Evidence-Based Instruction for Phonemic Awareness

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  • 0:04 Phonemic Awareness
  • 1:42 Screening Phonemic Awareness
  • 2:30 Blending Phonemic Awareness
  • 3:27 Instruction Components
  • 4:07 Phonemic Awareness in Action
  • 5:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Phonemic awareness is an essential skill for early reading development. This lesson defines phonemic awareness and focuses on effective programs and instruction.

Phonemic Awareness

When you read the words on this page, are you thinking of each individual letter or sound? Most likely, you learned to sight-read words long ago and no longer rely on sounding each word out. But what if you come across an unfamiliar word, such as otorhinolaryngology, or the study of ears, nose, and throat? You'll need to use your knowledge of phonics, or recalling sound/symbol relationships, and rules you've learned about spelling along the way.

Young children learn about phonics as they begin reading instruction much like you did. However, educators now understand that in order to fully understand phonics, children must first be aware of individual sounds in speech. This is called phonemic awareness. After all, without knowing that /o/ is one sound and /th/ is a completely different one, how would we even be able to decode a word like otorhinolaryngology?

Phonemic awareness has several aspects. Children who are phonemically aware are able to hear and manipulate individual sounds in speech. They should understand that when they hear and say the word hat, it's comprised of three individual sounds, h/a/t. They also need to understand that words have a beginning sound, middle sound, and end sound, and that these sounds can be manipulated to form new words.

Teachers can work with students to develop phonemic awareness.

For example, by eliminating the /h/ sound, you're left with the word at. If we substitute a /c/ for the /h/, you have a new word--cat. Young students who have strong phonemic awareness are often strong readers because they easily employ strategies for unknown words and gain early confidence as readers. How can teachers help build strong phonemic awareness skills? Let's take a closer look.

Screening Phonemic Awareness

Elanda is a kindergarten teacher working with a new student, Wyatt, on phonemic awareness skills. She completed a screening to determine his current level of phonemic awareness. Elanda tested for Wyatt's ability to:

  • Identify phonemes, or individual sounds in speech
  • Isolate phonemes
  • Blend phonemes
  • Add or delete phonemes
  • Substitute phonemes

Because phonemic awareness is working with sounds in speech, all testing and instruction is verbal. Elanda records Wyatt's answers to keep track of his understanding of phonemes, but her instruction and assessments are all completed orally. For example, when determining if Wyatt was able to isolate phonemes, she asked him, 'What is the end sound in the word hat?' Wyatt's correct answer was to say the sound /t/, not the letter t.

Teachers perform verbal testing to determine levels of phonemic awareness.

Building Phonemic Awareness

Now that Elanda has a solid understanding of what skills Wyatt already has, she can begin designing instruction to meet his needs. It's important for Elanda to take the time to determine Wyatt's needs before beginning instruction. Using data to make educational decisions means students learn skills necessary for them to succeed. Like many young children, Wyatt has little phonemic awareness.

Elanda knows the best way to teach phonemic awareness is in small groups or individually and to combine it with instruction in letter identification. This ensures students are able to make connections between phonemic awareness and reading.

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