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Skill Overview

What is phonemic awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate the individual phonemes in spoken words. As with all phonological awareness skills, no print should be visible when practicing phonemic awareness.

What tasks should students be able to demonstrate to indicate mastery of this skill?

  • Isolate phonemes

  • Identify phonemes

  • Categorize phonemes

  • Blend phonemes

  • Segment phonemes

  • Manipulate (delete, add, substitute) phonemes

These phonemic skills are ranked from easiest to most sophisticated. 


Why is understanding phonemic awareness important to reading?

One of the greatest predictors of reading acquisition is a student's awareness and manipulation of individual phonemes in spoken words. We must train our students' ears to hear the sounds and manipulate the sounds of spoken language accurately and automatically (phonemic awareness) before they can advance to applying those skills to printed language (decoding). Phonemic awareness is essential for decoding, which reveals how phonemes are mapped to graphemes to create words.  Strong readers have strong phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness must be explicitly taught to mastery. 

What diagnostic can be used to determine if phonemic awareness is a deficit?

Structured Literacy Tools

Sequential and Cumulative

Systematic and Explicit

To Mastery

Each task needed for phonemic awareness should be taught systematically and explicitly.  Below are skills cards for each of the tasks that serve as lesson outlines.  There are four recommended strategies that apply to skill to phonemic awareness instruction.  Provided are descriptions and steps to execute each strategy systematically.

Phonemic awareness is the most sophisticated skill on the phonological continuum.  Students should demonstrate mastery of syllables, onset and rime, and phoneme articulation before moving on to phonemic awareness. For students to master phonemic awareness, they should engage with phonemes by being taught each of the tasks in the following sequence: 

  • isolate

  • identify

  • categorize

  • blend

  • segment

  • manipulate (delete, add, substitute)

In order to avoid gaps in learning, it is important to regularly assess students to ensure they have mastered the task taught.  An assessment for mastery has been provided.  Teachers should assess students after each task is taught and practiced for a sufficient amount of time before moving on to the next phonemic awareness task.  Pay close attention to the criteria for mastery on each assessment.  When students have mastered phonemic awareness at each task level, they are equipped to successfully decode words in print and can move to the graphophonemic continuum.

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