Friday, April 10, 2009

Phonological Awareness

"Most reading problems faced by today's adolescents and adults are the result of problems that might have been avoided or resolved in their early childhood years." -National Research Council, 2000.

Phonological Awareness "Play with Sounds"
understanding that words are made up of smaller sounds. It is an auditory skill rather than a visual skill. You don't need to see the word "d" to know that dog starts with the /d/ sound. Phonological Awareness comes before Phonics. Phonics is the predictable relationship between spoken language and written language. To understand phonics, a child must know the kinds of sounds a language makes (phonological awareness) and be able to identify the letters of the alphabet, and then link the two together. Phonological Awareness Includes:
  • Awareness of Syllables: Butterfly = Butt/er/fly
  • Awareness of Rhymes: The dog in the bog got lost in the fog.
  • Awareness of Phonemes (smallest speech sounds): Dog = D/aw/g
  • Awareness of the sounds that words start or end with: Dog starts with a /d/ sound and ends with a /g/ sound. If you take away the /d/ sound and add the /f/ sound, the word becomes fog.
When children achieve phonological awareness, they are able to think about how words sound, apart from what they mean. They know that bed and head rhyme, that kitchen and cat start with the same sound. Understanding that words are made up of smaller sounds helps children "break the code" between spoken language and written language. Children who are more aware of sounds that make up words and have played with or explored sounds they can:
  • Grasp that sounds can be represented by letters
  • Decode (read) words
  • Spell words
Check out the Language of Literacy Below by clicking on it:

Phonological Awareness does not develop "naturally". Children need to have lots of experience with different words (rhyming and those that do not) in order to become aware of sound similarities and differences (as opposed to seeing the differences in the meaning of the words).

Research has shown:
  • Babies seem to recognize when speech sounds are correctly organized and when they are mixed up.
  • Children (as young as 1 or 2) are able to recognize syllables in words as well as the sounds that words start with and a word's vowel sounds. They understand the difference between the words cat, hat, mat, and bat (words with the same vowel sounds but different beginning sounds and different meaning).
  • Children 3 - 4 may notice and point out when two words sound the same. They can memorize and recite rhyming songs and poems.
  • Children 4 - 5 may be able to tell what sound a word starts and ends with like "The word 'bat' starts with a /b/ sound". They appreciate a rhyming story, rhyme, or riddle. They might find a story funny because of the rhyme, not just because it's a funny story.
  • Children who are learning two languages at once, or who are learning a second language, have greater phonological awareness. They are required to sort language sounds and notice similarities and differences on a daily basis; in order to separate the two languages.
  • When asked to rhyme, children may make mistakes and come up with nonsense words rather than real words or claim two words rhyme when they don't. This is normal. The act of trying to find a rhyme shows that the children are becoming aware that language and words can be broken down into individual sounds.
Phonological Awareness in Storytime:
  • Play with words; especially ones that make you laugh! (hullaboloo, snickerdoodle, pollywog) Show children that words can make adults smile or laugh too; enjoy words with children.
  • A child's name is always a good place to start when looking for word sounds. "Hey your favorite food, mmmmacaroni, starts with the same sound as Mmmmolly, your name." Use shakers or rhythm stick to tap out the syllables in each child's name.
  • Clap along with the song; clap to the beat, with each word, or with the syllables in the word. Distribute noise and rhythm makers (shakers, rhythm sticks, maracas, or tambourines) for variety.
  • Recite rhyming poems. Add hand a body movements to rhymes to make them fun. Clap along with rhymes. Rhyming poems and songs don't need to make sense. In fact, the nonsense words created in these rhymes tend to bring on the giggles!
  • Keep a list of the poems, songs, and rhymes that the children have learned. Post the list for Print Awareness. Repeat favorite rhymes.
  • For children 4 - 5: when reciting familiar rhymes, substitute a non-rhyming word in place of the regular rhyming word (Jack and Jill went up the street..."). When the children stop you, ask what is wrong. See if anyone can identify that the substituted word does not rhyme. If not, explain to children that the poem does not sound right because a different word was used AND the poem does not sound right because the new word does not rhyme. Ask if anyone can think of other words that rhyme.
  • For children 4 - 5: talk to them about alliteration. Alliteration (when the first sounds of words are similar -- wee, Willie, Winkie or bye, baby, bunting) is another characteristic of language sounds that children will start to notice. Find alliteration phrases (silly, Sally) and ask children what would happen if they changed the first sound of each word (milly mally). Let the children suggest the sounds for the changes. See if the children can make the changes on their own. "What would happen if we changed the /s/ sound in silly Sally to the /m/ sound? Can anyone do it?"
Phonological Awareness Comments for Adults at Storytime:
  • After chanting a rhyme like "Heckety Peckety Bumblebee" share this message with parents: "Breaking words into syllables is an important part of Phonological Awareness. Playing with sounds now will make it easier to learn to read later."
  • "Chanting rhymes and singing with your children helps them understand that words can be broken down into smaller parts. That skill is called Phonological Awareness and it is an important part of learning to read."
  • "Sometimes people get confused between Phonological Awareness and Phonics. Phonological Awareness is an auditory skill. It's your child's ability to hear the smaller sounds in words. Phonics is a more complex skill that combines sounds with letters. That skill comes later."


What Can We Do for Phonological Awareness?
  • Rhymes to read and props to see
  • Clapping songs
  • Use Nursery Rhymes and other rhymes or poems
  • Use different sounds to make and hear like participation sounds; for example: farm animal sounds that are part of the story, so kids can identify the animal and become part of the story
What Parents and Caregivers Do for Phonological Awareness?
  • Sing songs, repeat rhymes, and play rhyming word games
  • Have fun with silly words
  • Read rhyming books
  • Say tongue twisters together
Suggested Books:
  • Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
  • I'm Bad! by Kate and Jim McMullan
  • Over in the Garden by Jennifer Ward
  • My Very First Mother Goose by Iona Opie
  • I Ain't Gonna Pain No More! by Karen Beaumont
  • Can You Growl Like a Bear? by John Butler
  • Chuck's Truck by Peggy Perry Anderson
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider by Iza Trapani

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