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Phonological Awareness (PA) Module

Description of Module

Reading researchers have identified phonological awareness as one of the skills essential for learning to read. Children with weak phonological awareness have a more difficult time learning to read. Phonological awareness skills are foundational to becoming a successful reader. 

If a child is having difficulty learning to read or is an older struggling reader you will want to find out if phonological awareness is a factor. 

Help ensure your child's reading progress by checking and if necessary addressing phonological awareness. Learn more in this module about phonological awareness.

What To Do Next

What phonological awareness (PA) skills should your child have?

There is a sequence of phonological awareness skills a child should develop. Use checklists for Kindergarten & 1st grade to check on your child's PA skills.

One skill that children in 1st grade should master, which is needed by all students learning to read, is the ability to segment spoken single-syllable words into their complete sequence of individual sounds.

Here is a video of a 1st grader demonstrating simple sound segmentation.

Children by the end of 1st grade typically master the basic skills of segmenting and blending sounds. Second graders and 3rd graders develop the more complex phonemic awareness skill of manipulating sounds, for example being able to delete sounds or substitute sounds in simple words.

For struggling readers, instruction beyond segmenting and blending sounds to the more complex skill of manipulating sounds, appears to have a strong, positive, long term impact on reading. Here is an example of the more complex skill of sound deletion.  Teacher: "Say 'slip'." Student: "slip."  Teacher: "Now say 'slip' without the /l/ sound."  The student with the ability to manipulate sounds, in this case to delete phonemes, would say, "sip".

How do I determine my child's phonological awareness skills? 

Ask your school to check on your child's phonological awareness skills. There are simple screeners which take only a few minutes. Here is an example of an older screener, the Test of Auditory Analysis Skills and a clip from part of the assessment which reveals that deleting final sounds in words was a difficult task for this young man.


Activities and Resources for Phonological Awareness

The  Florida Center for Reading Research has many free printable student activities for reading. Explore the activities for phonological awareness ranging from easier tasks, such as Phoneme Matching, through more complex skills, such as Phoneme Segmenting, Blending and Manipulating.

Additional resources for teachers and home educators are:

Phonemic Awareness in Young ChildrenMarilyn J. Adams -  a classroom curriculum covering beginning to advanced phonological awareness (in the supplementary pages) 

The Road to the Code: A Phonological Awareness Program for young Children, Bachman and Ball, -  integrates phonemic awareness and decoding and is designed for Kindergarteners and early 1st grade

The Intensive Phonological Awareness Program, Schuele and Murphy - developed for K-2nd grade to provide focused small group lessons.

Easy links to these books sold on Amazon are in the side bar.

Professional Assessments and Information

If an agency or the school through special education will be conducting an evaluation of your child here are 2 highly regarded assessments designed for use by professionals.

Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processes 2 and The Phonological Awareness Test 2

 For psychologists and other reading professionals a good resource on the role of phonemic awareness and other essentials for reading intervention can be found in this book.

Essentials of Assessing, Preventing and Overcoming Reading Difficulties, D. A. Kilpatrick

Video Case Studies

Underlying Factors in Reading Difficulties: Phonological Awareness


These videos show children who, with adequate instruction, advanced in phonological awareness (PA) skills. 

Phonological Awareness: Detecting words in sentences

Here is a clip from our screening of a 1st grader who was not advancing in reading. Her classroom was working on segmenting individual sounds in words. She needed to grasp the concept of 'word.'

Around a week later this student was showing her emerging sense of words in sentences. In this video she was still a bit tentative and we continued working on this skill.

Even for older children who are struggling readers, phonological awareness skills may be a source of their reading difficulties.

During our screening of a 5th grade student, who despite help was still reading at an early 1st grade level, we discovered weak phonological awareness even at a basic level.

Phonological Awareness: Detecting syllables

 After instruction she is becoming more accurate in detecting syllables.


Phonological Awareness: Segmenting initial sounds in words 

Before and after instruction clips

Phonological Awareness: Blending sounds to form words

This student is able to blend compound words, however blending the individual sounds of words was out of her reach. So, our instruction began with blending syllables and then moved to blending parts of words (e.g. /f/  /un/ to 'fun'), and then to individual sounds (/f/ /u/ /n/ to 'fun').

Keep in mind that phonological awareness is just one component in learning to read. It is a necessary skill but not the only factor. Along with phonological awareness, there are many components of good reading and reading instruction.

See another PA example in this blog post.


Supporting Research

“The evidence is compelling. Toward the goal of efficient and effective reading instruction, explicit training of phonemic awareness is invaluable. …children who fail to acquire it [phonemic awareness] are severely handicapped in their ability to master print.” Adams, M.J.,  Beginning To Read (pgs. 331, 412)

“Phonological awareness plays a causal role in learning to read....[it is] key to understanding the logic of our writing system.….Research repeatedly demonstrates that, when steps are taken to ensure an adequate awareness of phonemes, the reading and spelling growth of the group as a whole is accelerated and the incidence of reading failure is diminished….” National Research Council, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children  (p. 54)

“Perhaps most fundamental to a science of intervention is knowledge about the specific instructional methods that are most effective for children … phonemically based interventions are essential for children with phonologically-based reading difficulties." Torgesen, J. K., The Science of Reading: A Handbook, M. Snowling and Cl Hulme (Eds.) (p. 535)

"Because phonological processes are central to reading, the assessment of phonological skills should have a correspondingly central role in both universal screenings and in evaluations of students with reading difficulties." Kilpatrick, D., Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties (p. 178)

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