Phonemic Awareness: Introduction and Importance

Posted in Teaching on March 6, 2017 - by

Phonemic Awareness breaks the sentence into sound bytes

Phonemic Awareness is one of the most important factors which predicts how quickly your child will develop early reading skills. It has to do with developing sensitivity to the sound and structure and oral language.

What is Phonemic Awareness?

Looking at the word itself, phoneme is another word for sound. So, the word is roughly understood as "sound awareness."

Phonological awareness is a larger and more general term that subsumes phonemic awareness. Phonological awareness includes skills like rhyming and onset-rhyme. Phonological awareness refers to when we break words down into individual sounds.

Phonological awareness can refer to noticing the words in the sentence and the parts in a multisyllabic word. Phonemic awareness is also an umbrella for its own sub-skills such as sound isolation, blending, and segmenting. Phonemic awareness is much more specific to the individual sounds in a single word. These sounds are called phonemes.

Phonemic awareness develops over time and can be taught. Phonemes are the smallest units of sound in the words. For example, in the word "BUG" there are three phonemes. "Bu" - "ug" - "g". A child with sophisticated phonemic awareness will be able to substitute the "Bu" for "hu" to get the word "HUG." This child will also know that the initial sound changed, but the rest of the word did not.

What is the difference between phonemic awareness and phonics?

Phonemic awareness involves listening only. They can be done with one's eyes closed. Phonics involves listening and looking. A phonemic awareness exercise can be done with one's eyes closed.

Once a letter is added in conjunction with the sound/pronunciation, the activity becomes phonics.

Why is phonemic awareness important?

When young children are given explicit instruction in phonemic awareness (like rhyming games, and substitution and segmenting tasks for individual phonemes) they are much more successful than their peers that did not receive similar instruction. Children that fail to distinguish between sounds in spoken words will struggle to recognize and pronounce written words. This makes phonemic awareness a crucial first step to spelling and reading.

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