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Another term that is often confused is phonological awareness and phonemic awareness.
Equipped for Reading Success (best $50 I've ever spent!). Even within the subset of phonemic awareness, there are several levels. We often stop at the skills of blending and segmenting phonemes, but it's crucial that we get students to the level of automaticity with phoneme manipulation. Here are some examples that might clear this up (remember these are all auditory):
Blending: You would say the individual sounds and students blend them together to make a word. You say /s/ /u/ /n/ and student blends those to say the word: sun.
Segmenting: Now it's the opposite. You give the student the word and they break it into parts. You say, "Tell me all the sounds in the word black." Student says: /b/ /l/ /a/ /k/.
Manipulating: You say, "Say the word stop." Student repeats, "Stop." You say, "Now change the sound /t/ to /l/. What's the new word?" Student says "Slop."
We want students to be able to manipulate quickly...within 2 seconds. The problem is that many programs stop at blending/segmenting. Even our DIBELS assessment doesn't test manipulation, but it's critical that we get our students there in order for them to become successful readers. It's very common to think of this as a kindergarten skill, but if you look at this table from Kilpatrick's book, you can see that many of these skills are not mastered until much later:
Here are some other quotes from David Kilpatrick's book that really stood out to me:
So let's get into how we teach this. I teach phonological awareness both whole group and small group, allowing my students to get a double dose of this critical skill.
Whole GroupOne of the first phonological awareness tasks we learn in kindergarten is syllable awareness. I love chants and songs, so here is how we practice syllables:
Here is the song I use for blending. I didn't make these up...I heard another teacher use them (on YouTube...I will try to find who it was) and fell in love! My students love them!
For whole group, I LOVE using Heggerty's Phonemic Awareness program. Have you heard of it? It's a very comprehensive and systematic program. I love that everything is there, ready for me to use, and I know that I'm going to cover everything I need to in a year. It tells me exactly what to do for each day and I don't need to do anything to prep...I just pull out the book and go. A lesson takes about 10 minutes (usually shorter if you keep a good pace) and it's the first thing we do in my classroom each day. I like to interject the songs I showed above as I do it. If you find the lessons are taking longer than 10 minutes, I'd recommend that you pick up your pace. -This keeps it more fun and exciting for the students too.
It's important to hit phonemic awareness in your small group instruction too. This is where you can really scaffold for those students who need it. One resource I love for small groups, is David Kilpatrick's 1-minute drills. These are included in his book, Equipped for Reading Success, and they literally only take one minute. I also love that all levels are included in his book, from kindergarten to total mastery (whether that is in 3rd grade or adulthood).
When a student is struggling with a phonemic awareness task, pull out some manipulatives to help them. We love using slinkies to help us stretch out a word. Elkonin boxes with bingo chips or cars and tracks are all fun ways to help students segment a word. Using hand motions (as I did in the videos above) are also a way to lend support. The goal is to eventually pull away from all of these, and for students to be able to do them automatically (within 2 seconds) without any of these supports. Anytime I introduce a new level of difficulty with a student, I end up needing to pull out a manipulative of some sort. After a couple lessons, I am usually able to put the manipulative away and do it without. Once they can do the task with ease and within 2 seconds, we move on to the next level and the manipulatives come out again.
If you find the student is still having a hard time, even with a manipulative, you may need to go back a skill or two. For example, if a child is struggling to blend 3 phonemes (/c/ /a/ /t/ = cat), go back to the onset-rime level (/c/ /-at/ = cat). If he/she still can't blend onset/rime, go to the syllable level (pa per = paper). If syllables are tricky, compound words are a little easier (cup cake = cupcake).
The important thing is that you teach phonemic awareness explicitly and with lots of opportunities for practice. Remember to give your students a double dose by teaching both whole group and small group, scaffolding where needed. I hope that is helpful! Questions? Leave a comment below or email me through the contact form!