Phonics and phonemic awareness

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The purpose of this paper is to discuss several strategies and techniques to help teach phonics and promote phonemic awareness. The importance of phonics and phonemic awareness in learning to read will be discussed as well as assessments, differentiated instruction, and any assessments. Finally this paper will discuss the actions a teacher could take when a student is not demonstrating progress.

Reading is one of the most important skills a learner must acquire in life. Statistics show that students who are behind in reading are usually behind in several other academic areas as well. Therefore it is imperative that teachers promote reading skills and try to provide the best strategies for students to learn. Phonics and phonemic awareness are very important pieces of the puzzle when trying to learn how to read. The terms are sometimes confused for the other because of their similarity. Phonemic awareness is the cognitive recognition that there are different sounds and that they can be recognized and manipulated to and blended together to make words (McGee, & Ukrainetz, 2009). Phonemic awareness is kind of a prerequisite to reading as students should be aware of different sounds before learning to read words. Students who do not hear the phonemes of words will have a difficult time relating sounds to words on paper (Cheesman, McGuire, Shankweiler, & Coyne, 2009). Phonemic awareness usually begins at home before a child starts school and this happens at varying degrees in each household so when children begin school they are all at different awareness levels if they have any awareness at all.

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When working with younger children it is important to keep learning sessions in small enough groups so that each child can receive attention because it can get difficult for the teacher to try and hear a child if they are 1 in 30 talking (Isakson, Marchand-Martella, & Martella, 2011). In the classroom teachers can use rhyming games to help students become aware of phonemes. Having students clap their hands together for each syllable is another technique to help students learn to break words down into simpler, smaller parts. Phoneme matching can be done where you have the student pick out the two same sounding words in a group of three like cat/ball/can. Phoneme isolation can also help, when the beginning, middle, or end of the word is isolated for the sound it makes. When trying to assess a student’s phonemic awareness it is important to do one-on-one assessments to ensure that the student is not just repeating what they hear others say. Informal assessments should be done several times a year to help guide instruction.

Phonics, while very similar to phonemic awareness, is different. Where phonemic awareness is about the awareness of the sound of phonemes, phonics is the awareness and recognition that those phonemes correlate into written letters, words, and language (Cunningham, 2012). The goal with phonics is to help children learn how to read new words by sounding out the letters that make up the word. Phonics instruction can be done through flashcards, where the teacher holds up the flashcard with a letter on it and the student says the letter. Phonics instruction can take place by teaching upper and lower case letters. Have a handout with 2 spaces on it for each letter of the alphabet on it. Write the letter “A” on the board then prompt the class for the name of the letter, and then ask one student to come up and write the lower case letter. “Which Letter?” is another fun phonics activity where students learn the relationship between sound and symbols. For each letter of the alphabet, one at a time, the teacher will write a group of words starting with the same letter like car, cat, can, camel, then ask students what sound do they hear in each of them and ask them to think of other words that start like that then write them on the board.

Picture dominoes are also a fun classroom activity where the class plays in groups of 2 and the students have paper dominoes with pictures on one side and letters on the other. Have students match up the pictures with other pictures that have the same beginning. They can check their work on the backside that has the letter. Another fun activity for the class to learn phonics can be the missing vowel game. Split the class into two teams then the teacher will write a word on the board but leave out the vowels then ask team 1 students to help figure out what word they are trying to spell. Give extra points to teams when they make more than one word using different vowels. When assessing phonics the teacher wants to know if the student is proficient with beginning, middle, ending, and blending sounds in words (McNee, 2013). When assessing phonics it is important to test the student on words that they do not know to see if they have an understanding of the word because if they just recognize the word by sight, they may not be using their phonics skill to determine the word.

In the U.S., the numbers of students who receive English Language Learner (ELL) services and special education services has been on the rise and the future will probably hold more of the same (Department of Education, 2013). With such a large portion of students coming from non English speaking homes, it is very important have systems in place to help support those students and give them the help they need to get a proper education. That usually means that assignments have to be adapted to fit their needs. When working with ELL’s try to start with letters by themselves and help them understand the difference between a letter and the sound that letters make then try to use smaller words, speak clearly, over-annunciate, and use objects they are familiar with. Students with special needs might need materials like braille readers, visual aids, or other adaptations to help them (SUH, & GERSON, 2013). If a student is obviously behind their peers while receiving the same instruction an intervention may be needed and the teacher can request for the student to be tested for any special circumstances.

The following is a chart describing the definition of reading techniques to use in the classroom as well as classroom activities and corresponding assessments.

Research-Based Technique
Classroom Activities
Phonemic Awareness
Phonemic awareness is the ability for the listener to hear, recognize, and manipulate sounds 1. Phonemic gestures –Give students a word and have them do different gestures for each phoneme in the word. 2. Letter of the day -give a letter of the day and have students give other words that they know that have the same sound. Read a story and have students yell out each time they hear the letter of the day. Formative Assessment: Observe students to make sure they are participating

Summative Assessment: Have an oral exam where students have to go through each letter of the alphabet and make the corresponding sounds.


Phonics is recognizing written and spoken letters and understanding how they make words. 1. Alphabet practice -Have students fill in the blanks of an alphabet chart. 2. Upper/Lowercase fill-in -Have students fill in the missing upper or lower case alphabet. Formative Assessment: observe students to see the number of correct answers Summative Assessment: Give students a blank handout where they have to give upper and lower case letters and then tell the teacher what kind of sound the letters make. Reading Fluency

Reading fluency is the ability to read, write, and communicate with ease, speed and proper expression about the things we see. 1. Daily reading and journal
2. Read through with teacher. –Teacher will read passages and student will repeat it.

Formative Assessment: Have student read a small portion of a class book. Summative Assessment: Students will be asked to read a passage for accuracy and time Vocabulary Development
Vocabulary development is the understanding of a words and their meaning and the change 1. Vocabulary quizzes
2. Spelling Bee
3. Vocabulary Bingo
Formative Assessment:
Students will be given a spelling test before each chapter/ unit/lesson Summative Assessment: Students will write vocabulary words along with definitions and use them in a sentence. Weekly Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension is the level of understanding that a reader has of the material they are reading. 1. Translating Shakespeare
2. Chapter book reading
Formative Assessment: KWL chart
Summative Assessment: Stump the quizzer- one student sits in the front of the class while the others get to ask questions from the book just read.

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