Phonemic Awareness

How will I teach phonemic awareness to my students?

Phonemic awareness or phonological awareness?

Phonemic awareness is defined by Souza as "Phonemic awareness encompases understanding that words are made up of individual sounds and that these sounds can be manipulated to create new words."

Phonological awareness is defined by Souza as "The awareness of any size unit of sound, including the ability to separate words into syllables, to count syllables, to identify phonemes in words, and to generate and recognize rhyming words."

I don't see how phonemic awareness and phonological awareness can really be separated in lessons as I plan my teaching.

How important is phonemic awareness and 2nd graders?

Included in my 29 students are 10 who are reading above grade level, 6 are reading just at or slightly below grade level, 5 are reading well below grade level and are being served on an IEP, and 8 are reading significantly below grade level. Of those 8 several received remediation services in 1st grade.

The breakdown of the reading ability in my classroom indicates just how important teaching them phonemic awareness will be. Phonemic awareness encompases understanding that words are made up of individual sounds and that these sounds can be manipulated to create new words. (Souza, 2014) These lessons will include hearing and orally manipulating the sounds of words.

My lessons include both phonemic awareness and phonological awareness as I see them as inseparable and equally important.

Lesson plans for my students.

Lesson Series #1: Use Easter eggs to teach word families. This will be one of the choices during The Daily Five.

Lesson Series #2: Making Sense of Phonics: Use of this text allows me to meet students where they are. Students are able to make words and manipulate sounds. They recognize that changing just the beginning of a word helps them make a new word. It reinforces the work they have done with the word families/eggs.

Lesson Series #3: Words Their Way: Use of this text and these sorts allow students to discover spelling rules as they work through each of the sorts. By using the DSI - Developmental Spelling Inventory - students work at their individual developmental stage. This creates a learning environment that supports each student and builds a solid base for them to use as they grow and develop as readers.

How do these activities support literacy growth for my students?

All three of these lesson series allow individual differentiation in a clear and concise manner. Students are given direct instruction in several different ways, using different styles of learning. They are able to work both independently as well as with a partner and in small groups. Each of these series of lessons are used to meet each learner at their current need. They are intended to extend over a long period of time and are able to fluidly change as the children progress.

Making Sense of Phonics uses formative assessment frequently and permits students to move easily through the word building exercises at their own pace.

Words Their Way is also easily adapted to formative assessment. Students are able to move from one group to another to address their individual needs.

Using word family "eggs" allow students who have gaps in their learning to practice these basic skills in small groups that have their same needs. Students are able to work at their developmental level in word building and using word sorts while simultaneously closing any gaps they have in learning spelling patterns.

How is this connected to brain research and brain development?

The brain must figure out how to organize the new learning of reading because it does not have an automatic way to do this. It must build neural pathways in order to make sense of its learning and to organize that new learning. (Sousa, 2014) As a teacher I have to be aware of this need and be cognizant of how I teach phonemic awareness. Students must have every opportunity to be successful and now that we have brain research available, it is up to me to utilize that information in the best way for my students.

Some brain research states that it is best to begin with encoding - speech to print - rather than decoding - looking at print and decoding the sounds. (Herron, 2008) This makes sense to me when you pair that information with Sousa when he states that "Speaking is a normal, genetically hardwired capability reading is not." (Souza, page 35)

What am I doing well in teaching this area?

I believe I am providing differentiation for all of my students. Students are able to work at their own pace and progress as quickly as they can through different lessons. Formative assessment is used regularly and appropriately to keep students' learning moving forward.

What can I improve on in teaching this area?

I'm concerned about providing students with enough additional practice that will allow them to close gaps in their learning. It is hard to manage individual lessons for all my students. Although I think the spelling portion of their lessons are good, they don't get enough practice on a variety of skills they are missing. I simply don't know how to manage more than I am already doing.


Working through this project provided me a great opportunity to reflect on my teaching. I was able to identify things I was doing a good job with as well as taking a good look at where I need to improve. I've been able to identify several pieces of my instruction that can be tweaked to better serve students.