What Is Phonological Awareness and Why Is It Important?
The ability to recognize sounds and how they form words is known as phonological awareness. In other words, phonological awareness is the ability to work with sounds in spoken language. Having good phonological awareness allows children to play around with sounds and understand how they come together to form words. It also helps children discriminate between and manipulate sounds. Phonological awareness is not the same as phonics or phonemic awareness because it focuses on individual sounds in spoken language. It involves various skills, including rhyming, separating a word into sounds, and identifying the first sound of the word.
To support the development of phonological skills, children have to:
- Practice regularly
- Focus on rhyming
- Practice connecting sounds
- Try breaking apart words
Why Is Phonological Awareness Important?
Phonological awareness consists of skills that develop over time and are important for children to successfully read and write. It’s important to introduce phonological awareness activities in pre-school, kindergarten, and first grade. Teaching phonological awareness at an early age can help eliminate reading problems that children might face in the future.
Developing strong competencies in phonological awareness is essential for children because knowing that words are made up of sounds is essential for success in learning and reading.
It allows children to learn the meaning and pronunciation of words by comparing them to similar words they already know. Phonological awareness later helps children decode and blend words. Children can improve their pre-reading skills by hearing a sound and identifying where it occurs in a word.
Children who are not able to identify separate sounds don’t have the ability to write and read words they have never seen before. Therefore, children with phonological awareness difficulties may think that the words “cat” and “bat” are the same if they are having a hard time distinguishing between the alphabets “C” and “B.”
How to Teach Phonological Awareness
A variety of phonological awareness activities can be implemented in the classroom to help children distinguish between sounds and take a step towards independent reading. Phonological awareness skills can be taught through poems, games, songs, and nursery rhymes. To build phonological awareness, children have to practice rhyming, syllable division, and sound segmentation.
Rhyming is the first step in teaching children phonological awareness. After introducing rhyming, teachers should ask students to practice rhymes by manipulating and adding sounds in words.
The next step of learning phonological awareness skills is to break apart syllables. Clap out words like Oc-to-ber and Su-per-man to help children count syllables in words.
The final step of teaching children phonological awareness is to help them practice sound segmentation, which is the act of pulling apart words into different sounds. You can give the example of “Hat” and tell them that the word consists of three sounds – h-a-t.
Example: To increase phonological awareness among children, teachers can take the help of songs, poetry, and traditional rhymes. After reciting rhyming songs or chants, the teacher can ask students to count the number of syllables in a word.
Differences Between Phonological Awareness and Phonemic Awareness
Usually, phonological and phonemic awareness are used to refer to phonological awareness. The terms are used interchangeably but have different meanings. To understand the differences between phonological awareness and phonemic awareness, we first have to understand what phonemic awareness is.
Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, manipulate, identify, and work with individual sounds in spoken language. The primary difference between phonological and phonemic awareness is that phonological awareness is the ability to recognize words made up of different sounds. In contrast, phonemic awareness is the ability to understand how sound functions in words.
Phonological awareness includes identifying words that rhyme, sentence segmentation, identifying syllables in words and onsets and rimes. On the other hand, phonemic awareness includes blending sounds into words, sound segmentation, and manipulating a phoneme to form a new word.