Phonemic awareness is the understanding that the sounds of spoken language work together to make words. It is also the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. There are various components of phonemic awareness, which students should know after being taught and having the time to practice these skills.
- Phonemic Isolation: What is the first sound in bat? /b/
- Phoneme Identity: What are the first sounds in mat, make, and mop? /m/
- Phoneme Categorization: What word doesn’t belong? Car, cat, fish, or candy?
- Phoneme Blending: What word is /b/ /a/ /t/?
- Phoneme Segmentation: How many sounds are in _______? (Use: “Tap it Out” / Clapping)
According to Hallie Kay Yopp, author of the article “Teaching Reading: Read-aloud books for developing phonemic awareness: An annotated bibliography,” “the relationship between phonemic awareness and learning to read is extremely important [and]…recent research suggests that phonemic awareness may be the most important core and causal factor for separating normal and disabled readers” (538). Therefore, it is important that teachers of children in prekindergarten and kindergarten explicitly teach and facilitate students’ ability to hear, identify, and manipulate sounds. In the article, Yopp reference Geller, who “…recommends that teachers observe children’s play with speech sounds and design activities that stimulate this play…” whereas “other researchers have…encouraged teachers to provide their young students with activities that are linguistically stimulating – activities such as word games, rhymes, riddles, and songs” (538). Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, authors of Literacy Beginnings: A Prekindergarten Handbook, also believe that “…an effective practice is to help children engage with letters, to learn how to look at them, write them, play with them, and put them together to make words” (185). It is important that students have tactile experiences with letters and have the opportunities to work with letters and play with their sounds as often as possible. Fountas and Pinnell suggest having students match magnetic or foam letters with letter cards, create their own alphabet poster where they write the letters and draw pictures that correspond, and create their own alphabet books. All of these activities engage students through hands-on activities, while promoting aspects of phonemic awareness.
In the Youtube videos that we watched in class, the teachers used “games” to engage their students in practicing their phonemic awareness. In the first game, “Bean Bag Letters,” the teacher engages all students by handing them bean bags with letters on them. She makes these bean bags seems incredibly special and top-secret because she tells her students not to show any of their friends. The students must pay special attention to what the teacher says each time because she asks for different aspects of phonemic awareness.
Example 1 - Identifying sounds:
Teacher: “I’m looking for the person who is holding the /j/ sound?”
Child stands up
Teacher: “What letter is ___ holding?”
Teacher: “And what sounds does the letter J make?”
Example 2 – Identifying beginning sounds in words:
Teacher: “I’m looking for the person who is holding the bean bag that has the letter of the first sound in the word ‘egg’.
Child stands up
Teacher: “What letter do you have, ____?”
Teacher: “And what sound does the letter ‘e’ make?”
Each round of this game that the teacher plays with her students is engaging and exciting for the students; they must be alert and listening to see what the teacher is going to ask of them, and they are able to be active (stand up to present bean bag later, shake out the letter sounds, etc.). The letter-sound identification portion of phonemic awareness is incredibly important for prekindergarten and kindergarten students to partake in and learn, so that they will be able to eventually read and write as they grow older.
Another one of the Youtube videos, “Drumming out Syllables,” that we watched in class had to do with syllabification, another important aspect of phonemic awareness. Syllabification is the division of words into syllables. This can be tricky for some students, but by adding clapping or a tambourine, as the teacher in the video did, to the exercise of diving words, students are engaged and excited to try this activity themselves. After modeling how to count the number of beats in her name, the teacher facilitates the students in counting the number of beats in their names. The students quickly catch on and are able to perform this activity on their own.
The other Youtube videos shown below show other engaging ways that students can teach phonemic awareness in the classroom. Teachers can also promote phonemic awareness with their students in a fun and engaging way through various games:
- Sound Sorts: Teachers assign letter categories that students will sort given objects into (see picture below).
- Board Games: These can be created for a variety of different concepts of phonemic awareness. In the picture below, the game required students to identify beginning consonants b, d, f, and m. If the student pulls a card with ‘b’ on it, they must move their marker to the first space on the board that has a picture of an object that starts with the letter ‘b’.
- Syllable Cards: This requires students to listen to the word and determine how many syllables there are. By using the picture and the dots on the card, the students are able to visually see the number of sounds. To practice syllabification in older grades, check out this website for ideas: http://conversationsinliteracy.blogspot.ca/2012/08/listening-for-sounds.html
All in all, it is important that teachers, especially in grades prekindergarten and kindergarten, immerse and engage their students in fun and meaningful aspects of phonemic awareness. Through the aforementioned activities, as well as others that can be found below, children are learning about letters and the sounds they make through exploration without even knowing that they’re learning something so important, which is phonemic awareness.
Other activities that support phonemic awareness:
- Stretch It Out with Bubblegum! – Students practice stretching words out and determining the number of syllables in the word using bubblegum (a cleaner and less sticky way to stretch words out can be done using rubber bands or silly putty). Once a word is stretched out, students can identify the beginning and ending sounds, as well as the number of syllables in the word.
- “Chicka-Rocka-Boom” from Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom – Students are able to practice substituting and manipulating beginning sounds in their first names by partaking in this fun sing-song chant. This activity can be made into a class book using the sheets below that students complete to help learn their “new name” as given to them in this fun and exciting song.
- Other Fun Activites: http://www.kindergartenworks.com/filing-cabinet/developing-phonemic-awareness/