[Assessment 1421] More on phonemic awareness

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Marie Cora mariecora at gmail.com
Sat Sep 13 11:21:04 EDT 2008


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Marie Cora
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>From the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

commissioned by The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning

Bonita Grossen, Research Associate with The National Center to Improve the
Tools of Educators

Phonemic awareness is the ability to segment words and syllables into
constituent sounds units, or phonemes. Converging evidence from all the
research centers shows that deficits in phonemic awareness reflect the core
deficit in reading difficulties. These deficits are characterized by
difficulties in segmenting syllables and words into constituent sound units
called phonemes--in short, there is a difficulty in turning spelling into

Lack of phonemic awareness seems to be a major obstacle to learning to read
(Vellutino & Scanlon, 1987a; Wagner & Torgeson, 1987). This is true for any
language, even Chinese. About two in five children have some level of
difficulty with phonemic awareness. For about one in five children phonemic
awareness does not develop or improve over time. These children never catch
up, but fall further and further behind in reading and in all academic
subjects (Fletcher, et al., 1994; Shaywitz, Escobar, Shaywitz, Fletcher, &
Makuch, 1992; Stanovich, 1986; Stanovich & Siegel,1994).

Instruction using the following types of phonemic awareness tasks has had a
positive effect on reading acquisition and spelling for pre-readers:
rhyming, auditorily discriminating sounds that are different, blending
spoken sounds into words, word-to-word matching, isolating sounds in words,
counting phonemes, segmenting spoken words into sounds, deleting sounds from
words (Ball & Blachman, 1991; Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley, 1990; Cunningham,
1990; Foorman, Francis, Beeler, Winikates, & Fletcher, in press; Lie, 1991;
Lundberg, Frost, & Petersen, 1988; Vellutino & Scanlon, 1987b; Yopp, 1988).
Explicit instruction in how segmentation and blending are involved in the
reading process was superior to instruction that did not explicitly teach
the children to apply phonemic awareness to reading (Cunningham, 1990).
Kindergarten children with explicit instruction in phonemic awareness did
better than a group of first graders who had no instruction, indicating that
this crucial pre-skill for reading can be taught at least by age five and is
not developmental (Cunningham, 1990).

In a study by Ball and Blachman (1991), seven weeks of explicit instruction
in phonemic awareness combined with explicit instruction in sound-spelling
correspondences for kindergarten children was more powerful than instruction
in sound-spelling correspondences alone and more powerful than language
activities in improving reading skills.

*Joy Hunder*

joy.hunder at losttech.com


A definition in Unlocking Literacy, Marcia K. Henry, 2003, Paul H. Brooks
Publishing Co., may prove helpful.

"The term phonological awareness is generally used to indicate awareness of
and facility with all levels of the speech sound system, including word
boundaries, stress patterns, syllable patterns, onset rime units, and
"Phonemic awareness, the most advanced level of phonological awareness,
requires the conscious awareness of individual phonemes in a given word,
along with the ability to manipulate these sounds."

Anyone with an interest in this subject will find the cited publication not
only useful for teaching but fun to read.

I have found students grasping reading and spelling skills when they
understand how the 26 alphabet letters combine to produce 44 sounds. More
information can be garnered from the International Dyslexia Association.
Educators Publishing Service, Inc. and Academic Therapy are sources for easy

to use materials.

Lucille Cuttler
l.cuttler at comcast.net
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