Whenever we speak of the basics of literacy, three words, “PH”, often come to mind: Phonological Awareness, Phonemic Awareness, and Phonetic Awareness. We see these terms in academic reading standards, reading research, and integrated reading lessons in many essential reading series. Both Phonological and Phonemic Awareness are oral and auditory; there are differences between these terms. So what is Phonological Awareness, and what is Phonemic Awareness?
What is Phonological Awareness?
“Phonological awareness is the understanding of the different ways in which oral language can be split into smaller and manipulated components.”(Chard & Dickson, 1999) To be precise, Phonological Awareness refers to language’s more prominent “pieces” or “parts”.
For instance, when we ask students to rhyme, mix small words to make a compound word, separate words into syllables or work at the Phonological Awareness level.
Phonological Awareness can be considered a big umbrella, with the more prominent “chunks” of language at the top. It is the sound structure of spoken language. This broad competency includes hearing and playing with smaller sounds in words. Phonological Awareness includes identifying and manipulating sounds. This may involve rhyming words, clapping a word’s syllables, or recognizing a word’s initial sound (Morris, 2012). Knowledge of phonology predicts future language and literacy skills. (NELP, 2010).
Children’s Awareness of sound starts with whole words, and then they begin to understand smaller sound units such as syllables, onset, rhyme, and phonemes. (Schickedanz & Collins, 2013)
Syllables are parts of words or the largest sound units of speech-language. They are the uninterrupted segments of speech which are typically distinguished by vowel sounds created during the pronunciation of a word. Onset is the initial phonological unit of any word. Rime is the string of letters that follow the onset (not all terms have a rime).
What is Phonemic Awareness?
Phonemes are the individual sounds within each word. A phoneme is the smallest sonic unit you can hear in a word, and Phonemic Awareness is the knowledge that spoken words are composed of distinct sounds called phonemes. A subset of Phonological Awareness is Phonemic Awareness. Students are asked to listen to individual sounds or phonemes in a spoken word rather than working with bigger speech units. We work at the level of phonemic consciousness when we ask kids to combine and split words into the smallest sound unit they hear. For instance, the word plan can be created by combining the four sounds/p/l/a/n/.
What are the Differences Between Phonological Awareness and Phonemic Awareness?
What are the Development Levels of Phonological Awareness?
The four main stages of Phonological Awareness are as follows:
Word level is the first level. Children begin hearing individual words within a sentence on the first level.
The syllable level, often known as word components, is the second level.
Onset-rime and recognizing words that rhyme makes up the third level.
Additionally, each term’s phonemes, or individual sounds, make up the fourth level. Phonemic Awareness, the most challenging stage, is often learned after a child reaches the age of five.
Since the abilities required for each level of Phonological Awareness overlap, kids can learn from exposure to higher levels without first mastering the previous level(s). The emphasis should shift to higher phonological awareness levels after introducing syllables.
Children can learn to manipulate sounds in a variety of ways at each level, such as:
- Blending: The combining of sounds
- Segmenting — Having to break sounds apart
- Deletion: The removal of a sound
- Substitution: Using a new sound in place of one
- Generate — Thinking of words that have the same or similar sounds
Blending is perhaps the most accessible skill for kids to master. Segmenting, deleting, substituting, and creating words come after this ability.
What are Some Signs of Children Struggling with Phonological Awareness?
Children develop Phonology Awareness skills at different levels. Yet, some signs could mean children have difficulty making ends meet and need more support. The problem with these skills may point to reading issues.
Let us look at what challenges they face:
Struggles Grade Schoolers might face:
- Learning nursery rhymes
- Counting out syllables in words
- Noticing when sounds repeat (alliteration)
Challenges Grade Schoolers might face:
- Identifying the first sound they hear in words
- Blending individual sounds into words
- Coming up with rhyming words in the wordplay
To read and write words, children need to develop Phonological Awareness. It helps them understand that words are made up of phonemes, that there are syllables in a word, and how the word changes by changing these sound parts.
If a child cannot understand that every word is composed of different sounds (phonemes) and that each phoneme represents another letter, he will not be able to read or write. This aids them in understanding phonics, i.e., sound and spelling. Difficulties linked to Phonological Awareness may be a precursor to reading or speech disorders.
According to Dr David Kilpatrick, students with sound Phonological Awareness can become good readers. Students with poor Phonological Awareness can be seen struggling in reading.
As mentioned, Phonological Awareness is a vital precursor to reading and writing abilities because it teaches people about the sounds that make up words and how they may be combined to form meaning.
Precisely there are various reasons why Phonological Awareness is important:
Reading and writing: Phonological Awareness is integral to the literacy development process. It teaches youngsters the relationship between letters and sounds, which is necessary for learning to read and write.
Vocabulary acquisition: Phonological Awareness is also helpful in vocabulary growth. Children are more likely to comprehend and recall new words if they recognize and modify individual sounds.
Speech production: Phonological Awareness is helpful in speech production as well. Individuals can create more precise and fluent speech by identifying specific word sounds.
Learning another language: Those learning another language must also be phonologically aware. As it helps children understand and make new language sounds, which can improve their capacity to communicate effectively.
Needless to say, Phonological Awareness is essential for developing literacy and communicating effectively. It is essential for people of all ages and substantially impacts their social and academic achievement.