What exactly is Phonological Awareness?
Phonological Awareness is the ability to notice and manipulate the sounds of spoken language. Phonological awareness requires strong listening skills as children must attend to sounds of spoken language in the absence of print. We like to say phonological awareness can be done in the dark! There are different levels to phonological awareness. These levels are based on units of sounds for example, word awareness, syllable awareness and all the way down to individual sound awareness.
Why is phonological awareness important?
Phonological Awareness is a critical building block for learning to read; it makes learning to read easier. When a child learns to hear individual phonemes –the smallest units of sound- they will be better at decoding (sounding out words) and spelling when they are older.
What about the alphabet?
Phonological awareness and alphabet knowledge are taught separately (see our Alphabet Knowledge Blog for more) because they are different skills. However, when a child has both a strong foundation in phonological awareness and has developed alphabet knowledge -they are even more prepared for phonics, which in turn prepares them to be better readers and spellers!
How can I introduce these skills to my child?
Phonological awareness develops on a continuum beginning with larger units of sound and moving towards smaller ones. It should be introduced in a fun, engaging and playful way! When phonological awareness is approached as a game, the child has fun – and the repetition and review help ensure the child achieves mastery.
Why do nursery rhymes matter?
First, rhyming activities are fun. Children engage with the musical qualities of rhymes, which helps bring attention to the similarities and differences in the sounds of words. Songs, fingerplays and rhymes have been passed down through families for generations! Children love them, and they are a wonderful way for adults and children to connect. In addition, when we recite nursery rhymes, sing songs, and read rhyming books with our children, we are hugely impacting their ability to read later. Rhymes are a great way to keep children occupied and engaged while waiting in line, in the car, or while getting dressed.
Units of Phonological Awareness
The greatest predictor of early reading success is phoneme awareness. Not familiar with phoneme awareness? Not to worry. A phoneme (pronounced fō-neem) is the smallest chunk of sound in a word… the /b/ sound in book, for instance. When teaching students to read, modeling the correct letter sounds is critical. Watch this video to learn how to pronounce the 44 phonemes in the English alphabet.