Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify, hear, and manipulate the individual sounds in spoken words. Manipulating the sounds in words includes blending, stretching, or otherwise changing words.
Before children learn to read print, they need to become aware of how the sounds in words work. They must understand that words are made up of speech sounds, or phonemes.
Phonemes are the smallest parts of sound in a spoken word that make a difference in the word's meaning. For example, changing the first phoneme in the word hat from /h/ to /p/ changes the word from hat to pat, and so changes the meaning. (A letter between slash marks shows the phoneme, or sound, that the letter represents, and not the name of the letter. For example, the letter h represents the sound /h/.)
Children can show us that they have phonemic awareness in several ways, including:
There are five key skills that good readers need to master.
1. Phonemic Awareness: Hearing and using the sounds that make up spoken words. Most spoken words are made by combining two or more small speech sounds ("a" and "t" to form "at," for example).
2. Phonics: Seeing relationships between sounds, written letters, and groups of letters. For example, children may look at a picture (such as a dog) next to the word ("DOG"). By saying the word out loud, they hear its first sound. Pointing to the letter that represents that sounds ("D") helps them connect the letter to its sound.
3. Fluency: Recognizing and reading words out loud easily. Children with this skill can focus on what a whole sentence or story means- instead of stopping to figure out what each word means. They can read out loud easily and with expression. The more children practice reading, the more fluency they can develop.
4. Vocabulary Development: Learning new words. Talking with adults, and hearing and reading many different types of writing- fiction ("make believe"), nonfiction (fact), and poetry- help build vocabulary. Using new words in their own speech or writing helps children build a bigger vocabulary, too.
5. Text Comprehension: Learning ways to understand, remember, and share what they have read. Children can practice this skill by :
* Asking themselves questions to see if they understand what they are reading- for example, "Why was Alex sad?"
*Trying to predict what will happen in a story.
*Making a visualization of an event or a character from a story.
*Explaining a hard sentence using their own words.
*Drawing a chart or diagram to connect related ideas.