What is Phonemic Awareness or Phonological Awareness and How Do I Teach It?

What is Phonemic Awareness or Phonological Awareness and How Do I Teach It?


Did you know that phonemic awareness is the best predictor of reading success? This is so important that we don't want you to skip or discount the activities that promote phonemic awareness. Keep reading for ideas on how to develop this awareness for your child. 


Phonemic awareness is a child’s basic understanding that speech is composed of series of sounds.  It is the ability to manipulate these sounds, known as phonemes, in words orally. It is the understanding that every word is comprised of basic sounds or phonemes. Playing with words and sounds orally is the best way to help children hear how these sounds fit together to make words. 


Phonemes are the smallest units of speech. Children manipulate, or play with, these sounds by rhyming, changing beginning sounds, talking with silly names and words, and playing games like Pig Latin or The Name Game. 


While they may seem silly or non-educational, these types of activities are extremely important for developing phonemic awareness. The emphasis in developing phonemic awareness is on listening and talking rather than reading and writing.


It is a great achievement for your child when he understands that words are composed of smaller units.  By developing phonemic awareness, your child will use sound-symbol correspondences to read and spell words. 


Phonemic awareness is often confused with phonics, but it is not the sounding out of words, reading of words, spelling patterns, or words.  Rather, it is the foundation for phonics and reading success.


*Adams (1990) provided an outline of five levels of phonemic awareness:

  1. Rhyme and alliteration - to hear rhymes and alliteration as measured by knowledge of nursery rhymes
  2. Oddity Tasks - comparing and contrasting the sounds of words for rhyme and alliteration
  3. Blending and splitting syllables
  4. Phonemic segmentation - being able to identify and count the individual sounds in a word
  5. Phoneme manipulation - manipulating sounds by taking away or adding a sound, thereby creating a new word  

 *From Scilearn.com - to read more about phonemic awareness click here


Important: If children lack phonemic awareness, it is likely they will be weak readers. To ensure your child’s reading success, spend adequate time developing phonemic awareness.


Easy (and fun) Ways to Promote Phonemic Awareness


  • Read aloud often from books with rhyming words, alphabet books, Mother Goose, and Dr. Seuss. 
  • Play with words - tongue twisters, rhyme games, and making up nonsense words to rhyme
  • Games: 

Blending: putting separate sounds together to make a word.

Example:  Say the separate sounds of ‘cat’/c//a//t/ and have your child blend them together to say the word “cat”.  This should be fluent and quick.


Segmenting: breaking words apart into separate sounds; stretch the word out slowly (like talking underwater).

Example:  Say the word ‘fan’ and tell your child to separate the sounds /f/---/a/---/n/.


Echoes: It is important for children to be able to segment the sounds in a word as well as take sounds and blend them into a word.  This game will help him practice doing both.


a.)Say a segmented word aloud and have your child echo the blended word in response. For example: say /p/ /a/ /n/ and the child should respond pan.


b.)You say the blended word pan and have the child echo the segmented word /p/ /a/ /n/.


 *Practice doing this both ways and work into more difficult words as your child learns blends and long vowels. 


Books that we recommend include How Now Brown Cow by Alice Schertle and There's a Wocket in My Pocket by Dr. Suess. For many more ideas, check out this article from Reading Rockets. 



As always, I encourage you to read, read more, read more often.  ~Mary 

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