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Phonics and Phonemic Awareness


Phonemic Awareness and Phonics
Phonics is the method of teaching beginning readers to connect the sounds of spoken language with letters. Children are taught the letters and the sounds the letters “stand for.” This is NOT the same thing as phonemic or phonological awareness. The terms are not interchangeable. 

To be clear, phonological and phonemic awareness are slightly different. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in spoken words. It is the understanding that spoken words are made up of a sequence of speech sounds. It involves hearing language at the phoneme level. Phonological awareness, on the other hand, is a more encompassing term that involves working with the sounds of language at the word and syllable, as well as the phoneme level. Phonemic awareness is a sub-set of phonological awareness.

Phonemic awareness (PA) is the awareness of sounds only! Print is not essential. No letters are introduced, no sound to symbol correspondence is taught. In fact, native speakers of all languages begin PA with the language-general to language-specific perceptive shift that occurs, with all children, at around their first birthday (See my earlier posts).

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. It is important to L1 reading, and some children have difficulties recognizing the phonemes of their native language. L2 children have obvious obstacles.
In my last post, I said I would explain why my blog in titled b4. It is because the focus of these posts 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
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 to acquisition of vocabulary and grammar. Most of this research has been carried out with L1 readers, but there is no obvious reason why such training would not benefit L2 students as well. In fact, the limited research on L2 learners confirms this assumption.

This is what b4 – this blog and the materials produced by Aka-Kara English – focuses on.


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