Thursday, September 2, 2010

Phonemic Awareness

A phoneme is the smallest unit of speech in the English language.  For example the sound /sh/ is one phoneme, even though it has two letters that make up that sound.  /b/ is also a phoneme, as is /p/ or /ch/.

Phonemes are important because they help us distinguish between words like bit and pit.  When children are learning to read, phonemes are important because we need to listen for the different sounds in words in order to be able to spell them, and we need to be able to pronounce them.  The difference between pin and pit is only one sound, but that one sound can tell us exactly what the other person is thinking.

When children are developing their ability to hear phonemes in words, they typically can hear the first sound in each word.  After that, they are able to hear the last sound in words.  If a child at this stage of development is writing a sentence like "My dog went on a walk."  The sentence might look some thing like "mi dg wet n a wk."    Finally, children are able to hear the medial or middle sounds in each word.  In my work with 3-6 year olds, at this point in the year almost all of the kindergartners can hear beginning and ending sounds in words.  By the end of this school year they'll be able to hear medial sounds as well.

Some games you can play with phonemes:

  • Again, play "I Spy".  Find beginning sounds in objects in the room.  Then do ending sounds in the room when you think your child is ready.
  • Use pictures in books and find things that either start with a certain sound,  or end with a certain sound.  
  • "What's the last sound you hear in the word _______________?"
  • Give your child words and ask her if they sound the same.  "Do bat and bat sound the same?"  "
  • "Do bat and car sound the same?"  
  • "Do bat and bag sound the same?"
  • "Do big and banana have the same beginning sounds?"
  • "Do clip and clutch have the same beginning sounds?"
  • "Do Mike and rake have the same sound at the end?"
  • "Is there a /v/ in van?"
  • "Where is the sound /w/ in went?"
  • "Where is the sound /f/ in laugh?"
  • "Where is hte sound /a/ in hat?"
Always remember that these games are for having fun.  :)  

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