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Should We Teach Phonemic Awareness to Older Readers?

Individualized Assessment-based Instruction

Assessment-based Instruction

The question of teaching phonemic awareness to remedial readers has often been framed as a “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” question. Juel, Griffith, & Gough, 1986 as well as Yopp, 1985 concluded that phonemic awareness is a prerequisite of learning to read, while Ehri, 1979; Read, Yun-Fei, Hong-Yin, & Bao-Qing, 1986 found that phonemic awareness is a consequence of learning to read. The question is relevant, because if reading brings about phonemic awareness, then remedial reading programs should focus on listening comprehension and fluency practice rather than upon explicit phonics and phonemic awareness instruction.

What it is… Phonemic awareness is the basic understanding that spoken words are made up of individual speech sounds called phonemes. There are about 43 common phonemes in English.

What it is not…Phonemic awareness is not exactly phonological awareness (a broader term). It is not simply auditory discrimination, which differentiates between sounds. It is not phonics because it is not applied to letters.

Why don’t some students learn this skill in their early years?

Somewhere between 20 and 40% of the population does not naturally develop phonemic awareness. Research seems to indicate that there are medical and genetic factors that contribute to this inability (Grossen, 1997).

Can remedial readers learn phonemic awareness?

If no explicit instructional strategies could be found to help students learn phonemic awareness, the implicit “teach reading first” approach would be warranted. However, an important study by Bhat, Griffin, and Sindelar (2003) found that middle school remedial readers do benefit from phonemic awareness training, although not as much as do younger learners. The implication of this important research is that if this skill can be learned through explicit instruction, then it would make sense to teach it in remedial reading instruction.

Additionally, because speech sounds differ among languages, phonemic awareness and phonics acquisition are more challenging for English-language Learners (ELLs) and English Language Development (ELD) students.* However, research has shown that these students are able to transfer phonological awareness skills from their primary language to English, and positively benefit from phonemic awareness training (Quiroga, Lernos-Britton, Mostafapour, Abbot, and Berninger, 2002). Depending upon the primary language, many phonemes may match those in English. For example, Spanish and English share more phonemes than not.

So, should we teach phonemic awareness to remedial readers? Absolutely. The National Reading Panel authors stressed that programs which concurrently teach phonemic awareness and phonics produce superior results than teaching them in isolation.

Are there reliable and valid phonemic assessments?

Get the Phonemic Awareness Assessments FREE Resource:


Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Science of Reading Intervention Program

The Science of Reading Intervention Program: Word Recognition includes explicit, scripted instruction and practice with the 5 Daily Google Slide Activities every reading intervention student needs: 1. Phonemic Awareness and Morphology 2. Blending, Segmenting, and Spelling 3. Sounds and Spellings (including handwriting) 4. Heart Words Practice 5. Sam and Friends Phonics Books (decodables). Plus, digital and printable sound wall cards and speech articulation songs. Print versions are available for all activities. First Half of the Year Program (55 minutes-per-day, 18 weeks)

The Science of Reading Intervention Program: Language Comprehension resources are designed for students who have completed the word recognition program or have demonstrated basic mastery of the alphabetic code and can read with some degree of fluency. The program features the 5 Weekly Language Comprehension Activities: 1. Background Knowledge Mentor Texts 2. Academic Language, Greek and Latin Morphology, Figures of Speech, Connotations, Multiple Meaning Words 3. Syntax in Reading 4. Reading Comprehension Strategies 5. Literacy Knowledge (Narrative and Expository). Second Half of the Year Program (30 minutes-per-day, 18 weeks)

The Science of Reading Intervention Program: Assessment-based Instruction provides diagnostically-based “second chance” instructional resources. The program includes 13 comprehensive assessments and matching instructional resources to fill in the yet-to-be-mastered gaps in phonemic awareness, alphabetic awareness, phonics, fluency (with YouTube modeled readings), Heart Words and Phonics Games, spelling patterns, grammar, usage, and mechanics, syllabication and morphology, executive function shills. Second Half of the Year Program (25 minutes-per-day, 18 weeks)

The Science of Reading Intervention Program BUNDLE  includes all 3 program components for the comprehensive, state-of-the-art (and science) grades 4-adult full-year program. Scripted, easy-to-teach, no prep, no need for time-consuming (albeit valuable) LETRS training or O-G certification… Learn as you teach and get results NOW for your students. Print to speech with plenty of speech to print instructional components.

SCIENCE OF READING INTERVENTION PROGRAM RESOURCES HERE for detailed product description and sample lessons.

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

Get the Diagnostic ELA and Reading Assessments FREE Resource:

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