Teaching Ideas


Phonological Awareness

Submitted by Admin (06-12-2012)

Phonological and Phonemic Awareness - What is it? 
I can hardly even say it - let alone know what it means LOL!!!!

If your brain works a little like mine (in 'mysterious' ways !!!!), I hope the following explanation helps...

Thanks to Sue for clarification of the following terms.....

Phonological Awareness - is a broad concept that not only includes phonemic awareness (see below) but also encompasses awareness of things like words, rhyme, syllables and onset and rime.

Phonemic Awareness - is the ability to hear, say and manipulate sounds in words and is a sub-skill of phonological awareness.

Phonics - involves making the connection between the single sounds (phonemes) and their related letter patterns (graphemes) when reading and writing


More Terms




I find it easier to view Phonological Awareness and related Literacy Skills in 4 basic stages of awareness and development:


Stage 1: Babies - approximately 0-1 years

Welcome to the World! - sounds which come out of my parents' mouths mean something - I might give making sounds a try!


Stage 2: Infants/Toddlers - approximately 1-4 years

Wow, Rhyming is Fun! - making up silly rhymes and songs - I can listen for and hear similar rhyming sounds!

  • *This begins with the increased ability to distinguish between different sounds in our environment and continues to develop as we listen to and play around with sounds through rhymes, songs, poems and loads of 'being read to...'


Stage 3: Preschoolers - approximately 3-7 years

Amazing - Sounds can be Written Down! - the sounds I hear when I talk can be written down so others can read them....

  • *This is where REGULAR Alphabet Letter Sounds begins playing a part...
  • *The sounds we make when we talk can be written down using letter combinations from our alphabet.
  • *Our alphabet consists of 26 letters - 5 vowels, and 21consonants.
  • *Every word needs at least one vowel sound to 'hold' the consonants together. (EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO TEACH EARLY)
  • *Each alphabet letter has A NAME and a regular single sound that it represents on its own.
  • *These regular single sounds can be at the beginning of a word, the middle of a word, or at the end of a word.
  • *We can put these alphabet letters and their regular single sounds together to make simple words (consonant/vowel/consonant CVC words).
  • *2 or more regular consonant sounds and letters can combine to form 'consonant blends' to help with writing words - These 'consonant blends' are still 2 or more regular single sounds combined such as 'br' not one sound as represented in the grapheme - 'ch' -


Stage 4: School Age / Adults - approximately 7 years and onwards (never ends.....)

Incredible - Sounds can be written down in more than one way !

  • *The introduction of more ADVANCED Letter Combinations and Phonic Sounds.
  • *Regular single alphabet sounds can also be represented by other1 or more letter combinations. eg. baby / bubble, right and write
  • *When we speak we also use more than just the regular alphabet sounds.
  • *Many other advanced single sounds are also used when we speak.
  • *These advanced single phonics sounds can also be divided into 'vowel' sounds and 'consonant' sounds
  • *These advanced single sounds are also written using 1 or more letter combinations.
  • *Words can be 'broken' into syllables - each syllable has 1 vowel sound.(EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO TEACH EARLY)



  • *Phonemes - single sounds produced by a speaker.
  • *Graphemes - written representation of those single sounds using letter combinations - includes Vowel Graphemes / Consonant Graphemes.
  • *Consonant Blends - 2 or more single consonants which blend together STILL making 2 OR MORE SOUNDS (not one sound as with above graphemes eg: bl, str, nd, ld)
  • *Regular Alphabet Letters and Sounds - the phonemes and graphemes related to regular alphabet sounds and individual alphabet letters (see charts below).
  • *Advanced Letters and Sounds - the phonemes and graphemes related to more advanced phonics sounds and alphabet letter patterns (see chart below)
  • *Short Vowel Sounds - The vowel sounds as follows: a as in 'dad', e as in 'bed', i as in 'sit', o as in 'dog', u as in 'bug' - these are regular alphabet letters and sounds.
  • *Long Vowel Sounds - The long vowel sounds are the sounds the vowels make when you say their name.
  • *Please Note: The terms digraph and dipthong, and there are many others 'floating' out there, in my opinion, are 'thrown' around too much and the true meanings have been 'lost' so I have tended to steer away from using them. They can be misleading and I really don't think there is a need to use these terms -phonemes (the sounds), graphemes (the written patterns), and consonant blends says it all (in my opinion).
  • What about uncommon letter patterns (graphemes) which are not on the charts?

    The charts highlight the most common graphemes (it would go on forever if every possible grapheme was listed, and be way too overwhelming for littlies - we all know what the English language can be like!!). 

    OK - for words such as 'course' the vowel phoneme /or/ is represented by the grapheme 'our' - not on the /or/ sound chart. Sue explains that she tells her students this is another way to spell the phoneme /or/ and it is added to a class 'uncommon' graphemes list... Thanks Sue !

This explanation of phonological / phonemic awareness and its role in early literacy fits like a glove for me - but what about you - your views on this topic are welcome in comments below - thanks!





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