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.
The importance of Phonological Awareness:
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.
Teaching Phonological Awareness and the Alphabet separately:
Phonological awareness and alphabet knowledge are taught separately, (see our Alphabet Knowledge Blog for more) as they are different skills. However, when children have a strong foundation in phonological awareness and alphabet knowledge -they are better prepared for phonics and will be better readers and spellers!
How to introduce Phonological Awareness:
Phonological awareness develops along a continuum beginning with larger units of sound, like words towards smaller ones, like individual sounds or phonemes. It should be introduced in a fun, engaging and playful way – when it is game-like, mastery occurs with repetition and review.
Rhyming all year:
Rhyming activities are a fun way to bring attention to the similarities and differences in the sounds of words. Songs, fingerplays and rhymes have been passed down in families for generations! They are fun, children love them, and they are a wonderful way for adults and children to connect. But what you may not realize is that when we recite nursery rhymes, sing songs, and read rhyming books with our students, it has a huge impact on later reading. It exposes children to rhythm and rhyme and can be done all year long. Rhymes are great to use during transitions throughout the day: lining up, bathroom break, washing hands, arrival and dismissal!
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.