A Sound Floor for rtlogotype:
Power and Fluency Through Phonemic Awareness

The best way to prepare eager young preschoolers, Kindergartners and early-graders for reading is to teach Phonemic Awareness.

The number-one suspect when children struggle, is weak Phonemic Awareness.


Some children develop Phonemic Awareness naturally.
Just as some children are naturally ‘good at art’ or ‘good at sports,’
some are good at sound.

They figure it out, and can play with sound in their ‘Mind’s Ear.’

Jenny, Jenny, Bo-Benny, banana-fanna-fo-Fenny,
fee-fie-mo-Menny, Jenny!

These are the children who invented ig-Pay atin-Lay (Pig Latin).

These are the children who usually learn to read
no matter how they are taught.

But sound is tricky.
Unlike written letters, you cannot stare at sound.
It goes by quickly, and then it’s gone.

You have to ‘pick up’ on sound quickly, or you miss it.

And in order to actually play with sound, you have to keep it alive in the ‘instant memory compartment’ of the “Mind’s Ear.’


Auditory discernment skill (auditory discrimination) helps the child to pick up sound quickly and accurately.

Auditory working memory means keeping sound alive in instant memory in the ‘Mind’s Ear’ so that the child can play with it it mentally.

These are just the abilities--these and more--that children build by playing Phonemic Awareness games!


What about children without well-developed ‘Mind’s Ear’ skills?

How can they play Phonemic Awareness games?

Fortunately there are easier games that prepare the ‘Mind’s Ear’ for the harder ones.

Phonemic Awareness skills build upon one another:


Babies, young children, kids who are not natural ‘auditory learners,’ or learners at risk can begin at the very beginning with Playful Sounds.


Thirty years of research funded by the National Institutes of Health demonstrates that

Phonemic Awareness skill does not depend upon intelligence.
Phonemic Awareness training does not take a long time,
and is effective in the classroom

If students struggle with reading, it is never to late to back up and build a proper Phonemic Awareness foundation.


Phonemic Awareness is the sound foundation for Phonics.
Children with strong auditory foundations tend to sail through Phonics programs, compared with children who have little auditory skill.

They can mix and match, juggle and compare,
build and pull apart
with ease and speed.

And these savvy kids can deal with

  • One sound, many ways to spell it
  • One spelling, many ways to say it
  • Two letters but just one sound
  • One letter, two or three possible sounds
. . . because they have a ‘Mind’s Ear’ for speech sounds.


Do not confuse Phonemic Awareness with Phonics.

What’s the difference?

     Phonemic Awareness
is a set of ‘Mind’s Ear’ skills.
Phonics is a system of eye-to-ear relationships
                                           (visual-becomes-auditory information)

Without strong ‘Mind’s Ear’ skills, the child’s eye-to-ear Phonics process will always have a weaker ‘ear’ piece.

A weak ‘Mind’s Ear’ will gobble attention, slow the reading,
hinder comprehension, and turn the whole process into hard work!


Don’t children get all the Phonemic Awareness they need from a really good, pure Phonics program?

No. Remember: Sound is tricky. It’s gone in an instant; you can’t ‘stare’ at it.

And if there’s a visual letter, there is no opportunity to exercise auditory discernment (discrimination) or auditory working memory.

So children need to learn to play with sound without crutches--relying only on the ‘Mind’s Ear.’

If children are given visual information--letters--
before they develop the ability to ‘hear,’ remember,
and play with sounds in their head,
they may not develop a strong ‘Mind’s Ear.’

Children need to focus on the information from their ears first, not divide attention between eyes and ears.


Make sure children have plugged in their ‘Mind’s Ear’ before we add written letters--Phonics--to the mix.
Maximum power comes from maximum ‘Mind’s Ear’ exercise.

So make sure that learners can play a variety of listening-only Phonemic Awareness games before adding written letters to the mix.

Once the ‘Mind’s Ear’ is active and strong,
Phonemic Awareness continues to grow along with Phonics.

Short Cut Through the Treehouse ~ The Whole Treehouse

More on this topic:
The Floor: Phonemic Awareness Games to Play