What to Teach with Phonemic Awareness
Phonemic awareness skills are best taught when combined with instruction in the following three reading components. As you are helping students learn phonemic awareness skills, also provide instruction in these components.
Phonics: Phonemic awareness skills contribute to phonics skills. They both relate to the sounds of, and within, words. Whereas phonemic awareness only addresses the sounds of words, phonics addresses the process of translating letters into sounds. Once students begin understanding letter sounds, probably around age four, you can begin teaching phonics. At that point, you can begin connecting the sounds within words to the sounds represented by letters. From that point on, help students understand the connection between the sounds they hear and the letters that represent them.
Vocabulary: Knowing how to pronounce words, and knowing the sounds within words, is not enough. Students also need to know what those words mean and how they are used. That is vocabulary. By including vocabulary development into your phonemic awareness lessons, you give students an overall better ability to understand what they hear and read.
Oral Language Development: To find sounds within words, to find words with similar sounds, and for all the phonemic awareness sub-skills, students need to know how words are pronounced! Pronunciation depends on context, setting, and culture—which means oral language development. Often, words are not pronounced according to their spelling, or even according to the standard pronunciation. For example, do you say “buddah” or “budder” or “butter”? As students begin transferring phonemic awareness skills to vocabulary and phonics, they need to understand that words can be pronounced in different ways, although there is a standard way. This is the realm of oral language development. Phonemic awareness skills will make more sense if you provide corresponding instruction in oral language skills.