Understanding Phonemic Awareness


In our "The Big Five" blog post from March 21st, we identified the five components that reading studies show promote reading success. In this blog post, we will look further into the first skill young readers should know - Phonemic Awareness.  

Phonemic awareness is the ability for students to hear and manipulate sounds. It is a precursor to reading, but does NOT involve any reading of words in print. Studies support that a young reader’s ability to manipulate the sounds heard is an indicator of early reading success.

There is a general hierarchy of phonemic awareness skills or abilities that children should acquire prior to and in the early stages of learning to read. 

STEP 1 - Rhyme:  When words rhyme, they sound the same at the end. For example, dog, log, and jog. Children should be able to identify and produce words that rhyme.

STEP 2 - Beginning, Ending, and Medial Sounds:  Children should be able to identify and produce words that have the same beginning sound, ending sound, or medial sound.

STEP 3 - Phoneme Blending:  Words are made by putting sounds together. Children should be able to be given sounds of a word and produce the word. For example, /t/ /a/ /p/ makes the word tap

STEP 4 - Segmenting:  First children should work on segmenting sentences into words, then words into syllables, and finally words into sounds. Segmenting simply means breaking down or breaking apart. For example, asking a child to count the words in a sentence, or clap the syllables in their name, or identify the sounds in a given word: tap (/t/ /a/ /p/) will help students to master the task of segmenting properly.

STEP 5 - Manipulation:  This is a combination of blending and segmenting. Deleting or changing sounds in words is considered manipulating the word. Segmenting Onsets and Rimes is a great exercise used to re-enforce this skill. An Onset is the segment of the word before the vowel, and a Rime is the segment of the word after the vowel. For example - A child is given a word as in ball, and is asked to take off the /b/ sound, and produce the word, all.  An extension of this skill is to ask children to change the /b/ sound in ball to a /t/ sound and produce the new word tall