Developing Phonemic Awareness

  • May 10, 2011, 5:12 p.m.

Phonemic Awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the smallest units of sound in spoken words. It involves training students to recognize, isolate, and manipulate these units of sound and apply to letter knowledge. There is a developmental continuum for phonemic awareness.

  1. Rhyming and alliteration (recognizing that words have the same beginning sounds)- With word play opportunity, most children are capable of rhyming words orally and identifying words with the same beginning sounds by the age of 4.
  2. Sentence segmenting-Children recognize the words within a sentence. Think about how a robot sounds (words are said one at a time.) This means that the child is beginning to understand the concept of a word.
  3. Syllable segmenting and blending-At this stage, children can break words into parts or syllables and understand that a word can have more than one chunk or syllable. Think of names-Jack (1 syllable), Kel-ly (2 syllables), Ste-phan-ie (3 syllables). Most children can break words into syllables by the age of 5.
  4. Blending, segmenting, and manipulating onsets (beginning consonant sounds) and rimes (medial and ending sounds—word families)—For this stage, children isolate the consonant sound at the beginning of a word. For example, /k/ in cat. If you say /f/ +/at/. What’s my word, a typical 5 year old could say “fat.”
  5. Phoneme blending, segmenting, and manipulating individual sounds in a word. This stage involves hearing all the sounds in a given word. For example the word “flag” has 4 sounds: /f/ /l/ /a/ /g/. The word “chat” has 3 sounds: /ch/ /a/ /t/. By the age of 7, most children can be given 4-6 sounds to blend together and produce a word. They can also be given a word to break into sounds. The most sophisticated stage is when the child can change sounds. For example, what is “nice” without the /n/? “Ice.” What is the word if you change the /t/ in “tea” to a /b/? “Be.”

Student should be able to orally demonstrate mastery of #1-4 by the end of kindergarten.

Most first graders can successfully blend, segment, and manipulate phonemes by mid-year of first grade.

The phonemic awareness component is not explicitly addressed in the curriculum after first grade. However, spelling requires using phonemic awareness and knowledge of letter sounds and symbols. Therefore, some students may require additional practice in phoneme isolation.

Happy teaching,
Kelly Harmon