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Phonemic Awareness Activities

Response to Intervention

Reading Intervention

Get ready for some terrific phonemic awareness activities… But first, let’s get clear on just what phonemic awareness is all about, why it is important, and how it relates to reading. Phonemic awareness is the basic understanding that spoken words are made up of individual speech sounds. We call these speech sounds phonemes. There are about 43 common phonemes in English. See my attached list, Phonemes, which includes adjustments for the Spanish phonemes in footnotes.

Why is phonemic awareness essential?

Between 20 and 40% of the population does not naturally develop phonemic awareness. Research indicates that there may be both medical and genetic factors that contribute to this deficiency (Grossen, 1997).

When children cannot hear and manipulate the sounds (phonemes) in spoken words, they struggle learning how to attach these sounds to letters and letter combinations. Lack of phonemic awareness is the chief causal factor of reading disabilities (Adams, 1990). In fact, phonemic awareness is the best predictor of reading success (Goldstein, 1976; Zifcak, 1977; Stanovich, 1986, 1994).

Phonemic awareness relates to reading in two ways: (1) phonemic awareness is a 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).

Can phonemic awareness be remediated?

Yes, but the older the child, the more challenging it is to learn phonemic awareness. See my article titled Should We Teach Phonemic Awareness to Remedial Readers? on remediating phonemic awareness to check out the reading research and instructional solutions.

What about English-language Learners?

It’s true that specific speech sounds differ among languages, and this makes phonemic awareness and phonics acquisition more challenging for English-language Learners (ELs). However, EL students and English-language Development (ELD) students are certainly able to transfer their phonological awareness skills from their primary language to English, and research indicates the positive benefits of phonemic awareness training (Abbot, Quiroga, Lernos-Britton, Mostafapour, and Berninger, 2002). Indeed, some primary languages, such as Spanish, share more phonemes with English than not.

Phonemic Awareness Assessments

Not all students will have mastered the same components of phonemic awareness. Thus, diagnostic assessments are a must to efficiently teach these unmastered components. After completing phonemic awareness assessments, grade and record any unmastered phonemic awareness components for each student on a progress monitoring matrix. An excellent set of six whole-class phonemic awareness assessments with recording matrix is provided free for classroom use at www.penningtonpublishing.com. These assessments are available in Teaching Reading Strategies by the author of this article.

Phonemic Awareness Instructional Sequence and Workshop Activities

Differentiate instruction, according to the diagnostic data in small group reading workshops. There is an instructional order that makes sense. I suggest that you teach your phonemic awareness workshops in this order:

  1. Rhyming Awareness
  2. Alphabetic Awareness (Make sure to check out the Mp3 “New Alphabet Song” found in the phonemic awareness activities packet.)
  3. Syllable Awareness and Syllable Manipulation
  4. Phonemic Isolation
  5. Phonemic Blending
  6. Phonemic Segmentation

So, you’ve read this far. Your wait is over! Here are the promised Phonemic Awareness Activities to differentiate instruction in your reading workshops. You may also wish to use the phonics materials and activities found in these articles: Phonics Games and in How to Teach Phonics.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading StrategiesDesigned 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 instruction. The program provides multiple-choice diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files), phonemic awareness activities, blending and syllabication activitiesphonics workshops with formative assessments, 102 spelling pattern worksheets, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable eBooks (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each book introduces focus sight words and phonics sound-spellings aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Plus, each book has a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns, five higher-level comprehension questions, and an easy-to-use running record. Your students 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.

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Or why not get both programs as a discounted BUNDLE? Everything teachers need to teach an assessment-based reading intervention program for struggling readers is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, tiered response to intervention programs, ESL, ELL, ELD, and special education students. Simple directions, YouTube training videos, and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program.

without paraprofessional assistance.

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How and When to Teach Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in spoken words, coupled with the understanding that spoken words and syllables are made up of sequences of speech sounds (Yopp 1992). A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a language that represents meaning. Most all words in English and other languages are made up of a number of phonemes blended together. Most reading specialists and speech therapists identify 43 basic phonemes. For example, the word “mall”. It is made up of three phonemes: /m/ /aw/ /l/.

Although often used interchangeably, phonemic awareness is actually a set of subskills of the broader language skill called phonological awareness. Phonological awareness describes the ability to hear, identify, replicate, and manipulate the distinct “chunked” sounds and their sequences in a word, such as syllables or rhymes; whereas phonemic awareness deals with the discrete phonemes.

We usually refer to the two terms as phonemic awareness because the phonemes are most closely related to our teaching of phonics. Phonics is the secret code which connects the phonemes (speech sounds) and print letters (the alphabet). When someone learns this secret code and can put together (blend) each part of a word from text, we call this decoding. The prefix “de” means from or out of. When someone uses the code to to spell a word in writing, we call this encoding. The prefix “en” means in or into.”

Why is phonemic awareness important?

Phonemic awareness is an auditory skill. 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 a 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). Shaywitz (2003) puts it this way: “Reading and phonemic awareness are mutually reinforcing: Phonemic awareness is necessary for reading, and reading, in turn, improves phonemic awareness still further.”

Several studies have demonstrated that children can be successfully trained in phonemic awareness (Cunningham, 1990; Ball & Blachman, 1991; Yopp & Troyer, 1992; Smith, Simmons, & Kame’enui, 1998).

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.

Get the Phonemic Awareness Assessments FREE Resource:

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading StrategiesDesigned 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 instruction. The program provides multiple-choice diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files), phonemic awareness activities, blending and syllabication activitiesphonics workshops with formative assessments, 102 spelling pattern worksheets, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable eBooks (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each book introduces focus sight words and phonics sound-spellings aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Plus, each book has a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns, five higher-level comprehension questions, and an easy-to-use running record. Your students 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.

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Or why not get both programs as a discounted BUNDLE? Everything teachers need to teach an assessment-based reading intervention program for struggling readers is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, tiered response to intervention programs, ESL, ELL, ELD, and special education students. Simple directions, YouTube training videos, and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program.

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , , , , , , , ,