How to Teach Phonemic Awareness with Science of Reading in Mind

Hearing about phonemic awareness, but not sure how it relates to the Science of Reading? Phonemic awareness is known to be the foundational skill for literacy. It is also the most complex skill in Phonological Awareness. Read on to learn more about what phonemic awareness is and how to teach it in your classroom. 

how to teach phonemic awareness

What is Phonemic Awareness?

Phonemic Awareness is the ability to manipulate and recognize sounds within words. There is a clear sequence of skills that, with practice, directly apply to reading fluency and accuracy. This is the most challenging step in Phonological Awareness.

What Does Science of Reading Say About Phonemic Awareness?

The Science of Reading shows evidence that phonemic awareness skills are vital for reading fluency. Early and explicit teaching of phonemic awareness can alleviate potential problems for readers down the line. 

What Are the Elements of Phonemic Awareness?

Within phonemic awareness, there are very clear steps that get more challenging. Read below to see the different elements of phonemic awareness.

Blending Phonemes

Blending occurs when you present a student with sounds in isolation and they bring them together to state the word. For example: Teacher says “/s/ /u/ /n/.” and the student replies “sun”.

Segmenting Phonemes

Segmenting happens when we tap out each individual phoneme of a given word. For example: Teacher says “Say hat.” and the student replies “/h/ /a/ /t/”.

Adding and Deleting Phonemes

Adding and deleting phonemes are tasks that require working memory and fluid reasoning. Students have to retain a specific word and then make a shift in order to create a new word. An example of deleting would be: Teacher says “say mit without the /m/. What is left?” and the student would reply “it”. Oppositely, adding a phoneme would look like this: Teacher says “it” and add /m/ to the beginning” and the student replies “mit”

Manipulating Phonemes

This is the most advanced task within phonemic awareness! Here, students are presented with a word and are asked to substitute or shift sounds. For example, students may shift the /s/ in spot to the end of the word. Or, a teacher may have students switch the /e/ sound in pen to an /i/ sound. 

5 Helpful Tips to Practice Phonemic Awareness in the Classroom

Below are 5 tips for practicing phonemic awareness in the classroom.

1. Start with Continuant Sounds

Continuant sounds (ie. /m/, /s/, /f/) are easier to manipulate than stop sounds (ie. /b/, /t/, /d/). These sounds can be emphasized as we isolate phonemes and help young readers to identify the change.

2. Use Elkonin Boxes

Elkonin boxes are helpful to distinguish different phonemes in a given word. Present the student with a row of three boxes and have them finger tap each box as they isolate sounds in given CVC words. 

3. Get Multi-Sensory!

When students use multiple modalities, our brain reacts in a positive way. When using elkonin boxes, students can move stones, chips, or counters to represent each sound they hear in a given word.

4. Karate Chop Those Sounds

When practicing phonemic awareness skills in a whole group, you can say a word and students can put their hands together and “chop” up the sounds in a word. 

5. Make It Fun!

Most importantly, phonemic awareness can be hard for many students. To keep them engaged and motivated, it is best to deliver this instruction in a fun and hands-on way. Create incentives like the Phonemic Awareness Leader, or pick a secret Mystery Person that you are watching throughout the practice. If they show expected behaviors, they can earn a prize! 

In closing, we hope this post about how to teach phonemic awareness with the science of reading in mind was helpful. If it was, you may also be interested in these posts:

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