Why do some children learn to read so easily, while others struggle? Thirty years of
research funded by the National Institutes of Health has found an answer:
Successful children have a special ‘sound foundation’
--they can play with
speech sounds in their ‘Mind’s Ear.’
Phonemic Awareness is the ‘sound foundation of successful reading--
. . . the understanding that words and syllables are strings of speech sounds
. . . the ability to play mentally with the sounds of speech
. . . is necessary for Phonics to work
. . . should be taught starting at preschool age
List of Basic Auditory Skills and Phonemic Awareness skills
The ‘sound foundation’ of successful reading is known as Phonemic Awareness.
Phonemic Awareness is a set of teachable skills, and children do not have to be particularly ‘intelligent’ to learn them.
Phonemic Awareness is not about the spelling of words--it is all about their sounds.
. . . is the understanding that spoken words and syllables are made up of sequences of speech sounds.
For example, the word "shows" contains three individual speech sounds:
(Think sound, not spelling.)
. . . is the ability to think about and mentally play with the sounds in speech.
Children are using Phonemic Awareness when they do things like
hear individual sounds within words
blend sounds into words
pull words apart into individual sounds
add and subtract sounds from words
speak Pig Latin or sing the Name Game song
. . . is necessary for phonics to work.
But don’t let children ‘cheat’ by seeing the letters as they learn Phonemic Awareness tasks.
Phonemic Awareness means learning to do these things in the ‘Mind’s Ear’--no peeking!
The 'Mind's Ear' itself needs to be strong enough to work smoothly on its own, in the background of awareness. This is what allows for fluent Phonics and plenty of attention left over for reading comprehension.
(Once their ‘Mind’s Ear’ is strong enough to play with sounds alone, then they can peek.)
. . . should be taught starting at preschool age. Even babies can learn about speech sounds.
But it’s never too late to back up and build strong Phonemic Awareness.
. . . continues to develop as children learn phonics.
Basic Auditory Skill and Phonemic Awareness skills list.
The easiest tasks are at the top of the list, building up to the most difficult tasks at the bottom.
Discern and supply rhyming words
Discern speech sounds from one another
Blend isolated sounds into real or nonsense words
Tell if two words share a sound in common--for example, do they have the same first sound
Discern individual phonemes in a word--for example, the first or last sound
Tap out the number of sounds in a word
Separate and say the individual sounds of a word in order
Say what would be left if you removed part of a word
Children who play Phonemic Awareness games build their ability to recall speech sounds in their ‘Mind’s Ear.’
Children who can recall speech sounds in their ‘Mind’s Ear’ are equipped to learn
Rapid-Accurate Naming of letter-sounds.
Children who play Phonemic Awareness games build their ability to blend and pull
apart the sounds of words in their ‘Mind’s Ear.
Children who can blend and pull apart the sounds of words in their ‘Mind’s Ear’ are equipped
to sound out and spell words.
Even the weirdness of English spelling is less troublesome.
Listen to the pronunciation of the red letters:
Father Fat Famous
Cat Kite Chemistry Rick
ought tough though through hiccough
Okay, let me admit that I am still troubled by the whole 'ough' issue.
The point is:
In English, one letter can make several different sounds.
In English, one sound can have several different letters.
But--in English, one sound is . . . one sound. Simple, accurate, reliable.
So as children work and play with sounds in their ‘Mind’s Ear,’ they are building something true and consistent.
They are also building a ‘Mind’s Ear’ strong enough to handle Phonics fluently.
Phonemic Awareness helps learners to build the Phonics walls of the Reading Treehouse.
Very young learners, kids who are not 'auditory learners,' or students at risk, can begin at the very beginning by learning the sounds of speech with Playful Sounds.
More on this topic: The Reading Treehouse -> THE FLOOR: Phonemic Awareness
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