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Phonological Awareness

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What is Phonemic Awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in spoken words. Before children learn to read print or braille, they need to become aware of how the sounds in the words work. They must understand that words are made up of speech sounds or phonemes.

Phonemes are the smallest part of sound in a spoken word that make a difference in the word’s meaning. For example, changing the first phoneme in the word hat from /h/ to /p/ changes the word from hat to pat, and so changes the meaning. (A letter between slash marks shows the phoneme, or sound, that the letter represents and not the name of the letter. For example, the letter h represents the sound /h/.

Children can show us that they have phonemic awareness in several ways, including:

  • Recognizing which words in a set of words begin with the same sound

            (“Hair, have, hall all have the /h/ at the beginning.”);

  • Isolating and saying the first or last sound in a word (“The beginning sound of cat is /c/. The ending sound is /t/.”
  • Combining or blending the separate sounds in a word to say the word (“/h/, /a/, /t/--hat.”)

Children who have phonemic awareness skills are likely to have an easier time learning to read and spell than children who have few or none of these skills.

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