How to help students improve phonological awareness

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    Phonological and phonemic awareness are key to early literacy. Read on to learn more about these skills and learn how to help students improve them.

    The importance of phonological awareness skills cannot be overstated enough. But what exactly does phonological awareness, or phonemic awareness, actually entail? Well, let’s first start with phonics

    Phonics represents a method of teaching students to associate individual sounds with specific letters or congregations of letters. Teaching phonics to children can help with decoding and, in turn, make it easier for them to get the hang of reading. Phonemic awareness is then essentially an ability to manipulate and identify individual phonemes, that is, sounds that are the main building blocks of spoken words. 

    Phonological awareness is a bit different since it is a broader term. It covers all skills you need to recognize and control spoken parts of various words, speech segments, etc. Now that we have that covered, let’s discuss phonological and phonemic awareness instructions and the importance of the two.

    10 tips, activities, and solutions to helping students improve phonological and phonemic awareness

    So, why are phonological and phonemic awareness so crucial? Well, being able to manipulate sounds and parts of words is vital for proper literary development. Phonemic awareness can help with rhyming, phoneme segmentation, and identifying syllables. 

    Phonological awareness helps with sound structure, blending sounds, segmenting words, sound elimination, substitution, and word generation. Both can play a significant role in early literacy, and a structural approach to teaching them can turn struggling readers into successful learners. Not developing these skills can stunt students in their literary endeavors and prevent early reading abilities. On that note, here’s a list of tips consisting of different activities and suggestions that teachers and parents can use to help children develop phonological and phonemic awareness skills and reading success. 

    Proper listening

    An essential first step you need to take in order to teach phonological awareness to your child is to emphasize the importance of proper listening.

    After all, listening is the fastest way to learn things relating to language and reading because listening allows children to pick up on sounds, rhymes, and syllables more efficiently. Proper listening can help children with learning new words, being able to tell apart different sounds, and fishing out nonsense words. It also develops the tendency for rhyming words together, and it’s also a great intro to segmenting words. 

    Rhyming

    As you’ve probably already figured out, rhyming is a pretty important skill, so finding rhymes that you can read to your child or your students is a great way to familiarize them with phonics. That way, they can create their own rhymes and also learn to pick out words that don’t rhyme when faced with a line of spoken or written words. Additionally, nursery rhymes are a great starting point. 

    Syllables 

    Teaching children to break words into syllables and point out the number of syllables and consonants is crucial in helping them understand spoken words in a genuine way. An excellent way to cement these syllable lessons is to make noises in turn with syllables, such as clapping or tapping. You should also encourage your child to participate. 

    Guessing games

    Guessing games are, without a doubt, the most engaging way to improve phonological awareness skills. They’re easy for children to follow and are generally enjoyable. In addition to gaining phonological skills, these games also allow kids to learn at least one new word per game. Lastly, ‘I spy’ and similar little guesswork games are also not very time-consuming and can be done anywhere, which makes them ideal phonological awareness activities. 

    Singing

    That ties into rhyming and singing, which can definitely help children get the hang of rhyming. Tunes can help with both phonological and phonemic awareness and are another enjoyable and easy activity. There are also specific songs that can encourage these skills even more, which you can find online.  

    Sound blending

    For early readers, sound blending is an invaluable skill. It’s essentially the connecting of phonemes together to form a spoken word with onset-rime. Onsets and rimes are units of spoken syllables that are usually split in two and play a key part in sound blending.

    You can practice this with your students or your child by putting together different sounds to blend various words together. Then you can ask your child to take the first part of the first word and form a new one using the last sound. They should be able to recognize the new word they create, and if not, practice will get them there.

    Breaking words apart

    Breaking apart words is just as important as blending sounds. Deconstructing words, such as words like whiteboard or blueberry, can help children understand how word creation works. You can ask them to break apart the word or take away the first part of it and inquire about what word they get after doing so.

    Creativity 

    An early reader can benefit significantly from a creative and direct approach. Try making fun games for your child or perhaps collages that include various word creations. That will help your child with feeling engaged and inspired.

    Online research

    You can always explore various options online if you run out of ideas or resources. There are plenty of resources that relate to phonemic and phonological awareness skills online. And, if you’re not up for reading extensive articles, you can always look at videos on YouTube or TikTok or maybe find some inspiration boards on Pinterest. 

    Don’t overwork your child

    Phonological and phonemic awareness is incredibly important when it comes to developing and improving literacy skills. However, going overboard with all the work won’t do any good, and your child might end up feeling burned out or overwhelmed, so try developing a good tactic and a proper schedule. 

    Listen to spoken language and correct individual sounds online with text to speech

    As we’ve already mentioned, listening is a great introduction to the art of spoken language. For that, audiobooks are the perfect option. They’re accessible across many different audiobook platforms, and one such platform that’s particularly good is Speechify Audiobooks. 

    Unlike many other audiobook apps, Speechify is particularly accessible to individuals with dyslexia and other reading disabilities. On Speechify, you can listen to the text as you read it at the same time, which can aid in decoding and encoding and the overall improvement of reading skills. 

    You can access these audiobooks across various devices, such as your phone, tablet, or computer, since Speechify has both an android and iOs app, as well as a desktop version. That provides accessibility and makes it easy to use, especially for children. Additionally, everything is available in English, as well as in other languages. 

    FAQs 

    What is one strategy that will help students develop phonological awareness?

    Reading out loud is probably the best strategy that can be used to help students with phonological awareness. It’s the first step to helping them get the hang of letter sounds, and it’s a great strategy for successfully teaching reading skills. It can be done individually or in small groups and can help them understand how initial sounds and final sounds work, as well as comprehend word recognition and how whole words behave in sentences. 

    Additionally, as they start making progress in reading, be sure to give them proper reading instructions along the way. 

    What are the benefits of phonological awareness?

    Phonological awareness is crucial since it allows children to gain important foundational skills that are key for beginning readers. That is why teaching phonemic awareness alongside phonological awareness is also important. 

    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.

    Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify

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