Phonemic Awareness

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Phonemic awareness is not phonics. Phonemic awareness is an understanding about spoken language. Children who are phonemically aware can tell the teacher that bat is the word the teacher is representing by saying the three separate sounds in the word. They can tell you all the sounds in the spoken word dog. They can tell you that, if you take the last sound off cart you would have car. Phonics on the other hand, is knowing the relation between specific, printed letters (including combinations of letters) and specific, spoken sounds. You are asking children to show their phonics knowledge when you ask them which letter make the first sound in bat or dog or the last sound in car or cart. The phonemic awareness tasks that have predicted successful reading are tasks that demand that children attend to spoken language, not tasks that simply ask students to name letters or tell which letters make which sounds. Recent longitudinal studies of reading acquisition have demonstrated that the acquisition of phonemic awareness is highly predictive of success in learning to read - in particular of successful reading acquisition. Programs for teaching phonics often emphasize rules rather than patterns and focus on "separate" sounds, called phonemes. In contrast, the most effective and efficient phonics instruction focuses children's attention on noticing letter/sound patterns in the major components of syllables: that is, on noticing the letter/sound patterns in initial consonants and consonant clusters and in the rime, which consists of the vowel of a syllable plus any following consonants, such as -ake, -ent, -ish, -ook (Moustafa, 1996). Conventional blending and segmentation instruction improves the ability to manipulate phonemes. When instruction emphasizes phoneme manipulations, children learned what they were taught. In contrast, teaching beginners about phoneme identities does not seem to enhance phoneme manipulation skill. Kindergarten children with explicit instruction in phonemic awareness did better than a group of first graders who had no instruction, indicating that this crucial pre-skill for reading can be taught at least by five and is not developmental (Cunningham). Precursory phonological awareness skills such as rhyming and alliteration can emerge in informal contexts before school and are seen in young children who can neither read nor spell (Snow, 1991; van Kleeck, 1990). A general order for the emergence of phonological awareness abilities begins with rhyming and alliteration; segmenting sentences into words; followed by segmenting words into syllables; followed by segmenting words into phonemes. (Fox & Routh; Ehri, Holden & MacGinities; Huttenlocher; Liberman; Liberman, Shankweiler, Fisher & Carter) Phonemic awareness alone is not sufficient. Explicit, systematic instruction in common sound-spelling correspondences is also necessary for many children (Adams, 1988; Ball & Blackman, 1991; Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley, 1990; Foorman et al, in press; Mann, 1993; Rack, Snowling & Olson, 1992; Snowling, 1991; Spector, 1995; Stanovich, 1986; Torgeson et al., in press; Vellutino, 1991; Vellutino & Scanlon, 1987a; Foorman, Francis, Novy & Liberman, 1991.) Explicit, systematic instruction in sound-spelling relationships in the classroom was more effective in reducing reading difficulties than a print-rich environment characterized by interesting stories, even with children who had benefited from phonemic awareness instruction in kindergarten. (Foorman, Francis, Beerly, Winikates, and Fletcher, in press) Research has established a correlational, if not causal relation between phonological awareness and reading (Eric & Sweet, 1991; Mason & Allen, 1986; Sulzby & Teal, 1991; van Kleeck, 1990) Young children's awareness of onsets (the initial consonant of a word or syllable) and rimes (everything after the initial consonant in a one-syllable word or in syllables, traditionally referred to as phonograms or word families) is related...
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