Phonological awareness is the understanding that our spoken language is made up of words. Phonemic awareness is the understanding that our words are made up of sounds called phonemes. Phonemic awareness is a critical skill that should be explicitly taught in the following process. Download your FREE printable guide here.
Even though there are only 27 letters in the alphabet, there are 44 phonemes in the English language. Phonemic awareness activities involve the smallest units of sound only. Hearing and isolating the individual phonemes (sounds) in spoken words represents the first step of skills in phonemic awareness.
Blending phonemes is combining sounds. This involves listening to and pulling together isolated phonemes to create words. When beginning readers sound out a word, they use letter-sound knowledge to say each sound in a word and then blend the sounds quickly together to read the word.
Segmenting Phonemes is the ability to divide a spoken word into its sounds. Here are two great segmentation activities: Students say the sounds with their fingers and then blend the phonemes together. Students tap wrist, elbow, and shoulder for each sound. They then blend the word together while sliding their hand back down to the wrist.
Phoneme addition involves adding phonemes to a given word to produce a new word. Sounds can be added to the beginning, middle, or end of the word. This starts with the more advanced skills of phonemic awareness. It may take a child longer to grasp this skill. Once they grasp this concept, they will realize that they can change words completely by adding phonemes. This is exciting!
As with adding phonemes, deleting phonemes to a given word will produce a new word. Here is an example of a deleting phoneme activity: Start with the word stop and delete the initial phoneme, /s/, this results in the new word, top.
Phoneme substitution, the most advanced of all of the phonemic awareness skills. It requires that a student knows how to both add and delete phonemes. Although substituting phonemes should be taught explicitly, students can do several fun activities to reinforce this skill. Word family wheels and word flipbooks are a great way to in-force this skill. You can see these activities here.
We ask the student to articulate when forming sounds. Articulation is defined as the act of speaking clearly. Students will use the articulators, including the tongue, teeth, lips, alveolar ridge (ridge behind your teeth), hard palate, and soft palate. When a student does not say the sound correctly, the teachers should correct the articulation and model how to articulate the sound correctly.
Phonemic awareness is a set of skills that develop over time and are crucial for reading success. It is important not to skip over a step so that it does not confuse the student. Teachers should make sure that struggling readers have not missed these skills. If they have, they will need to reinforce these skills so that they become better readers.
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