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There is an important connection between phonemic awareness in children and their development of skills in the early stages of literacy. This article will provide you with an overview of phonemic awareness, and explore why phonemic awareness activities should be a part of every Early Childhood classroom.
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What is Phonemic Awareness
The term "phonemic awareness" gained popularity in the 1990's. The phrase is typically used to describe the ability to "distinguish the sounds, or phonemes, in spoken language as they relate to the written language."1
While often used interchangeable with the word "phonics," phonemic awareness is - instead - the foundation for learning and understanding phonics. Phonics, on the other hand, refers to the process of teaching learners to read and write based on the letter-sound relationship. Since there are 26 letters in the alphabet but well over 26 sounds represented by those letters (individually or when grouped together) one must first master auditory identification of the different sounds made these letters and/or groups of letters to be able to learn and use phonics. This is phonemic awareness.
In her paper, entitled Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning about Print (Cambridge, MA: Bolt, Beranek, and Newman, Inc., 1990), researcher Marilyn Jaeger Adams describes 5 levels of phonemic awareness in terms of abilities3:
- to hear rhymes and alliteration as measured by knowledge of nursery rhymes
- to do oddity tasks (comparing and contrasting the sounds of words for rhyme and alliteration)
- to blend and split syllables
- to perform phonemic segmentation (such as counting out the number of phonemes in a word)
- to perform phoneme manipulation tasks (such as adding, deleting a particular phoneme and regenerating a word from the remainder)