Equip readers with the tools needed to recognize and manipulate sounds embedded within language.
This is the second installment in our Science of Reading series
As the science of reading becomes more influential in the field of education, it is important for us to not only accept and incorporate the principles in our practice, but also make sure we fully comprehend the essence and significance of what it means. Because I am an elementary educator and instructional coach dedicated to nurturing emerging readers, my commitment lies in breaking down the intricacies of the science of reading, while providing support for our young readers' development.
Phonological awareness — much like fluency, the topic of my previous article in this series — serves a crucial role in shaping a child’s reading journey. In this article, I intend to define phonological awareness and offer practical insights for fellow educators. Drawing from my experiences in the classroom as well as my own reading and research, I will explore its significance, its alignment within the science of reading, and provide guidance on fostering it effectively in early childhood settings.
Defining Phonological Awareness
Through my pre-service training, my experiences in the classroom, and ongoing reading and research, my understanding of phonological awareness has crystallized as the capacity to recognize and manipulate the sounds embedded within spoken language. Imagine it as a playground of sounds within the mind, where children identify rhyming words, dissect sentences into syllables, identify individual sounds (phonemes), and play with the rhythm of language. Like fluency, this skill is crucial, serving as the foundation for reading readiness.
Strong phonological awareness equips children with the tools to decode words, comprehend texts, and eventually become proficient readers and writers. In essence, phonological awareness is akin to the scaffold that supports the acquisition of language, empowering children to construct sentences, paragraphs, and stories with confidence. It encompasses the following micro-skills:
Strategies for Supporting Phonological Awareness
Recognizing its significance, I have dedicated considerable time to identifying effective strategies and promising practices to support phonological awareness. Drawing from strategies I utilized as a third-grade teacher, coupled with observations from visits to flourishing early childhood classrooms, I want to share three promising practices:
These practices, while adding an element of enjoyment to learning, lay the groundwork for phonological awareness, preparing the stage for successful reading development.
Embracing Phonological Awareness
In the world of reading science, phonological awareness plays a vital role, mixing together words, sounds, and understanding. Just as fluency helps connect understanding and reading, phonological awareness serves as a crucial link between grasping the tiniest sounds within words (phonemic awareness) and linking these sounds to letters (phonics). When we nurture this skill, we help kids confidently deal with reading challenges and build on the fluency we talked about in article one.
By recognizing the importance of phonological awareness and finding effective and engaging ways to teach it, we ensure every child embarks on their reading journey with a strong foundation, unlocking the power of literacy and lifelong learning.