Phonemic Awareness

Logic of English

Students beginning Logic of English instruction develop a strong foundation in phonemic awareness by:

  • Discovering how sounds are produced in the mouth
  • Playing games to manipulate the intial, final and medial sounds
  • Listening for sounds that are alike
  • Auditorily blending sounds into words
  • Learning to segment words into sounds
  • Practicing rhyming

Students’ stages of development are respected as they are led from simple to more complex phonological tasks. Instruction begins with exploring how the mouth is positioned to form sounds and learning to distinguish sounds. Students then progress to blending sounds into one-syllable words and learning to segment short words into their individual sounds. As students grow in phonemic awareness, they are explicitly taught how to identify initial, medial, and final sounds as well as how to rhyme. Students are also provided with explicit practice in blending and segmenting multi-syllable words, which prepares them for reading and spelling.

The Logic of English develops phonological skills through fun, age-appropriate games and activities.

The first stage of written language development is phonemic awareness, which is the ability to examine and manipulate the phonemes, or sounds, of the language apart from meaning (Cunningham, 1988). The English language includes forty-four phonemes which are encoded using the twenty-six letters of the alphabet (Adams, 1990).

Phonemic awareness is one of the most important causal factors separating non-impaired and impaired readers.

Phonemic awareness is the most basic skill of reading and writing (Griffith & Olson, 1992) and is a precursor to phonics instruction (Juel, Griffith, & Gough, 1986). Phonemic awareness is one of the most important causal factors separating non-impaired and impaired readers (Share & Stanovich, 1995). It also correlates more highly with reading acquisition than tests of general intelligence or reading readiness (Stanovich, 1986; 1993), and is vitally important in learning to spell and write (Ehri & Wilce, 1987; Stanovich, Cunningham, and Cramer, 1984; Nation and Hulme, 1997).

Phonemic awareness should be developed in students by manipulating and identifying phonemes, and using exercises such as:

  • Phonemic Blending - the student combines /t/ /o/ /p/ to make the word top.
  • Phonemic Segmentation - the student separates tap into /t/ /a/ /p/.
  • Phonemic Isolation - the student says the first sound in a word, such as /d/ in dog.
  • Phonemic Identity - the student identifies the sound that is the same in different words, such as tall, top, and tuck (Ehri et al, 2001).

Since isolated phonemes are not naturally discovered by many students, a true mental revolution will have to take place before the child finds out that speech can be broken down into phonemes, and that the sound /ba/ is made up of two phonemes /b/ and /a/ (Dehaene, 2009). Students make this discovery by being shown how sounds are produced by forming the mouth into various positions and turning on and off the voicebox (McGuinness, 2005). The ability to isolate and analyze phonemes is crucial to the student understanding the purpose of the alphabet (McGuinness, 2004).

When students are explicitly taught phonemic awareness, they begin to develop the phonological processing pathways in the brain which sound out words (Dehaene, 2009). When the knowledge of the phonemes is combined with the corresponding phonograms and the rules that govern their usage, students are given access to a phonemic code that facilitates the storage of speech sounds in memory (Dehaene, 2009).

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Adams, M. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Cunningham, A.E. (1988). A developmental study of instruction in phonemic awareness. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.

Dehaene, S. (2009). Reading in the brain: the science and evolution of a human invention. New York: Viking.

Ehri, L., & Wilce, L. (1987). Cipher versus cue reading: An experiment in decoding acquisition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 79, 3–13.

Ehri, L., Nunes, S., Willows, D., Schuster, B., Yaghoub-Zadeh, Z., & Shanahan, T. (2001). Phonemic awareness instruction helps children learn to read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel’s meta-analysis. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 250-287.

Griffith, P. L., & Olson, M. W. (1992). Phonemic awareness helps beginning readers break the code. The Reading Teacher, 45(7), 1–14.

Juel, C., Griffith, P.L., & Gough, P.B. (1986). Acquisition of literacy: A longitudinal study of children in first and second grade. Journal of Educational Psychology, 78(4), 243-255.

McGuinness, D. (2005). Early Reading Instruction: what science really tells us about how to teach reading. Cambridge, MA: MIT.

Nation, K., & Hulme, C. (1997). Phonemic segmentation, not onset-rime segmentation predicts early reading and spelling skills. Reading Research Quarterly, 32 , 154-167.

Share, D.L., & Stanovich, K.E. (1995). Cognitive processes in early reading development: Accommodating individual differences into a model of acquisition. Issues in Education: Contributions from Educational Psychology, 1, 1-57.

Stanovich, K.E., Cunningham, A.E., & Cramer, B. (1984). Assessing phonological awareness in kindergarten children: Issues of task comparability. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 38, 175-190.

Stanovich, K. E. (1986). Matthew Effects in Reading: Some Consequences of Individual Differences in the Acquisition of Literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 21(4), 360–407.

Stanovich, K. E. (1993). Keith E . Romance and reality. The Reading Teacher, 47(4), 280–291.

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