Phonics and Phonemic Awareness | Are They the Same?

Phonics and phonemic awareness are both important in the kindergarten and first grade classroom. These overlapping skill sets both need their own intentional instruction. Let’s check out some ideas on how to teach both!

Phonics and phonemic awareness are both important in the kindergarten and first grade classroom. These overlapping skill sets both need their own intentional instruction. Let’s check out some ideas on how to teach both!

Phonics and Phonemic Awareness- Are they the same?

Let’s first answer that question… phonics and phonemic awareness are not the same. Although similar in ways and each skill set can compliment the other; phonics and phonemic awareness are two different types of literacy practice that should be happening in your classroom.

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness involves spoken sounds, without letters attached the sound. When you ask your students to tell you the first sound in the word, dog and they reply with /d/; that is phonemic awareness. There is no letter attached the /d/ sound at this moment. When students begin to connect and express that /d/ stands for the letter d, that becomes phonics practice. Phonemic awareness focuses on the smallest unit of speech – phonemes. Phonemes are just individual speech sounds. So, phonemic awareness is when students are working on articulating and manipulating individual speech sounds. Here are some examples using the word, dog.

  • Phoneme Blending: blending phonemes (individual sounds) together to make one word /d/-/o/-/g/
  • Phoneme Segmentation: breaking a word apart into phonemes. I would say the word, dog and the student would respond with /d/-/o/-/g/
  • Phoneme Substitution: deleting a phoneme from a word and replacing it with another phoneme. I might say to a student “say dog”. Then I would say “Now change the /d/ to /h/.

 

As you can gather from the examples above, phonemic awareness instruction doesn’t require manipulatives. You can easily have these conversations with students.

You may be wondering about where rhyming, counting syllables, and word count play into your instruction. This leads us to phonological awareness.

Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness is the big idea that phonemic awareness falls under. Just like I mentioned earlier, phonemic awareness is the focus on individual phonemes. Phonological awareness refers to sound work that is not on the phoneme level.  Some great phonological awareness practice can take place during literacy centers. Here are a few examples of phonological awareness:

  • Students are able to count and identify how many words are in a sentence. I love using our daily poetry to practice this skill, among many others!
Phonics and phonemic awareness are both important in the kindergarten and first grade classroom. These overlapping skill sets both need their own intentional instruction. Let’s check out some ideas on how to teach both!
Poetry for Shared Reading
  • Students clap the number of syllables in a word.
Phonics and phonemic awareness are both important in the kindergarten and first grade classroom. This syllable counting activity is great practice for phonological awareness.
Literacy Centers: Syllables
Phonics and Phonemic Awareness | Are They the Same? 9
Math and Literacy Centers for March
  • Students identify and produce rhyming words.
Phonics and Phonemic Awareness | Are They the Same? 10
Phonemic Awareness Rhyming Centers

Phonics

During phonics instruction, we work to help students understand that phonemes have symbols that represent them… or that sounds have letters. All of the letter identification, letter sound, decoding and encoding work is phonics. Students in the early grades need explicit phonics instruction. Working with students to identify each phoneme sound and the letter it represents is one way to provide phonics instruction to students. These touch, read, and write cards make this task simple.

Research also supports including letters when asking students to manipulate phonemes.  So as soon as the students know some letters/sounds, include those letters (grapheme) in your phonemic awareness instruction.

Phonics and Phonemic Awareness | Are They the Same? 11
Phonics and Phonemic Awareness | Are They the Same? 12

We also want to provide students with numerous opportunities to read decodable words. You can do this with the touch and write cards that you see above, as well as with many other different resources. Decodable texts are also a great way to practice those phonics skills.

Phonics and phonemic awareness are both important in the kindergarten and first grade classroom. These overlapping skill sets both need their own intentional instruction. Let’s check out some ideas on how to teach both!

Both phonemic awareness and phonics are important in reading development and should be taught to early learners. Research tells us that consistency in phonemic awareness and phonics instruction is more important than quantity. So, providing explicit instruction a few minutes every day can lead to student success within reading and writing. Here are a few more blog posts about phonics activities that you may be interested in.

Phonics and phonemic awareness are both important in the kindergarten and first grade classroom. These overlapping skill sets both need their own intentional instruction. Let’s check out some ideas on how to teach both!

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Deedee Wills

Deedee Wills

My teaching career allowed me to experience teaching in different classroom environments and grades. My heart belongs to early childhood education. My job is to make teaching FUN, ENGAGING, and EASIER. Welcome!

Hi, I'm DeedeE.

My teaching career allowed me to experience teaching in different classroom environments and grades. My heart belongs to early childhood education. My job is to make teaching FUN, ENGAGING, and EASIER. Welcome!
 

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