Phonemic Awareness Phonological awareness and more

Thursday, January 21, 2021
Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate individual phonemes.  A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound we hear in a word. 

Phonological awareness is under this umbrella ( includes this ) as well as the ability to hear and manipulate larger units of sounds like onset and rimes as well as syllables.

Here is a breakdown of the units of sounds within a word - organized from the largest to the smallest unit of sound.

*  syllables
* onset
* rime
* phonemes

There are actually 44 phonemes in the English language that includes combinations of letters such as /th/.

It's important to know the differences between the two and how they impact instruction in small groups and the way students learn.

Once phonics is introduced it's no longer just about the sounds.  
At that point we are working on a relationship between letters and sounds.  This involves not just listening to the sounds but looking at print too.  I like to say once pictures/letters are introduced it become phonics.  A student on their way to phonemic awareness mastery  can segment a word, spell a word, blend the sounds, read the word.  Additionally if they can change the /p/ in pen to a /t/, they can make a new word ~ ten.  Phonemic awareness training provides students with the necessary skills to read and spell words when they see these sounds in print.   

Jen Jones says it best, Phonological and phonemic awareness can be done in the dark.  Meaning the focus is on sounds, not print.

Many studies have been done on this topic and research shows that if a student lacks phonemic awareness, or the ability to segment and manipulate individual phonemes, that child will not be able to or severely struggle with connecting those sounds to written letters.  That is where the encoding piece comes in.  

In a  book written by David and Meredith Liben this statement is made, " It is NOT an option to skip or short change phonemic awareness!  Children without mastery of it will inevitably struggle."  
I've seen it way too many times in my career and it's very true.  Kids need explicit phonemic awareness instruction in small groups.  The pit many students fall into without it is a feeling that they have to memorize words and they end up seeing words as whole units instead of phonemes that can be broken down, blended, segmented and manipulated.

Phonological awareness is so important because kids need to manipulate and work with sounds.  They need to realize that listening for the sounds and changing a phoneme can create brand new words.  

Here are some simple ways to incorporate phonological awareness and phonics into your small group time.

One way is to work with elkonin boxes.  These are the perfect way to focus on one phoneme at a time.  These help kids build phonological awareness skills by segmenting words into individual sounds.  
The beauty with these is you can make or create your own, you don't need to invest in any expensive kits to do this.  You can turn a white board or white construction paper into elkonin boxes easily with painters tape or washi tape.  Create 3 boxes to start with, you can  even use sticky notes to show your students how you can easily change out letters/sounds to create new words.
elkonin box ideas

Another way you can incorporate a fun lesson with sound boxes or elkonin boxes is using a magnetic wand from amazon with magnetic chips.  Show an image and have your student say the word aloud.  Then, have them push a chip up into each box as they saw each sound when all chips are pushed up have them blend the entire word and swipe their magnetic wand across the boxes to say the word blended.  They LOVE this hands on activity!

elkonin boxes with magnetic wands

Your students will say the word and push a disc up for each sound.  They will say 
/h/ /a/ /t/ and push up the disc for each sound then they will blend the entire word and say /hat/ while swiping the wand across and picking up all the discs at once.

elkonin boxes

elkonin boxes with magnetic wands

If you are interested you can grab a magnetic wand and disc set here.
affiliate link

Another idea is to :
* sort objects/pictures by initial sounds
* highlighting initial sounds
* give students a hand clapper and have them clap the sounds they hear in syllables of a word.  

You can find these here.
affiliate link

Another fun idea is PHONEME JUMPING:
Laminate colored cards, lay them on the ground.  Have students jump to the next color as they say the sound in a word.  They love this!
I hope I've given you some ideas to get started to help meet the needs of your early readers.  If you have some fun, engaging ideas share them below or start a conversation on one of my social media pages.

Happy Teaching,

No comments