Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Readings: The Importance of Phonemic Awareness

The concept of phonemic awareness has been discussed a few times on Literacy Log. The U of Oregon's Big Ideas in Beginning Reading page has a great rundown of what phonemic awareness is. Basically, phonemic awareness is the knowledge that words are made up of sounds and the ability to hear and manipulate those sounds.

This may seem pretty basic, but if students get off on the wrong foot with phonemic awareness, it can seriously hinder their journey toward literacy. In Word Matters: Teaching Phonics and Spelling in the Reading/Writing Classroom, Pinnell & Fountas make a great argument for the importance of phonemic awareness:

Why is knowing about the sounds in words so important for literacy learning? In English and in many other languages, there is a close relationship between the sounds we speak and the way in which they are represented in written symbols. The relationship is not a perfect one; but in an alphabetic written system, it is critical for the users of language to recognize this relationship and use it to write and read. Children who realize that words are made up of sequences of sounds, called phonemes by linguists, can more easily relate these sounds to the sequences of letters and to letter groups. As children learn to read and write, understanding the sound-letter relationship is key, and this understanding begins in oral language experiences.

I am in the process of designing an after-school literacy program for young readers, so phonemic awareness is going to come up again and again. Having established its importance, I hope to find a ton of good lessons, activities, and games to bolster phonemic awareness. I'll keep you posted, and I welcome your contributions!

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