What is Phonemic Awareness?
Phonemic Awareness is a very important part of early reading lessons. The reason it is so important is because it shows that students are able hear individual sounds in spoken words. In addition, readers need to be able to identify those sounds and manipulate them.
Why it’s important:
Once students are capable of doing this for spoken words, they can apply their knowledge to written words. An early indicator of early reading success, is the ability to hear individual sounds and manipulate those sounds within spoken words well. If students struggle with the auditory recognition of words, they often find it very challenging to read words, or spell them.
I’ve always told teachers who are curious about a struggling reader to see how they do with rhyming words. If students have a difficult time identifying words that rhyme, or coming up with rhyming pairs on their own, it often connects to them having a tough time with learning to read. A focus on rhyming words is just one way to practice phonemic awareness.
Tools for Phonemic Awareness Activities
Since phonemic awareness focuses on an auditory process vs visual (no actual words seen), a physical object can act as a tool. Though I always think of phonemic awareness activities as ones that can be done in the dark, since no letters/words are seen, small tools like these help readers out.
There are plenty of tools that can be used to complete a more tactile phonemic awareness activity. The main thing to keep in mind is to use something that kids can feel in their hands.
The clips work well because readers can open and close them for each sound in a word. Their mind will be focusing on saying sounds, while at the same time they’re doing a physical action. This gets their brains working in more than one way.
The little bottlebrush trees and pom poms both are “spiky” to the touch. Students are feeling these objects with each sound they state. When feeling the object in their hand, their brain is being sent a signal to say a sound. This hands on approach is very helpful for some learners.
What to do with the Tools
- You can state a word and then students will be responsible for saying all the sounds in the word. Students can either push down on the object, push it forward, simply touch it or actually lift the object up. Allow students to decide what works best for them. As long as each reader is saying the sounds at the same time, the physical object is there to help them along.
- The reverse can be done, where you say the sounds first. Students can then repeat the sounds and touch/move the object for each sound stated. They then will run their hand under the objects, in a forward motion, to make the full word.
- Readers can identify which sound you are stating: first, middle or last, for example. For this, state a word. Then choose one of the sounds. Have students identify which sound you stated by pointing to the first, second or third object.
- Take this one step further. State a word and have students repeat it. Have them break down the sounds. Then, change one sound in the word. Say the new word, have students repeat and say the sounds in the new word. Then students identify which sound was changed by pointing to the first, second or third object. Example: Say ham, students say ham, h-a-m. Then say hat, students say hat, h-a-t and point to the third object since that sound changed.
Phonemic awareness activities, like the ideas listed above, just basically need to be repeated on a frequent basis. Doing these daily, with new words and sounds, helps students develop their phonemic awareness skills. Continue to practice these each day and keep an eye out for students who aren’t able to follow along. You’ll probably notice these same students having a tough time reading in small groups with you. This is a great way to identify those kids. Then you can come up with a plan to help them!