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Phonemic Awareness Is Not Phonics

Phonics is teaching readers to connect the sounds of spoken language to letters. This is NOT the same thing as phonemic awareness. The terms are not interchangeable. 


Phonemic awareness (PA) is the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in spoken words. It involves hearing language at the phonemic level.


Phonics involves the sounds and letters. Phonemic awareness is the awareness of sounds only! Phonics involves the eyes and ears. PA involves just the ears. You can have PA without phonics but you cannot have phonics without PA. PA is a prerequisite for phonics and can be taught concurrently.


This blog in titled b4because the focus is on phonemic awareness, on the acquisition of the sound system, which natives of any language acquire well before any attempt to read or write is made. As I wrote in my last post, if you say to a native English-speaking child: “The girl wearing lace won the race.” She will understand perfectly. She can distinguish each phoneme, so if you then say the /l/ in lace looks like this “l” and the /r/ in race looks like this “r”, she will get it. That will not work with many L2 learners. Japanese children, for example, cannot hear that distinction.


Recent research into reading suggests that learning to read with fluency requires PA. This ability is not only requisite for fluent reading, but also bootstraps other aspects of language learning, from pronunciation (of course) to acquisition of vocabulary and grammar.


Research has also shown the best way to teach phonemic awareness.


This is what b4does.

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