Phonemic & Phonological Awareness: Definitions & Activities

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  • 00:00 Reading and Phonics
  • 00:55 Phonological Awareness
  • 2:10 Phonemic Awareness
  • 3:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Phonics, phonemic awareness, and phonological awareness may all sound really similar, but they are all different yet important skills required for successful reading. Watch this lesson to find out about each one and how to develop them.

Reading and Phonics

Karim is an elementary school teacher and he wants to make sure that his students are good readers when they leave his class. He's heard that phonics is important to reading and that his students should have something called phonological awareness and phonemic awareness, but he's not sure exactly what those are. At the end of the day, he just wants to know how to teach his students to read.

Reading is based on phonics, or the link between written and spoken language. When you see the letter 't,' you know that it makes a /t/ sound. If it is followed by an 'i,' 'm,' and 'e,' you know that the word is 'time.' That is phonics. A good understanding of phonics is crucial to the ability to read. To help Karim figure out how to teach his students, let's look at two elements of phonics-phonological awareness and phonemic awareness-and what types of activities Karim can do in his classroom to support each.

Phonological Awareness

Karim understands that phonics involves linking spoken and written language, but he still doesn't know what phonological awareness is or how he should teach it to his students. Phonological awareness is the ability to recognize that words are made up of a variety of sound units. Phonology is the study of the sound of speech, so phonological awareness is about recognizing the different sound units in speech. For example, Karim loves the word 'polysyllabic.' It just sounds so cool! When he breaks the word down into its parts, he can see that it has 5 syllables and many different sounds, like the 'p' sound at the beginning of the word. He is using his phonological awareness. Recognizing syllables, including segmenting words into syllables and chunking letters into syllables, is a big part of phonological awareness. So is the ability to match sounds to words.

So how can Karim teach his students to develop better phonological awareness? Activities like rhyming games, breaking words up into syllables, and other activities like that will help them hone their phonological awareness.

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