As teachers, we understand the importance of teaching our students the foundational skills necessary for academic success. Among these skills, we find phonological awareness plays a pivotal role in our students’ reading. So, let’s jump into the importance of phonological awareness and some strategies to enhance it.
What is Phonological Awareness?
Phonological awareness focuses on the sounds of speech. It develops as students play with language, repeat rhymes, and manipulate sounds and syllables. When students have a strong understanding of phonological skills, they can transition more smoothly into reading and spelling words. Some skills within phonological awareness are identifying rhyming words, breaking words into individual sounds, and blending sounds to form words.
Phonological Awareness and Reading
- Decoding: Phonological awareness is a prerequisite skill for decoding. Decoding involves the relationships between sounds and written letters.
- Vocabulary Development: Phonological awareness is vital for vocabulary growth.
- Spelling: Spelling consists of understanding the connections between sounds and letters.
- Fluency: Reading fluently requires students to recognize and process words quickly. Students who have strong phonological awareness tend to be more fluent readers with greater comprehension.
- Reading Comprehension: Comprehension is dependent on recognizing words and knowing their meanings, which is facilitated by phonological awareness.
Lack of Phonological Awareness
Students may experience many difficulties while moving through their elementary school years and beyond when they do not have adequate phonological awareness. As teachers, we need to identify the problem and offer support to assist those students.
Activities to Support Phonological Awareness
- Concept of Spoken Word: Give students ten pony beads to string on a pipe cleaner and knot the ends to keep the beads from falling off. Students can use this tool for word awareness, syllable awareness, and phonemic awareness. Example: As you say a sentence, have the students slide a bead over for each word.
- Rhyme and Movement for Rhyme Recognition: Students will elicit a physical response to a pair of words. Example: If the words rhyme, pat your should. If the words do not rhyme, stomp your feet.
- Syllable Segmentation and Blending: Use unifix cubes or Legos to divide a word into syllables. Example: Give the student pictures of different objects. You can write the number of syllables on the back for self-checking. The students will then divide the Legos into the number of syllables in the word. The process can be reversed to blend the syllables together to create the word.
- Car Parking Lot for Phoneme Isolation of Initial, Middle, and Final Sounds: Draw three parking spaces on a file folder. Explain that you will say a word. If you call out a sound at the beginning of the word, they should park the car in the first spot. If the sound is at the end of the word, park in the last spot. Example: “In pick, where do you hear the /k/ sound?” Students would park their cars in the last spot.
Phonological awareness is a foundational skill that paves the way for successful reading and literacy development. By recognizing the importance of phonological awareness and implementing effective teaching strategies, teachers can empower their students to become confident and proficient readers, setting them on a path to academic success.