonological awareness is the understanding of different ways that oral language can be divided into smaller components and manipulated.” (Chard and Dickson, 1999)
Essentially, phonological awareness is the big umbrella that covers reading skills. Under that umbrella, you will find 4 sub-categories that have their own sub-skills. In these sub-categories, children will learn that a word is the largest unit of language. When we begin teaching at the word level, children will learn that words can be blended, segmented, and manipulated.
What is phonemic awareness?
Under the umbrella of phonological awareness, children need to develop mastery in a sub-category called phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the understanding that spoken words are made of individual sounds called phonemes. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound we hear in a word. Phonemic awareness is oral and auditory with a focus on the sounds. This does not require visuals. It is broken down into 6 sub-categories.
What is phonics?
Phonics instruction is visual and auditory. It focuses primarily on the letter-sound relationship. Therefore, phonemic awareness and phonics are NOT the same. Children need explicit instruction so they can understand how sounds work. They need to make a connection between what they see in print to the 44 sounds in the English language. Without mastery in phonemic awareness, reading will likely be challenging for children because the print does not make sense to them.
What are the 6 sub-categories of Phonemic Awareness?
Assess if the beginning, medial (middle), or final sound can be heard. The sounds in HAT
For example, when a child learns a word, he/she will learn to blend by putting sounds and word parts together. Take the words cup and cake, when they are blended together, the new word (compound) is cupcake. The new word has two syllables.
Segmenting- When we segment, we take the whole word and break it into parts. Segmenting is similar to blending and it connects to a child's ability to encode (spell). They will use their knowledge of sounds to write the letters that correlate to each letter or letter combinations. For example, when I ask a child to segment the word watermelon into syllables, he/she will say how many syllables are in the word. Watermelon has four syllables, /wa/-/ter/-mel/-/on/.
Manipulation- Phoneme manipulation is broken down into 3 sub-categories:
Cap: /c/ is the onset because it comes before the vowel and /at/ is the rime because it includes the vowel and everything after.
/m/ is the onset and /ake/ is the rime.
/pl/ is the onset and /ate/ is the rime.
We can also manipulate syllables:
Why are Phonemic Awareness AND Phonics Instruction Important to Teach?
It is important because reading is not a natural thing that humans do. You have to explicitly teach someone how sounds (phonemic awareness) work and how it connects to the print (phonics) they see daily. Both skills are extremely necessary for children learn to decode words accurately and with automaticity .
Play games centered around identifying letters, sounds, rhyme, etc. These little things will set the foundation for reading. By kindergarten, your child will be introduced to more rhyming, word families (rime), syllables, and manipulating sounds (adding, deleting, and substitution) so they can become great independent readers and spellers.
You may be interested in these blog posts:
Are You Reading with All E.A.R.S?
Are You Teaching Letter Sounds the Wrong Way?
Hi, I am Odessa. I'm a mom of two wonderful children and a teacher. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education and a Master of Science in Childhood Education with over 10 years of PreK and Kindergarten experience. I am a lover of all things literacy for children and their curiosity of the world. Get comfy and click around my site. I hope you find something you'll like, and something your kids will love! P.S. Akwaaba means 'welcome' :)
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