Research

What is phonemic awareness?

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Research

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Phonemic awareness refers to the specific ability to focus on and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words.

Phonemic awareness is the most advanced level of phonological awareness. It refers to a child’s awareness of the individual phonemes — the smallest units of sound — in spoken words, as well as the ability to manipulate those sounds.

Phonics instruction generally focuses on teaching children letter-sound correspondences. Since letters are not something that our brain can process automatically, phonics has to start by helping children identify sounds (called phonemes) in spoken language first. This is called phonemic awareness.

For example, /d/, /o/, and /g/ are the phonemes (sounds) in the word dog If we replace /d/ with /l/, we get log. Being able to identify each phoneme in a word and being able to manipulate it, e.g. by replacing it with another phoneme to get another word, builds phonemic awareness.

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Deep Dive

Phonics is the method that helps children build systematic connections between letters and sounds. Phonics has a better impact on children’s reading ability than any other type of reading program. It has also been shown to improve spelling, particularly among kindergarteners and first graders.

To find out more, read our Deep Dive into Phonics report. This report provides an easy-to-understand overview of phonics and phonemic awareness - why they are important and how they are taught in the classroom - and explains all the relevant terminology. It's perfect for sharing with colleagues, friends, and to Google Classroom!

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