Phonemic awareness and phonological awareness are aural and oral skills that allow children to understand that speech is made up of words, and that words are made up of distinct sounds and sound patterns. Phonological and phonemic awareness are highly predictive of early reading acquisition.
These terms should not be confused with phonics, which is knowledge of how printed letters or groups of letters represent, or map to, the sounds in speech. Strong phonemic awareness skills give students an advantage in learning phonics, because they make it easier for students to understand the relationships between phonemes and the letters and letter patterns that typically represent speech sounds in written language (called graphemes).
Speech sounds or phonemes are not always easy to distinguish because we don’t articulate them separately, they are buried in a constant stream of speech, or co-articulated. Some phonemes are easily confused so learners should not be left to identify speech sounds in words unassisted. We need to explicitly teach phonemic awareness if children are to benefit from phonics instruction.
-Phonics, a Guide for Teachers, BOSTES
Stuart and Stainthorp (2016)
Components of phonological awareness
|Phonological awareness||Segment words into syllables|
|Phonemic awareness||Onset-rime segmentation|
|Segment initial sounds|
|Segment final sounds|
|Critical Achievement – segment and blend sounds|
|Deletion & manipulation of sounds|
Adapted from Schuele and Murphy (2014) intensive phonological awareness program. Baltimore : Brookes Publishing
Initially, students are aware of the larger phonological units in spoken language, such as rhyme, alliteration and onset-rime segmentation. With exposure to spoken and written language as well as explicit teaching, students eventually develop an awareness of individual phonemes in words (phonemic awareness), allowing them to segment and blend sounds for spelling and reading.