Monday, October 17, 2011

Phonemic Awareness

I want to note down a few things about phonemic awareness, for my own record. Hope it is informative for you too, if you are teaching your child phonemic awareness at home.

[These notes are extracted from "Phonics from A to Z - A Practical Guide", by Wiley Blevins, 2nd Ed.]

Phonemic awareness is the understanding that a word is made up of a series of discrete sounds. Each of these sounds is called a phoneme. This awareness includes the ability to pick out and manipulate sounds in spoken words.

Phonemic awareness is not the same thing as phonics. Phonemic awareness deals with sounds in spoken words, whereas phonics involves the relationship between sounds and written symbols. Phonics deals with learning sound-spelling relationships and is associated with print. Most phonemic awareness tasks, on the other hand, are purely oral.

Phonemic awareness help children learn to distinguish individual sounds, or phonemes, within words. They need this skill in order to associate sounds with letters and manipulate sounds to blend words (during reading) or segment words (during spelling). Many children have difficulties with phonics instruction because they haven't developed the prerequisite phonemic awareness skills that other children gain through years of exposure to rhymes, and songs, and being read to.

Phonemic awareness training provides the foundation on which phonics instruction is built. Thus, children need solid phonemic awareness training for phonics instruction to be effective. For example, phonics instruction that begins by asking a child what sound the words sit, sand, and sock have in common won't make sense to a child who has difficulty discriminating sounds in words, cannot segment sounds within words, or does not understand what is meant by the term sound. Children must be able to segment and auditorily discriminate /s/ in the words sit, sand, and sock before it makes sense to them that the letter s stands for this sound in these wrtten words. In addition, children must be able to segment the sounds in a word such as sit (/s/ /i/ /t/) in order to spell the word. Once children gain a basic level of phonemic awareness, and formal reading instruction begins, this instruction increases children's awareness of language. "Thus, phonemic awareness is both a prerequisite for and a consequence of learning to read." (Yopp, 1992)

Research has shown that explicit phonemic awareness instruction increases reading and spelling achievement among preschoolers, primary grade children, and students with learning disabilities.

There are five basic types of phonemic awareness tasks or abilities, which are:

Rhyme and alliteration (and assonance) (done orally although you can use picture clues)

  • Rhyme. Example: I once saw a cat, sitting next to a dog. I once saw a bat, sitting next to a frog.
  • Alliteration. Example: Six snakes sells sodas and snacks.
  • Assonance. Example: The leaf, the bean, the peach - were all within reach.
Oddity tasks (phoneme categorisation) (done orally)
  • Rhyme. Example: Which word does not rhyme: cat, sat, pig?
  • Beginning consonants. Example: Which two words begin with the same sound: man, sat, sick?
  • Ending consonants. Example: Which two words end with the same sound: man, sat, ten?
  • Medial sounds (long vowels). Example: Which word does not have the same middle sound: take, late, feet?
  • Medial sounds (short vowels). Example: Which two words have the same middle sound: top, cat, pan?
  • Medial sounds (consonants). Example: Which two words have the same middle sound: kitten, missing, lesson?
Oral blending (done orally)
  • Syllables. Example: Listen to these word part: ta...ble. Say the word as a whole. What is the word?
  • Onset/rime. Example: listen to these word parts: /p/...an. Say the word as a whole. What is the word?
  • Phoneme by phoneme. Example: Listen to these word parts. /s/ /a/ /t/. Say the word as a whole/ What's the word?
Oral segmentation (including counting sounds) (done orally) (this is critical for spelling)
  • Syllables. Example: Listen to this word: table. Say it syllable by syllable. (ta...ble)
  • Onset/rime. Example: Listen to this word: pan. Say the first sound in the word and then the rest of the word. (/p/ ... an)
  • Phoneme by phoneme (counting sounds). Example: Listen to this word: sat. Say the word sound by sound. (/s/ /a/ /t/) How many sounds do you hear? (3)
Phoneme manipulation (best done using letter cards)
  • Initial sound substitution. Example: Replace the first sound in mat with /s/. (sat)
  • Final sound substitution. Example: Replace the last sound in mat with /p/. (map)
  • Vowel substitution. Example: Replace the middle sound in map with /o/. (mop)
  • Syllable deletion. Example: Say baker without the ba. (ker)
  • Initial sound deletion. Example: Say sun without the /s/. (un)
  • Final sound deletion. Example: Say hit without the /t/. (it)
  • Initial phoneme in a blend deletion. Example: Say step without the /s/. (tep)
  • Final phoneme in a blend deletion. Example: Say best without the /t/. (bes)
  • Second phoneme in a blend deletion. Example: Say frog without the /r/. (fog)
In addition to these five task types, phonemic awareness exercises include phoneme discrimination (speech perception) activities, which also help children to focus on specific sounds in words. For example, the child may be asked to listen for vowel sounds in words.

Some ideas to keep in mind:
  • Don't stress written words or letters unless your child can readily identify the letters.
  • Keep the tone fun and informal. Avoid using the activities as assessments. It is important that children be engage in playing with language, not concerned about being assessed. Respond favourably and enthusiastically to their attempts.
  • Model! Model! Model! Continually model for your child how to accomplish the various phonemic awareness tasks. And provide corrective feedback. Much of the learning occurs through this feedback.
  • Provide lots and lots of language experiences. Read, write, and listen to stories. Provide a print-rich environment with multiple experiences of language.
At present, Ryan knows one phoneme for each letter. In addition, Ryan can also listen out for the phonemes in words. For example, Ryan can tell me whether the word “boy” starts with /b/ or /g/ (he can also tell me whether it starts with the letter B or the letter G – hey, a little bit of phonics there!). He can identify the recurring phoneme in an alliterative sentence such as "bad boys break beds before bedtime". Plus, he can do simple blending of phonemes and he can substitute phonemes to morph a word into a different word, like "cat" into "hat".

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