In order to build phonemic awareness in all children, at Princess Margaret International School we start teaching phonics from the first year children join the school. Phonology is the study of the unconscious rules governing speech-sound production. In contrast, phonetics is the study of the way in which speech sounds are articulated, and phonics is the system by which symbols represent sounds in an alphabetic writing system.
Embedded picture mnemonics incorporate a hint of the sound in each letter to help build sound-spelling connections in memory. These connections need to be strengthened by developing fine motor skills to exercise eye-hand coordination and handling. Relating a visual picture with each phoneme and spellings will set the foundations for reading and writing in the upcoming years.
The phonological awareness activities in our curriculum ask children to listen to the sameness, difference, number, and order of speech sounds. At our school we follow Read Write Ink program to teach all the phonemes to children, starting from simple sounds and learning how to blend them into words, and decode words into phonemes. Children become comfortable with hearing and feeling the identity and distinguishing characteristics of each phoneme, whether spoken in isolation or in the beginning, middle, or end of a variety of words. It is ultimately the phonemic level we are after because it is awareness of phonemes that allows children to understand how the alphabet works — an understanding that is essential to learning to read and spell in following years.
The design and sequence of phonics activities are intended to help children acquire a sense of the architecture of their language and the nature of its building blocks. As the children practice synthesizing words from phonemes and analysing phonemes from words, they are also practicing hearing and saying the phonemes over and over, both in isolation and in context. They are becoming generally familiar with how the different phonemes sound and how they are articulated.
Research shows that once children have mastered phonemic awareness in this way, useful knowledge of the alphabetic principle generally follows with remarkable ease — and no wonder: Having learned to attend to and think about the structure of language in this way, the alphabetic principle makes sense.
Edited by Carma Ayuso Clemente, Phonics lead and Early years Teacher
Text extract from the article “Phonemic Awareness in Young Children”, By Marilyn Jager Adams, Barbara Foorman, Ingvar Lundberg, Terri Beeler. If you would like to read further, please check: https://www.readingrockets.org/article/phonemic-awareness-young-children
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