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Understanding the Instruction of Reading Standards: Phonological & Phonemic Awareness

Instructor: Nancy Breding

Nancy has a master's degree in curriculum and instruction and has taught elementary and homeschool students.

Early reading can be enhanced through the promotion of students development of phonological and phonemic awareness. This lesson looks at developmental appropriate, research and evidence based assessment as well as practices that promote phonological and phonemic awareness instruction. Updated: 02/02/2021

Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Phonological And Phonemic Awareness

As the 21st century progresses, there's been a growing interest in the area of phonological and phonemic awareness in the early years of reading instruction. Much has been researched about the effects of class environments that are focused on helping children develop an understanding of the concepts of print. There's also added emphasis in teaching reading with the subsequent phonemic awareness needed to connect these skills with real reading and writing.

In this lesson, we'll discuss developmentally appropriate, research and evidence-based assessment as well as instructional practices that promote students' development of grade level skills for phonological and phonemic awareness.

Research and Evidence Based Assessment in Phonemic Awareness

Phonological awareness is the understanding of different ways that oral language can be divided into smaller components and manipulated to gain an understanding of the overall rhythm of language. This often includes deleting, adding, or substituting syllables. It begins with less complex activities like rhyming songs to sentence segmentation. Phonological awareness is the understanding of different ways that oral language can be divided into smaller components and manipulated to gain an understanding of the overall rhythm of language. This often includes deleting, adding or substituting syllables.

It begins with less complex activities like rhyming songs to onset-rime (the beginning part of the word--the part of the word that follows), blending, and more complex activities like sentence segmentation through syllable segmentation blending. Phonemic awareness is the most sophisticated level of phonological awareness. This is the understanding that words are made up of individual sounds or phonemes that can be manipulated by segmenting, blending, or changing to create new words. The assessment of these emerging reading abilities should begin in the second semester of kindergarten and continue through the early grades to assess development for the early reader.

Types of Assessments

There are a variety of assessments available to understand the level of phonological and phonemic awareness. Both informal and formal assessments can be used. Another way to determine a student's awareness is through a student's writing. The invented spelling a child uses in their writing can give a teacher valuable information concerning phonemic and phonological understanding and literacy development. Invented spelling is a child's attempt to spell using their own best judgement of sounds and patterns in language. Through invented spelling a child's independent writing can become an excellent sample of their literary development. A teacher can keep track of these samples throughout the year to gauge awareness and develop lessons to help students progress in understanding.

Other types of assessment can be used to determine realistic goals and adapt instruction for a child's progress. Some forms of assessment are:

  • Test of Phonological Awareness
  • Nonword Spelling
  • Digit Naming Rate
  • Yopp-SingerTest of Phoneme segmentation
  • Bruce test of phoneme deletion
  • Auditory Analysis Test
  • Rapid letter naming (dibels)
  • Phoneme Segmentation fluency (Dibels)

Instructional Practices in Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

One of the most important elements in promoting phonemic awareness in students is the understanding that this is not a ''lock-step'' approach. While it's important to provide an immersion in oral and written language, the process does not have to be mastered before moving on to other experiences with language. There's a reciprocal relationship between progress in reading and writing and phonemic awareness. The more exposure to reading and writing, the more competency improves in the area of phonological and phonemic awareness.

There are many opportunities to promote phonemic and phonological awareness in classroom environments and in lesson plans. These instructional practices should include activities that:

  • Promote playfulness
  • Ensure rich exposure to print and whole language instruction
  • Pronounce sounds with care
  • Use picture cards to help with understanding
  • Use concrete and explicit instructions
  • Use children's literature, chants, poems, and songs

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