How and When to Teach Phonemic Awareness
Why is phonemic awareness important?
If children cannot hear and manipulate the sounds (phonemes) in spoken words, they will have a very difficult time in learning how to attach these sounds to letters and letter combinations. The lack of phonemic awareness is the most important causal factor contributing to children with reading disabilities. (Adams, 1990)
Phomemic awareness is the most powerful predictor of reading success. It is more highly correlated with reading success than socio-economic status, general intelligence, or listening comprehension. (Stanovich, 1986, 1994; Goldstein, 1976; Zifcak, 1977)
How is phonemic awareness related to learning to read, and can it be taught with measurable success?
Phoneme awareness is related to reading in two ways: (1) phonemic awareness is prerequisite of learning to read (Juel, Griffith, & Gough, 1986; Yopp, 1985), and (2) phonemic awareness is a consequence of learning to read. (Ehri, 1979; Read, Yun-Fei, Hong-Yin, & Bao-Qing, 1986)
Several studies have demonstrated that children can be successfully trained in phonemic awareness. (Cunningham, 1990; Ball & Blachman, 1991; Yopp & Troyer, 1992)
Phonemic awareness training was shown to positively affect both reading and spelling achievement in kindergarten and first grade children. (Lundberg, 1988; Bradley & Bryant, 1983)
Who needs phonemic awareness training?
Percentages of children requiring specific training in phonemic awareness vary slightly according to different research studies, but the amount is still a significant percentage of early readers. Ehri (1984) found 20% lacked requisite phonological awareness, Lyon (1996) cited a figure of 17%, and Adams (1990) concluded that 25% of middle class kindergartners lacked this ability.
Fletcher et al., (1994) found that poor readers most always had poor phonemic awareness. The National Institute of Child, Health, and Human Development (NICHD) longitudinal studies support this conclusion, stating that the major problem predisposing children to having reading disabilities is lack of phonological processing ability. (Lyon, 1997)
When should phonemic awareness training take place, and how should it be introduced?
Children should be diagnosed by mid-kindergarten to see if they are able to identify and manipulate phonemes. If early learners do not have this ability, they should be given more intensive phonemic awareness training (Ehri, 1984)
Research shows that if schools delay intervention until age seven for children experiencing reading difficulty, 75% will continue having difficulties. If caught in first or second grade, reading difficulties may be remediated 82% of the time. Those caught in third to fifth grades may be improved 46% of the time, while those identified later may only be treated successfully 10-15% of the time. (Foorman, 1996)
There appears to be a consensus in the research that a specific sequence of instruction in phonemic awareness is most effective for early learners. Treiman (1992) found that children learned to be consciously aware of and were able to manipulate onsets and rimes more easily than individual phonemes.
Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activities, phonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.
Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.
Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.