All educators know the importance of teaching children to read. It is a complicated task consisting of several different abilities. Much of a child’s future learning will depend upon achieving basic linguistic skills in the proper order, and with the necessary support when needed. For struggling readers, acquiring these skills, and receiving sensitive, well-informed scaffolding is even more important.

Phonemic Awareness programsOne of the foundational skills that should be taught with letter and word recognition is phonemic awareness. The Super Phonics and Phonemic Awareness programs from Essential Skills provide educators with a platform to blend the visual and auditory first steps that will eventually lead to a child with competent reading skills. Phonemic awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate sounds. Children faltering in this area will have difficulty decoding words, but there are several ways to strengthen phonemic awareness.

  • Introducing the Alphabet-  Introducing the Alphabet. There are numerous ways for young children to learn the alphabet. Ideally any method will combine both sight and sound. In class, students can brainstorm words, draw letters on a whiteboard for classmates to guess, or even play letter hunt in existing text. These phonemic awareness activities can be enhanced with software that shows letters with fun, bright colors and provides accurate auditory pronunciation of phoneme sounds.
  • Connect Sounds with Text-  As students progress with alphabet and phoneme awareness, they can look at longer units of text as they hear, and ultimately read the sounds. A good form to begin with is poetry or prose that uses alliteration, focusing on one letter or sound repeated frequently. When teaching phonemic awareness, blending these classroom activities with similar practice using an online phonemic awareness program can help to focus on a child’s particular needs.
  • Practice Blending Sounds-  . A good way to increase sight vocabulary and phoneme awareness is to have students practice combining groups of letters to form new words. These can be real words or silly sounds. And remember that the focus is on connecting the written language to the aural, so at this stage we don’t worry about spelling. A good way to encourage this is by making a card game. Cards are easily made or readily purchased that typically contain two sets. One set would be blended consonants (bl, cr, st, etc.) and the other would be a set of common vowel/consonants (at, em, ug). Students will take turns making new “words” and saying them out loud. Another way to practice this skill is by using the Super Phonics and Phonemic Awareness programs from Essential Skills. These programs will also give children the option to create words that the computer can read back to them.

There are countless other phonemic awareness activities to strengthen these skills. Any you decide to use should encourage the use of a variety of strengths, learning skills, and all should have the result of a confident, eager reader.