What is phonemic awareness?

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Phonological awareness is the knowledge of sounds within language. You can read more about its importance and the start of helping your child develop these abilities in our introduction to phonological awareness and our Learning Language Series.

This can be hard work! It’s best to make this a short, yet playful and uplifting time! You can work on phonemic awareness while reading a children’s story. Stop at any page and go through the below prompts for recognizing, isolating, blending, or separating the sounds the child hears!

How is phonological awareness different from phonemic awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the ability to recognize the smallest sound unit within a word. Phonemes are the small units of sound in a word. Phonemic awareness is having the ability to identify and separate the sounds in a word. For example, for the word “box”, there are three phonemes: /b/ – /o/ – /x/. And if given the word moon: /m/ – /oo/ – /n/ are the three phonemes.

You can teach the child how to recognize, isolate, blend, or separate the phonemes in the words you are working with. This can be done in a fun and playful way!

There are four key parts for naturally developing phonemic awareness with speech

Recognizing phonemes:

Start with repetition and recognition together to build confidence and a gentle understanding of the task you’re working on together: Say words slowly with your child: “d-o-g”. The child should distinctively hear all three sounds.

Isolating phonemes:

  • Give the child a word, for example, “g-a-t-e” and have him isolate each phoneme for you, in the form of the beginning, middle, or ending sounds.
  • What sound is at the beginning of the word? /g/
  • What sound is at the end of the word? /t/
  • What sound is in the middle of the word? /A/
  • What is the beginning sound of the word “r-ai-n”?
  • Can you think of a word that begins with the same sound? /r/-/A/-/n/
  • What is the ending sound of the word “c-o-p”?
  • Can you think of a word that ends with the same sound? /s/-/a/-/p/
  • What is the middle sound of the word “n-e-t”?
  • Can you think of a word that has the same sound in the middle? /d/-/e/-/n/

Blending phonemes:

Slowly sound out a word with three phonemes to see if the child can blend them all to make the whole word.

What word do you hear me saying? /v/ – /a/ – /n/ – van!
What word do you hear? /h/ – /ou/ – /se/ – house!

Separating phonemes:

Ask the child to separate the sounds in a word you tell them. Have them separate these phonemes slowly for you.

  • Can you separate the sounds you hear in the word “home”? /h/ – /o/ – /m/
  • Slowly tell me the sounds in the word fall? /f/ – /å/ – /ll/
  • What sounds do you hear in the word night? /n/ – /igh/ – /t/

We’ll be talking more about techniques on how to develop phonemic awareness in our next Language Learning post!

what is phonemic awareness

This post is Post 3 of 10 in our Learning Language Series. See all of the posts, with Teaching Tools packed into each post, here:

  1. What is phonological awareness?
  2. Why is rhyming an important language skill? {free nursery rhyme printable}
  3. What is phonemic awareness?
  4. How can I help my child develop phonemic awareness?
  5. How can I teach onsets and rimes?
  6. What is the importance of counting syllables in words?
  7. How can I help my child create sentences and count words in sentences?
  8. How to create a solid vocabulary from infancy?
  9. What is phonics and how do we begin reading?
  10. How can I help my child grow in language learning before reading?

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