Is there a difference between phonics, phonological awareness and phonemic awareness? Plain and simply…yes. Phonological Awareness is the big umbrella of helping students to notice and/or manipulate sounds in speech. Phonemic Awareness is specific work in articulating and manipulating individual sounds in words and focuses more with auditory skills. And finally, Phonics is helping students to learn the relationship between sounds and the symbols (letters) that represent them. (pg 39)
What research has found and I have even witnessed as a classroom teacher and mentor to other teachers, is the focus on phonics, phonics, phonics and ‘if we have time, phonemic awareness’. Not preparing and planning for INTENTIONAL phonemic instruction can often leave gaps and students who struggle when learning or developing their independent reading. Providing solid and consistent phonological and phonemic awareness is imperative. It does not have to take a lot of time, nor does it require tons of expensive or labor intensive materials!!
If you struggle to understand the difference in phonics, phonological awareness and phonemic awareness, I highly recommend that you read this chapter/shift. The authors are very clear and concise when explaining the differences. Now let’s talk about what we can do to intentionally incorporate Phonemic Awareness.
Phonological Awareness instruction is more of the ‘big picture’ and not the break-down of individual sounds. For instance, identifying how many words in a sentence, clapping out syllables, identifying & producing rhyming words and segmenting & blending compound words are all examples of phonological awareness.
- How many words in my sentence? Choose 3 -5 simple sentences. Ask the students to listen as you read/say the sentence. Then ask students to listen and watch as you count the words in the sentence. Hold up a finger for each word in the sentence. Then ask the students to join in and hold up a finger for each word they hear in the sentence.
- Clap the syllables in a word – I think most teachers do this and it’s pretty self explanatory. NOTE: Watch your pronunciation and segmentation of the word. If you do it incorrectly, so will the students. Always model first and then have students participate with you. I also like to interchange clapping out the syllables, with holding up a finger for each syllable or modeling with this shark puppet. (I started using this shark ‘thing’, because the students can ACTUALLY see the shark move his mouth for each syllable).
- Identifying & Producing Rhyming Words – Again, I feel like this skill is pretty well-known among early elementary teachers. But here is a tip: Practice identifying & producing words ALL auditory/audibly and without picture prompts. There’s a time for independent practice with pictures and written words, but during your phonological awareness time, stick with just auditory/audible tasks.
- Segmenting/Blending compound words: Always model first and then ask students to join in. After several weeks of the teacher/instructor modeling, they will no longer need that model or scaffold and can do it without you showing them.
Phonemic Awareness is the specific instruction/practice of noticing and manipulating the individual speech sounds (phonemes) in words. Again, be consistent and purposeful and do this auditory/audibly and without visual aids.
- Model & practice the different phonemes, including stop and continuous sounds. If you are able, give students a chance or opportunity with a mirror, so they can see how their mouth, lips & tongue look when making these phonemes. Here is a class set of compact mirrors (real glass), and kid-safe mirrors.
- Phoneme Blending: Choose 3-5 simple words. Have students listen while you say the word, sound by sound. For instance: /p/-/i/-/g/. Repeat each individual sound again and ask them to blend the sounds together and say the word.
- Phoneme Segmentation: Choose 3-5 words. Ask students to listen while you say the word. Then students will say the phonemes/sounds in the word. For instance: Say, the word is sit. Students will say sit and then audibly say, /s/-/i/-/t/
- Phoneme Isolation: Choose 3-5 words. Decide what phoneme/sound you are going to focus on (beginning, ending, middle). Say the word. Ask the students to just say or make the specific sound. For instance: I want you to listen for the ending sound of this word. The word is nap. Everyone say the word nap. Nap. Now, what is the ending sound of nap? Students: /p/
- Phoneme Discrimination is hearing the similarities or differences in two or more phonemes, usually within words. Choose 3 sets of words and choose what phoneme should be the focus. For instance: I’m going to say 3 words. Thumbs up for the words that have the same beginning sound. Thumbs down for the word that does not have the same beginning sound. Listen to my words: cap, tag, cot. Okay, listen again to the words and give me a thumbs up or down.
- Phoneme Deletion is removing one phoneme completely, leaving a step for substitution or a new word. For instance: Choose 3-5 words. Have students listen to you say word. Cut. Have students repeat word, cut. Now, take away the beginning sound /c/, what is left? Students: ut
- Phoneme Substitution is one of the harder skills to master and needs time to develop, so don’t get discouraged!! This skill requires removing/deleting one phoneme and substituting with another phoneme. It’s very challenging, but through consistent modeling, practice and time, the students WILL get this!!! Choose 3-5 words. Have students listen as you say word: rip. Have student echo or repeat the word. Now ask students to take away the /r/ sound and replace with /t/ and say what the new word is. Students: tip
The big take-aways of this shift for me is the confirmation of how imperative Phonemic Awareness is to little learners. A reminder to make sure to plan 10-20 minutes a day for consistent and purposeful Phonemic Awareness instruction & auditory practice. I also would like to end with a quote from the book that ‘Children can learn more than one skill at a time’…(pg 46). We often think that little learners cannot do more than one thing, but the reality is that they CAN!! And finally, if you are looking for a sequential and amazing resource that changed my Phonemic Awareness teaching, check out Heggerty’s Phonemic Awareness Curriculum! I love how it’s systematic and research based. It’s easy to use and does not take more than 15 minutes a day! I can promise you that it is well worth the money!! Now, what were YOUR take aways from this shift? And/or what questions do you have? Comment below or find me on FB or Instagram to chat!