Phonemic awareness, a foundation for spoken language and reading

Phonemic awareness, a foundation for spoken language and reading

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Phonemic awareness, a new take on learning language

by Bianka Wasserman

What is Phonemic Awareness

Phonemes are the individual units of sound that make up words. For example, the word “sat” is made up of three phonemes: /s/a/t/. Phonemic awareness is not only the recognition that words are made up of small sound units, it is also the ability to break down, manipulate and blend phonemes. For example, being able to remove the /s/ and replace it with /m/ to make the word “mat”. Young readers need to be able to apply his or her understanding of phonemes in order to begin to read.

Importance of Phonemic Awareness

Research has shown that phonemic awareness is the single strongest indicator for a child’s success at learning to read. Strong phonemic awareness, when used to segment and blend words help children increase their abilities to decode and understand what they are reading.

Phonemic awareness allows young readers to build another important element of reading: phonics. Phonics (the relationship between letters and sounds) builds upon phonemic awareness. When a child understands and can manipulate sounds verbally, they are ready to transfer this knowledge to printed words.

Assessing Phonemic Awareness

You can determine the level of phonemic awareness your child has by:

  • Having your child create a list of rhyming words beginning with a “starter” word,
  • Asking your child to segment a word into a beginning, middle and end sounds
  • Having your child count the number of syllables in a word

If your child can perform these three tasks confidently, they are ready for phonics instruction. If your child struggles with any of these tasks, some simple instruction in phonemic awareness will be helpful.

Our kids with hearing loss need explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, in fact, most kids need explicit instruction as well.