Teaching Phonemic Awareness
from We All Can Read: Third Grade through Adult Edition
One critical strand related to the acquisition of basic reading skills among developing readers is phonemic awareness.
Phonemic awareness is the awareness on an individual’s part that all words, even one-syllable words, are composed of discrete units of sounds. As an example the word dog is composed of three individual sounds /d/ /o/ /g/. Researchers have discovered that beginning readers who understand this linguistic principle that words are made up of individual sounds significantly outperform those students lacking this linguistic awareness. In fact researchers have concluded that a student’s level of phonemic awareness in kindergarten and first grade is the single most critical and accurate predictor of a child’s success or failure as a reader in subsequent grades.
Phonemic awareness training teaches a continuum of evolving skills. Researchers have identified the two most advanced skills of phonemic awareness to be the ability to segment words into their component sounds and the ability to blend sounds together to read nonsense words.
As an example a teacher would present a word such as hot and ask the student to identify the component sounds within that word. The student would respond by isolating three sounds: /h/ /o/ /t/. (In the We All Can Read program students spell thousands of words. The first step students are taught when spelling a word is to identify the number of individual sounds within the dictated word; the next step they are taught is to articulate each individual sound in isolation. Finally students are taught to associate a letter or letter team with each individual sound. Click here to see the Dictation Procedure published in the Teacher’s Guide. (PDF file)
To reverse the process, a student looks at a nonsense word he has never seen before. The student is asked to identify the individual sounds of the letters within the nonsense word and then to blend those sounds together. As an example the student looks at the word bav, identifies the three sounds represented in that word as being /b/, /a/(short a sound), /v/, and then blends those sounds together to pronounce correctly the nonsense word bav. The We All Can Read program contains thousands of nonsense words in nonsense word lists, nonsense sentences, and nonsense short stories. (PDF files)
Both of these two key skills just outlined are systematically developed in this program. Until the end of Section Two (Lesson 369) in our program students are required to blend together sounds represented by letters in order to decode or to read nonsense words. And the reverse process is also utilized in which the student hears a word pronounced orally and then is asked to spell that word by first identifying the component sounds which makeup the word and then by writing the letter or letters which represent those sounds.
Phonemic awareness activities are present in almost every lesson in our program. For the vast majority of developing readers beyond the second grade, the phonemic awareness activities contained in this book provide all of the instruction and practice necessary for students to achieve proficiency in phonemic awareness while simultaneously developing mastery of the phonetic code of the English language and the ability to read words with accuracy and fluency.