Post Promise: Phonological awareness is vital for our learners to achieve, but it isn’t just one concept. It’s made of many skills. I’ll break them down for you here so you can ensure your students have a full grasp of all essential skills for phonological awareness.
Hey there, teacher friend! I’m glad you stopped by on this second post in our series on phonological awareness. If you missed the first one, you can check it out HERE. I recommend starting with it, because it lays the foundation for thoroughly understanding the differences in phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and phonics.
Today we’re going to break down the concept of phonological awareness. It is essential for achieving literacy, and our learners will need all of the skills involved in phonological awareness to become successful readers.
This skill allows our learners to recognize words as individual units. With this concept, they are able to distinguish how many words there are in a sentence. Let me illustrate this. Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language, even just a few words?
When you hear a language spoken that you aren’t familiar with, it sounds like a lot of sounds running together with no identifiable parts. As the language becomes more familiar, in the middle of those mashed together sounds, you can start to pick out units you recognize as words like “hola” for hello or “bueno” for good. Eventually, with enough study, you can distinguish more individual words, and the stream of unfamiliar sounds turns into separate parts with beginnings and ends.
The same happens with our learners and grasping English. Before they can begin to read words, they must be able to recognize individual words. Let’s look at an example.
Try to read the sentence below. Don’t look ahead; in fact, cover up everything but a few letters at a time with your thumbnail.
It’s a real sentence, with real words, but it sure doesn’t look like it! It’s pretty hard to read, too, right? That’s because we rely on knowing where one word stops and another starts. If you try to vocalize the sounds without looking ahead at the sentence and figuring out where the words are, it doesn’t immediately make sense. In the same way, our learners need practice distinguishing words from each other.
Then the sentence looks like this: Chicken noodle soup is my favorite food.
Now a student could tell you there are six words in the sentence and not only a jumble of sounds.
It’s not just for Dr. Seuss! Primary grade students need to be able to both recognize and produce rhymes. Students need to have a grasp of word units, and their ending sounds, to be able to achieve this skill.
When students can recognize rhyming words, they know that cat, hat, and bat rhyme. They will also know that cat does not rhyme with ball or house.
Learners need to understand rhyme, but they also need to be able to produce rhyming words. When students are able to produce rhymes, if you start with a word like dog, they can give you words that rhyme with it like log and frog.
An awareness of this skill involves being able to blend, segment, and delete syllables.
Blending syllables gives students the ability to hear sounds and form the word that they make up. For example, if students hear: com, pu, and ter, they will be able to connect them to make the word computer. They’ll understand the word and what it stands for. It won’t be just three sounds they can break apart. They know those three sounds represent the object they can play games on.
The opposite of blending is segmenting. Students can break apart words into their syllables. When given a word like breakfast, they can divide it into its component syllables: break and fast.
Finally, deleting syllables means a student can be given a word and take away a syllable. The word driveway has two syllables. If a student is asked to take away “drive,” they can provide the remaining syllable: “way.”
Remember the last post when we discussed phonemes as sounds? Students need to be able to identify initial, medial, and final sounds in a word. They also need to be able to blend, segment, and delete phonemes.
When identifying the sounds in a word, learners can be given a word and pick out what the initial, medial, and final sounds are. Let’s look at hat. A student competent in phonemes would be able to tell you that the initial sound is /h/, the medial sound is /a/, and the final sound is /t/.
The counterpart of this skill, blending, means that if we speak the sounds in a word like /d/, /o/, /g/, then a student can put the sounds together. They know that it makes the word dog, which represents our furry four-legged friends!
Segmenting phonemes is the skill that lets learners hear a word and break it into its sounds. If they hear the word pop, they can provide each sound separately in order: /p/, /o/, /p/.
Deleting phonemes is when a learner is able to take a word, delete a certain sound from it, and know what the remaining sounds are. Let’s say students are given the word clock. When asked to delete the first sound, /cl/, they will know that they are left with /ock/.
This is the most difficult skill in phonemic awareness. It allows students to add and move sounds in a word. This means students have to have the concept of spoken words as units which are made up of phonemes, or individual sounds. They also need to be able to identify sounds within a given word; then they can manipulate, or move around, sounds.
For example, let’s start with the word tar. If a student is able to add phonemes to a word, they can be asked to add /s/ to the beginning of tar and make the word star. To change the word further, by adding a /t/ to the end of this word, the student would be able to make the word start. Finally, deleting the /s/ from the beginning would make the word tart.
All together now!
Wow, there is a lot that goes into phonological awareness. Students need to understand the concepts of spoken word, rhyme, syllable, phoneme, and phoneme manipulation. With so many skills that build on each other, it is incredibly important that our learners are successful at each successive stage of learning.
Becoming literate is vital in navigating our world, so let’s make sure we have the most knowledge and tools possible to give students the best beginning possible in this skill. If they succeed in phonological awareness, reading is more attainable, and their future education will be more successful.
I’ve put together a quick reference that breaks down the 5 skills of phonemic awareness. You can grab it right here!
How are you feeling, teacher friend? I hope you feel better prepared to teach this skill. In the next post in this series, I’ll share my secret sauce to teaching phonological awareness. I’ll give you a hint – it focuses on making learning this skill more accessible to a range of students with different learning styles.
Ready to dive deeper now? I put together a VIDEO SERIES which covers what we talked about in this post plus more. If you’re ready to put this knowledge in practice and make phonological awareness relatable to visual and kinesthetic learners as well, make sure you don’t miss it!
Now, how are you doing, teacher friend? If you could use a supportive group of fellow primary teachers who know exactly what you’re going through and can offer some great advice, head on over to our FACEBOOK GROUP and request to join!
Until next time,