Phonological Awareness, Phonemic Awareness and Phonics Parent Explainer

Understanding the intricacies of Literacy for your child goes beyond simply recognising letters. In fact, there are crucial foundational skills that pave the way for not only success in reading, but speaking, listening, and writing as well. Let’s delve into the essentials: phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and phonics.

What’s Phonological Awareness?
This skill involves hearing, identifying, and manipulating sounds in spoken language. It serves as the foundation for both reading and writing skills, encompassing activities like rhyming, syllable splitting, and blending sounds.

Activities to Boost Phonological Awareness:
1. Counting words in an oral sentence.
2. Listening for and identifying rhyming words.
3. Matching words with the same beginning sound.
4. Blending and dividing syllables within words.
5. Engaging in sound deletion and substitution tasks.

Why is this important? Because these activities are purely sound-based and oral exercises. They are designed to help kids sharpen their listening skills without any focus on letters or writing, which can cause confusion or cognitive overload.

Moving on to Phonemic Awareness:
This is a part of phonological awareness. We are still focusing on sound-based and oral activities, but now we are emphasising that spoken words are composed of individual sounds or phonemes. There are 44 phonemes (sounds) in English. Later, we will investigate how they are represented by a single letter or multiple letters to make different sounds.

Skills in Phonemic Awareness:
– Segmenting sounds in words.
– Blending individual sounds.
– Deleting or substituting sounds within words.

Phonological Awareness vs. Phonemic Awareness:
The key difference is that phonemic awareness zooms in on sounds at the phoneme level (single sounds like in ‘m’-‘a’-‘p’), unlike phonological awareness, which works at various sound levels, including syllables (‘map’ or ‘ba’-‘na’-‘na’) and onsets (‘ma’, or ‘ap’ in map).
**Remember, at this level, it is still listening and oral language without the letter representation. However, I do find that once children are identifying individual sounds in phonemic awareness, they quickly begin to need the visual graphemes (letters) to help them understand and master some activities. If it becomes overwhelming or confusing, remove them again. 

Now, Where Does Phonics Fit In?
Phonics bridges phonological and phonemic awareness integrating sound recognition with writing and letters. It’s about matching sounds to specific letters and graphemes.

For example, the sound /n/ can be made by n, ng, kn, or pn.

This is also where we need to introduce the visuals of upper and lower case letters and expose children to as many different font variations as we can.

As mentioned earlier, you will often overlap some phonics investigations with phonemic awareness so they can start to mentally create the visual representations to help master more difficult activities. 

The Role of Phonological Awareness in Reading and Writing:

Before delving into phonics, children need a robust foundation in phonological awareness. This skill aids them in decoding new words and enhances their writing by fostering strong sound-based comprehension.

Research shows that children struggling with phonemic identification face challenges in both reading and writing. Strengthening phonological awareness equips them to read and write new words accurately.

In essence, mastering phonological and phonemic awareness significantly enhances both reading and writing abilities. While letters are vital, understanding sounds is the true gateway to unlocking the realms of reading and writing for your child.

To download the poster below, create a free vcop account and follow the link: