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Phonemic Awareness is not Phonics

Phonics, phonological awareness and phonemic awareness are often confused. While these terms are related, they’re not the same thing. Here’s a look at what they are and how they work together to get kids ready to read.


Phonological Awareness


Phonological awareness covers many skills. (One of them is phonemic awareness.) It isn’t based on written language—kids develop phonological awareness by listening. When kids have this set of skills, they’re able to hear and “play” with the sounds of spoken language. It’s the foundation for learning to read.


Early phonological awareness happens at the level of words and syllables. You teach it by having children clap out each word in a sentence or marching to each syllable in a word (E-li-za-beth), activities like that.


Phonemic Awareness


Phonemic awareness is a sub-set of the phonological awareness skills. When kids have this skill, they can hear and “play” with the smallest units of sounds (phonemes) in words and syllables. Kids need these skills to learn the connection between word sounds and written letters or words.




Phonics is when the letters enter the discussion. Phonics instruction teaches kids to connect letters with sounds, break words into sounds, and blend sounds into words. Kids use this knowledge to become readers and writers.


Phonological awareness, phonemic awareness and phonics build on one another. There are ways you can help children develop these skills.


That is what b4 does.

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6 Responses to Phonemic Awareness is not Phonics

  1. This was a great explanation.
    Compact, yet complete. And most importantly, clear–very easy to understand.

  2. Thank you.

  3. Hi Jim,

    Have you tried the new “Funny Phonemes” app for iOS and Android? It’s a free app for phonemic awareness training and learning about English (clean) slang and pop-culture jargon. I developed it to appeal to older learners as most PA app are “babyish”. I’d love to know what you think.


  4. I real lucky to find this website on bing, just what I was searching for :
    D also saved to fav.

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