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What is phonological awareness?

What is phonological awareness?

Phonological awareness is the awareness of the sounds in spoken words, as well as the ability to manipulate those sounds. Phonological awareness describes the set of skills involved in identifying and using different parts of oral language (e.g. onset-rime and syllables in words, identifying where each word ends in a sentence, etc.). This skill set allows us to understand, recall, and employ sounds at the sentence, word, syllable, and phoneme level. Children with strong phonological awareness can differentiate the sound structures of speech and use those structures.

Phonological awareness is an umbrella term that encompasses both basic levels of awareness of speech sounds, such as rhyming, alliteration, the number of words in a sentence, and the syllables within words, as well as more advanced levels of awareness such as onset-rime awareness and full phonemic awareness (the ability to identify the smallest units of sound in words, the phonemes).

Phonological awareness develops over time, but it is especially important at the earliest stages of reading development. Explicit teaching of phonological awareness is part of systematic synthetic phonics instruction. This skill set is crucial for reading and spelling success, because these skills are central to learning to decode and encode printed words. This is because children need to know which sounds are involved in a word in order to be able to match those sounds to letters when they read or spell.

For example, rub a dub dub involves repetition of the sound /b/ (alliteration). Identifying the same sound in a sentence is part of building phonological awareness.

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Deep Dive

Read our report on the Science of Reading. Research-based reading instruction must incorporate the 5 pillars of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. This report provides an easy to understand overview of each of these pillars and explains the important connection between how the brain learns to read (the Neuroscience of Reading) and how we teach children to read (The Science of Reading Instruction). It also explains why helping children build connections between letters and sounds, through phonics and phonemic awareness, is so crucial for the developing reading mind. This report is perfect for sharing with colleagues and friends!