Do you know the differences between phonological awareness, phonological sensitivity, and phonemic awareness? Do you know how these skills affect preschool and kindergarten littles who are learning to read?
If you’re confused about any of these topics, you’re in the right place! In this blog series, I’m sharing definitions, examples, and activities to help you help your little ones become strong readers!
WHAT IS PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS?
Phonological Awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate the sound properties of spoken words. It can sometimes be called an “umbrella term” because it can be broken down into two separate groups:
- Phonological Sensitivity: the ability to hear and manipulate units of language larger than phonemes, including words, syllables, and rhymes
- Phonemic Awareness: the ability to hear and manipulate individual phonemes in spoken words.
The Phonological System is the sound system of a language. Phono comes from the Greek word for sound. So phonological awareness is all about being aware of the sounds of our language. It allows us to mentally put spaces in speech where those spaces do not exist.
WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY?
Here are a few facts from research that support the importance of phonological awareness:
1) Strong phonological awareness skills help pave the way for learning to read and write. These skills in older preschoolers are uniquely associated with word-reading skills later in kindergarten and first grade (Anthony, Williams, McDonald, & Francis, 2007).
2) Increases in phonological awareness skill development result in improved literacy and language skills in young children (Ball & Blachman, 1988; Byrne & Fielding-Barnsely, 1995; Gillon, 2004; Lonigan, 2006).
3) Rhyme knowledge in three-year-olds is related to success in reading and spelling in five- and six-year-olds (Bryant, MacLean, Bradley, & Crossland, 1990).
4) Phonological awareness instruction may be more effective if started with preschoolers instead of waiting until kindergarten (Phillips & Piasta 2013).
5) Students who are better at playing with rhymes, syllables, and speech sounds often learn to read more quickly because these skills enable them to learn the alphabetic principle, which is the understanding that alphabet letters are used to represent individual phonemes in spoken words (NELP, 2008).
6) Children with underdeveloped phonological awareness skills in preschool are some of the poorest readers in later years because those students have trouble learning how to decode the sounds in written words (Catts, Nielsen, Bridges, Liu, & Bontemp, 2015; NELP, 2009; NRP, 2000: Shanahan & Lonigan, 2013).
7) Around 88% of the dyslexic population—defined as those who experience an unexpected difficulty learning to read and write—share a common phonological weakness (Shaywitz, 2003).
8) According to Dr. Louisa Moats & Dr. Lucy Hart Paulson, “Developing phonological awareness skills has positive impacts on an array of other cognitive, oral language, and print knowledge skills. Phonological awareness is related to reading success later in school and is an important link between oral and written language.” (LETRS Early Childhood Manual, p. 123).
The evidence is clear! As parents and teachers of young children, we need to focus on phonological awareness.
WHAT ABOUT PHONEMIC AWARENESS?
As mentioned earlier, phonemic awareness is a subset of phonological awareness. You can read all about it in this post.
While ALL levels of phonological awareness are important, phonemic awareness is the MOST crucial (and most challenging) level for developing readers and writers.
Phonemic awareness has its own sequence of development, which includes:
- Phoneme Isolation
- Phoneme Blending
- Phoneme Segmentation (& Counting)
- Phoneme Addition*
- Phoneme Deletion*
- Phoneme Substitution*
- *These last three are considered “Phoneme Manipulation,” the most complex level of phonemic awareness.
HOW DO WE TEACH PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS?
The best news is that teaching phonological awareness is relatively easy!
In this phonological awareness blog series, I’m breaking down each level of phonological awareness development and giving you ideas for how to work on those skills, whether that’s at home with your own child or in your early childhood classroom.
Click on each post to learn more about that specific skill:
- Phonological Awareness Overview (You are here)
- Word Awareness
- Syllable Awareness
- Rhyme Awareness
- Phonemic Awareness
- Phonological Awareness Games
These ideas are fun, hands-on, and engaging. They require minimal supplies and can be adapted to fit your needs…and they’re all done through PLAY!
WHAT’S THE BEST ORDER TO TEACH PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS?
New research suggests phonological awareness skills aren’t developed on a continuum as previously thought…they can be worked on simultaneously!
That means you don’t have to teach these skills in order.
For example, you don’t have to wait for your child to master rhymes before moving on to phonemes.
Since the goal of all phonological awareness activities is to build strong readers and writers, we want to work mostly at the phoneme level.
However, if your little one isn’t ready for that yet, back up and work on other skills. But just know that phoneme work will give you the most return on your time investment.
RESOURCES FOR TEACHING PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS
Because I’m so passionate about phonological awareness, I have a variety of resources to help you teach this topic:
1) This Phonological Awareness eBook will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about Phonological Awareness, all in one easy-to-print PDF. It’ll save you time so you don’t have to navigate to all of the different pages on my blog.
2) If you’re looking for games to work on these skills, these Phonological Awareness Sound Games are aligned with the different themes you’re probably already teaching this year, such as “All About Me” and “Community Helpers.”
3) If you’re confused about any of these Phonological Awareness terms, you’ll definitely want to grab this FREE Phonological Awareness Cheat Sheet of definitions and examples. It lays everything out for you in just a few pages!
4) You can also learn more about phonological awareness by watching my YouTube video series on this topic. While you’re over there, make sure you like & subscribe to my channel. Thank you so much!