Phonemic Awareness: Speaking of Individuality

What’s the importance of phonemic awareness and what exactly does that mean? First, phonics and phonemic awareness is not the same thing. Phonics is the understanding of the relationship of letters and sounds in WRITTEN language. Phonemic awareness is understanding the sounds of language working together in SPOKEN language to make words.

According to the National Institute for Literacy, Putting Reading First, Kindergarten Through Grade 3, “If children are to benefit from phonics instruction, they need phonemic awareness.” The document goes on to say, “The reasons are obvious: children who cannot hear and work with the phonemes of spoken words will have a difficult time learning how to relate these phonemes to graphemes when they see them in written words.”

What that says to me, is that children need to be able to hear language as much as see language and even “feel” language by tapping the letters on one hand while saying the sounds, tracing in the air, on paper, in sand, underlining the word while they repeat it, and any other creative way teachers have come up with to implement the kinetic part of OG.

Phonemic awareness is a subcategory of phonological awareness, they are not interchangeable. Phonological awareness is broad, encompassing many different parts of spoken language. Phonemic awareness is narrow, boiled down to just identifying and manipulating individual sounds in words.

So, how do we put into use phonemic awareness?

Phonemic awareness is divided into categories to be taught.

Phoneme isolation

Recognition of individual sounds in a word.

Teacher says, “What is the first sound in van?”

Children: “The first sound in van is /v/.”

Phoneme identity

Recognition of the same sounds in different words.

Teacher says, “What sound is the same in fix, fall and fun?”

Children: “The first sound, /f/, is the same.”

Phoneme categorization

Recognition of a word in a set of three or four words that has the “odd” sound.

Teacher: “Which word does not belong? Bud, bun, rug.”

Children: “Rug does not belong. It does not begin with /b/.”

Phoneme Blending

Students listen to a sequence of separately spoken phonemes, and then combine the phonemes to form a word. Then they write and read the word.

Teacher: “What word is /b/ /i/ /g/?”

Children: “/b/ /i/ /g/ is big.”

Teacher: “Now let’s write the sounds in big. /b/ write b, /i/ write I, /g/ write g.”

Teacher: (Writes big on the board.). “Now we are going to read the word big.”

Phoneme segmentation

Break a word into separate sounds, saying each sound and tapping out or counting it. Then write and read the word.

Teacher: “How many sounds are in grab?”

Children: “/g/ /r/ /a/ /b/. Four sounds.”

Teacher: “Now let’s write the sounds in grab: /g/, write g, /r/, write r, /a/, write a, /b/ write b.

Teacher: (Writes grab on the board.) “Now we are going to read the word grab.”

Phoneme deletion

Recognize the word that remains when a phoneme is removed from another word.

Teacher: “What is smile without the /s/?

Children: “Smile without the /s/ is mile.”

Phoneme addition

Make a new word by adding a phoneme to an existing word.

Teacher: “What word do you have if you add /s/ to the beginning of park?”

Children: “Spark.”

Phoneme substitution

Substitute one phoneme for another to make a new word.

Teacher: “The word is bug. Change /g/ to /n/. What’s the new word?”

Children: “Bun.”

Keep in mind when taking in this information, where I said Phonemic Awareness is just one, narrow portion of Phonetic Awareness. The skills I am presenting here are important for the identifying and manipulating the individual sounds of words, not the whole kit and caboodle. But, isolating phonemic awareness is important in the overall of see, hear, feel approach. Once students get it that these little letters make up words then moving on to bigger words is much easier.

According to the Institute for Literacy, phonemic awareness is best taught in small groups, as opposed to large groups or individually, because students can benefit from listening to the exchange between peers and the instructor.

Let me know if you have questions or if you have anything to add to what I said here. Are you a teacher who has any creative ways that you work with kids on Phonemic Awareness?

Here is a list of terms for this post. It is straight from my source listed below.

phonemic awareness terms

Want more? Check out the Workbook Store. This information plus worksheets are in the workbook store.


The information in this post was taken from: National Institute for Literacy, Put Reading First, Kindergarten Through Grade 3, Third Edition. This was a publication I received in the Orton Gillingham course I took. I also have taken information from my notes from a class discussion.

(3) Comments

  1. You stated “Keep in mind when taking in this information, where I said Phonemic Awareness is just one, narrow portion of Phonetic Awareness.” In this sentence, I think you mean “phonological awareness.” They are different.

  2. Phonological awareness is the ability to recognize that words are made up of a variety of sound units. However, phonemic awareness also involves an understanding of the ways that sounds function in words, it deals with only one aspect of sound: the phoneme.

Leave a Reply