Using phonemic awareness is one of the best ways to predict a student’s ability to read fluently. Phonemic awareness is the ability to clearly hear and differentiate speech sounds and is a critical key to our understanding of what we read. Therefore, in an elementary classroom, a phonemic awareness program is an important tool to help students reach their full learning potential. Phonemic awareness is a cognitive skill consisting of three distinct levels:
Identifying Phonemes: Phonemes are not letters or groups of letters. They are parts of words, but they are not sounds. The sounds that makeup words are called ‘phones’. ‘Phoneme’ is the underlying category of which the phones are members. For example, the following words contain three phonemes each: cup and pup, bad and bed, and fan and fad. These examples illustrate how a single phoneme, whether in the initial, medial, or final position of a spoken word, can change the meaning. Students learn to master the skill of identifying phonemes when they engage in phonemic awareness activities.
Phonemic Awareness: Any child who has learned a language already knows the phonemes of that language. The second important level when teaching phonemic awareness entails the explicit, conscious awareness of these units. The ability to use linguistic differences in speaking and listening to language is not the same as knowing explicitly that the difference being used is in the initial part of the word.
Phonemic Manipulation: In using a phonemic awareness program to learn to read an alphabetic language, the child will be able to isolate, compare, and contrast phonemes and letter sequences. An example of manipulation is ‘fit’ and ‘fought’. Note that the final phoneme sounds the same in both words, but it is represented by a single letter (t) in ‘bit’ ‘fit’, and three letters (ght) in ‘bought’ ‘fought’.
Teaching phonemic awareness involves guiding students in the ability to hear, recognize, and distinguish sounds within a word. A number of skills are necessary to master word decoding:
- recognize the sound structure of spoken language
- link sounds to the correct printed representation
- know the printed phonemic code automatically
- process printed letters phonetically
- track correctly from left to right
- smoothly blend sounds together
- pay attention to detail
- repeatedly practice correct phonologic decoding to begin building fluency
Essential Skills phonemic awareness program teaches students at a K-2 grade level 38 different phoneme sounds, how to isolate these sounds in words, phoneme addition, deletion, and substitution. These phonemic awareness activities build skills gradually and sequentially to ensure mastery at each step. Crisp and clear pronunciation of letter sounds support students as the work through more than 200 phonemic awareness activities.