Phonemic awareness activities should be simple.
If your student is ever confused by the directions, then it’s not a good activity. Phonemic awareness is an awareness of discrete sounds and the ability to segment, blend and manipulate them. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound. “Whale,” for example, contains 5 letters, but only 3 phonemes. A phonemic awareness activity focuses entirely on phonemes. A teacher might say, “Tell me the sounds in spot in order.” A phonemically aware child will respond with: “ssss-p-oooo-t.” The student will not say the letters. She will only say the sounds, hold continuous sounds and clip stop sounds.
A simple phonemic awareness activity
Remember that simple phonemic awareness activities are the best, because you never want your student to be confused by the directions. All of their cognitive effort should focus on manipulating sounds. If a child is a beginning reader, ask her to segment short vowel words.
TEACHER: Let’s say the sounds in order. Be sure to hold sounds we can say for a long time, and say other sounds quickly. jam
As the teacher, you can point to something for each sound. For example, I like to set out 5 stickers. Not all of the stickers have to be used. In “jam,” there will be two unused stickers, since “jam” contains 3 phonemes. Some people use fingers for each sound, holding up a finger for each phoneme. You can also use any item your student likes, including: lego blocks, small stuffed animals, cars or trains. Line up 5 of the items. Point to one item for each sound.
The above activity is very effective. It improves spelling and reading. If you’re child is working on long vowels, other vowel digraphs or any other sound units, you can increase the difficulty by switching out the words. Maybe you can pick words like: train (which has 4 phonemes), whale (3 phonemes), town (3), sway (3), gleam (4).
Phonemic awareness is not innate. Children become phonemically aware through direct instruction and exposure to a language rich environment.
Phonemic awareness activities can be difficult for young children because they are not literate yet. Adults that grow up in illiterate societies also perform very poorly on phonemic awareness activities. It turns out, phonemic awareness only develops if a child learns to read an alphabetic language-one with sound-symbol correlations- and lives in a literate culture.
Kids only develop strong phonemic awareness skills if they learn to read an alphabetic language. Before Pinyin, the Chinese were not as phonemically aware as speakers of alphabetic languages: there was no need to be. Now after the introduction of Pinyin, an alphabetic written code that’s used in conjunction with Chinese symbols, kids in China have evolved their phonemic awareness. Since Pinyin has strict sound-symbol correlations, phonemic awareness skills are essential to crack the code. In sum, kids must become phonemically aware if they are going to learn to read an alphabetic language.
While almost all languages are somewhat alphabetic, English leans more towards the alphabetic language end of the spectrum. Phonemic awareness is not natural and it will not develop without any kind of instruction. If our kids are going to learn to read English, they must practice segmenting, blending and manipulating sounds.
Try the above activity to get your student started on the path towards phonemic awareness.
Reading Elephant offers printable phonics books in our shop.