Phonological Awareness: Instructional and Assessment Guidelines (2022)

This article defines phonological awareness and discusses historic and contemporary research findings regarding its relation to early reading. Common misconceptions about phonological awareness are addressed. Research-based guidelines for teaching phonological awareness and phonemic awareness to all children are described. Additional instructional design guidelines are offered for teaching children with learning disabilities who are experiencing difficulties with early reading. Considerations for assessing children's phonological awareness are discussed, and descriptions of available measures are provided.

Row, row, row your boat
gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily;
Life is but a dream

Bow, bow, bow your boat
bently bown the beam.
Berrily, berrily, berrily, berrily;
Bife is but a beam.

Sow, sow, sow your soat
sently sown the seam.
Serrily, serrily, serrily, serrily;
Sife is sut a seam.

Activities like substituting different sounds for the first sound of a familiar song can help children develop phonological awareness, a cognitive substrate to reading acquisition. Becoming phonologically aware prepares children for later reading instruction, including instruction in phonics, word analysis, and spelling (Adams, Foorman, Lundberg, & Beeler, 1998; Chard, Simmons, & Kameenui, 1998). The most common barrier to learning early word reading skills is the inability to process language phonologically (Liberman, Shankweiler, & Liberman, 1989). Moreover, developments in research and understanding have revealed that this weakness in phonological processing most often hinders early reading development for both students with and without disabilities (Fletcher et al., 1994).

No area of reading research has gained as much attention over the past two decades as phonological awareness. Perhaps the most exciting finding emanating from research on phonological awareness is that critical levels of phonological awareness can be developed through carefully planned instruction, and this development has a significant influence on children's reading and spelling achievement (Ball & Blachman, 1991; Bradley & Bryant, 1985; Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley, 1989, 1991; O'Connor, Jenkins, Leicester, & Slocum, 1993). Despite the promising findings, however, many questions remain unanswered, and many misconceptions about phonological awareness persist. For example, researchers are looking for ways to determine how much and what type of instruction is necessary and for whom. Moreover, many people do not understand the difference between phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and phonics. Still others are uncertain about the relationship between phonological awareness and early reading.

The purposes of this article are to (a) clarify some of the salient findings from research on phonological awareness and reading and (b) translate those findings into practical information for teachers of children with learning disabilities or children who are experiencing delays in early reading. To this end, we answer three questions:

(Video) Phoneme vs. Phonological Awareness: Knowing the Difference Matters for Assessment and Instruction

  1. What is phonological awareness, and why is it important to beginning reading success?
  2. What are documented effective principles that should guide phonological awareness instruction?
  3. What principles should guide the assessment of phonological awareness?

What is phonological awareness?

Phonological awareness is the understanding of different ways that oral language can be divided into smaller components and manipulated. Spoken language can be broken down in many different ways, including sentences into words and words into syllables (e. g., in the word simple, /sim/ and /ple/), onset and rime (e. g., in the word broom, /br/ and /oom/), and individual phonemes (e.g., in the word hamper, /h/, /a/, /m/, /p/, /er/). Manipulating sounds includes deleting, adding, or substituting syllables or sounds (e.g., say can; say it without the /k/; say can with /m/ instead of /k/). Being phonologically aware means having a general understanding at all of these levels.

Phonological Awareness: Instructional and Assessment Guidelines (1)

Figure 1. A continuum of complexity of phonological awareness activities

Operationally, skills that represent children's phonological awareness lie on a continuum of complexity (see Figure 1). At the less complex end of the continuum are activities such as initial rhyming and rhyming songs as well as sentence segmentation that demonstrates an awareness that speech can be broken down into individual words. At the center of the continuum are activities related to segmenting words into syllables and blending syllables into words. Next are activities such as segmenting words into onsets and rimes and blending onsets and rimes into words.

Finally, the most sophisticated level of phonological awareness is phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the understanding that words are made up of individual sounds or phonemes and the ability to manipulate these phonemes either by segmenting, blending, or changing individual phonemes within words to create new words. The recent National Research Council report on reading distinguishes phonological awareness from phonemic awareness in this way:

The term phonological awareness refers to a general appreciation of the sounds of speech as distinct from their meaning. When that insight includes an understanding that words can he divided into a sequence of phonemes, this finer-grained sensitivity is termed phonemic awareness. (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998, p. 51)

Throughout this article we will use the term phonological awareness to mean an awareness at all levels from basic rhyme to phonemic awareness. Only in some specific instances will we use the term phonemic awareness.

At this point, it is important to note that phonological awareness differs distinctly from phonics. Phonological awareness involves the auditory and oral manipulation of sounds. Phonics is the association of letters and sounds to sound out written symbols (Snider, 1995); it is a system of teaching reading that builds on the alphabetic principle, a system of which a central component is the teaching of correspondences between letters or groups of letters and their pronunciations (Adams, 1990). Phonological awareness and phonics are intimately intertwined, but they are not the same. This relationship will be further described in the following section.

Children generally begin to show initial phonological awareness when they demonstrate an appreciation of rhyme and alliteration. For many children, this begins very early in the course of their language development and is likely facilitated by being read to from books that are based on rhyme or alliteration, such as the B Book by Stanley and Janice Berenstain, 1997, or Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, 1979, (Bryant, MacLean, Bradley, & Crossland, 1990). As children grow older, however, their basic phonological awareness does not necessarily develop into the more sophisticated phonemic awareness. In fact, developing the more complex phonemic awareness is difficult for most children and very difficult for some children (Adams et al., 1996). However, it is a child's phonemic awareness on entering school that is most closely related to success in learning to read (Adams, 1990; Stanovich, 1986).

Why is phonological awareness so important?

An awareness of phonemes is necessary to grasp the alphabetic principle that underlies our system of written language. Specifically, developing readers must be sensitive to the internal structure of words in order to benefit from formal reading instruction (Adams, 1990; Liberman, Shankweiler, Fischer, & Carter, 1974). If children understand that words can be divided into individual phonemes and that phonemes can be blended into words, they are able to use letter-sound knowledge to read and build words. As a consequence of this relationship, phonological awareness in kindergarten is a strong predictor of later reading success (Ehri & Wilce, 1980, 1985; Liberman et al., 1974; Perfetti, Beck, Bell, & Hughes, 1987). Researchers have shown that this strong relationship between phonological awareness and reading success persists throughout school (Calfee, Lindamood, & Lindamood, 1973; Shankweiler et al., 1995).

Over the past 2 decades, researchers have focused primarily on the contribution of phonological awareness to reading acquisition. However, the relationship between phonological awareness and reading is not unidirectional but reciprocal in nature (Stanovich, 1986). Early reading is dependent on having some understanding of the internal structure of words, and explicit instruction in phonological awareness skills is very effective in promoting early reading. However, instruction in early reading-specifically, explicit instruction in letter-sound correspondence appears to strengthen phonological awareness, and in particular the more sophisticated phonemic awareness (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998).

Many children with learning disabilities demonstrate difficulties with phonological awareness skills (Shaywitz, 1996). However, many other children have such difficulty without displaying other characteristics of learning disabilities. Although a lack of phonemic awareness correlates with difficulty in acquiring reading skills, this lack should not necessarily be misconstrued as a disability (Fletcher et al., 1994). More important, children who lack phonemic awareness can be identified, and many of them improve their phonemic awareness with instruction. Furthermore, although explicit instruction in phonological awareness is likely to improve early reading for children who lack phonemic awareness, most children with or without disabilities are likely to benefit from such instruction (R. E. O'Connor, personal communication, June 2, 1998).

In short, success in early reading depends on achieving a certain level of phonological awareness. Moreover, instruction in phonological awareness is beneficial for most children and seems to be critical for others, but the degree of explicitness and the systematic nature of instruction may need to vary according to the learner's skills (Smith, Simmons, & Kameenui, 1998), especially for students at risk for reading difficulties. With this in mind, we discuss documented approaches to teaching phonological awareness.

(Video) Phonological Awareness Assessment

Teaching phonological awareness

There is ample evidence that phonological awareness training is beneficial for beginning readers starting as early as age 4 (e.g., Bradley & Bryant, 1985; Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley, 1991). In a review of phonological research, Smith et al. (1998) concluded that phonological awareness can be developed before reading and that it facilitates the subsequent acquisition of reading skills. Documented effective approaches to teaching phonological awareness generally include activities that are age appropriate and highly engaging. Instruction for 4-year-olds involves rhyming activities, whereas kindergarten and first-grade instruction includes blending and segmenting of words into onset and rime, ultimately advancing to blending, segmenting, and deleting phonemes. This pattern of instruction follows the continuum of complexity illustrated in Figure 1. Instruction frequently involves puppets who talk slowly to model word segmenting or magic bridges that are crossed when children say the correct word achieved by synthesizing isolated phonemes. Props such as colored cards or pictures can be used to make abstract sounds more concrete. During the last few years, publishers have produced multiple programs in phonological awareness, some of which are based on research. Two of these programs are Ladders to Literacy (O'Connor, Notari-Syverson, & Vadasy, 1998) and Teaching Phonemic Awareness (Adams et al., 1996). Figures 2 through 4 are illustrations of phonemic awareness lessons that are based on examples from these programs.

Figure 2. Instructional activity that teaches synthesis of phonemes into words.

Guess-the-word game

Objective: Students will be able to blend and identify a word that is stretched out into its component sounds.

Materials Needed: Picture cards of objects that students are likely to recognize such as: sun, bell, fan, flag, snake, tree, book, cup, clock, plane

Activity: Place a small number of picture cards in front of children. Tell them you are going to say a word using "Snail Talk" a slow way of saying words (e.g., /fffffllllaaaag/). They have to look at the pictures and guess the word you are saying. It is important to have the children guess the answer in their head so that everyone gets an opportunity to try it. Alternate between having one child identify the word and having all children say the word aloud in chorus to keep children engaged.

Figure 3. An Instructional activity that teaches segmentation at multiple phonological levels.

Segmentation activities

Objectives: Students will be able to segment various parts of oral language.

Activity:

  1. Early in phonological awareness instruction, teach children to segment sentences into individual words. Identify familiar short poems such as "I scream you scream we all scream for ice cream!" Have children clap their hands with each word.
  2. As children advance in their ability to manipulate oral language, teach them to segment words into syllables or onsets and rimes. For example, have children segment their names into syllables: e.g., Ra-chel, Al-ex-an-der, and Rod-ney.
  3. When children have learned to remove the first phoneme (sound) of a word, teach them to segment short words into individual phonemes: e.g., s-u-n, p-a-t, s-t-o-p.

Figure 4. An instructional activity that teaches phoneme deletion and substitution.

Change-a-name game

Objective: Students will be able to recognize words when the teacher says the word with the first sound removed.

Activity: Have students sit in a circle on the floor. Secretly select one child and change their name by removing the first sound of the name. For example, change Jennifer to Ennifer or change William to Illiam. As you change the name, the children have to identify who you are talking about.

Extension Ideas: As children become better at identifying the child's name without the first sound, encourage them to try removing the beginning sounds of words and pronounce the words on their own.

After children learn how to remove sounds, teach them to substitute the beginning sound in their name with a new sound. The teacher can model this, beginning with easier sounds (common sounds of consonant s, e.g., /m/, /t/, /p/) and advancing to more complex sounds and sound blends (e.g., /ch/, /st/).

Most early phonological awareness activities are taught in the absence of print, but there is increasing evidence that early writing activities, including spelling words as they sound (i.e., invented or temporary spelling), appear to promote more refined phonemic awareness (Ehri, 1998; Treiman, 1993). It may be that during spelling and writing activities children begin to combine their phonological sensitivity and print knowledge and apply them to building words. Even if children are unable to hold and use a pen or pencil, they can use letter tiles or word processing programs to practice their spelling.

Instruction in phonological awareness can be fun, engaging, and age appropriate, but the picture is not as simple as it seems. First, evidence suggests that instruction in the less complex phonological skills such as rhyming or onset and rime may facilitate instruction in more complex skills (Snider, 1995) without directly benefiting reading acquisition (Gough, 1998). Rather, integrated instruction in segmenting and blending seems to provide the greatest benefit to reading acquisition (e.g., Snider, 1995). Second, although most children appear to benefit from instruction in phonological awareness, in some studies there are students who respond poorly to this instruction or fail to respond at all. For example, in one training study that provided 8 weeks of instruction in phonemic awareness, the majority of children demonstrated significant growth, whereas 30% of the at-risk students demonstrated no measurable growth in phonological awareness (Torgesen, Wagner, & Rashotte, 1994). Similarly, in a 12-week training in blending and segmenting for small groups (3-4 children) in 2-minute sessions four times a week, about 30% of the children still obtained very low scores on the segmenting posttest and 10 % showed only small improvements on the blending measures (Torgesen et al., 1994).

(Video) Phonics vs. Phonemic Awareness vs. Phonological Awareness: What's the Difference?

Torgesen et al. (1994) concluded that training for at-risk children must be more explicit or more intense than what is typically described in the research literature if it is to have a substantial impact on the phonological awareness of many children with severe reading disabilities. Therefore, we recommend two tiers of instruction. The first tier of instruction is the highly engaging, age-appropriate instruction that we introduced earlier. The second tier of instruction includes more intensive and strategic instruction in segmenting and blending at the phoneme level (e.g., Snider, 1995).

Beside content, another issue that requires attention in phonological awareness instruction is curriculum design. From research, we are able to deduce principles for effectively designing phonological awareness instruction. These design principles apply for all students but are particularly important for students who respond poorly to instruction. In the design of phonological awareness instruction, the following general principles increase students' success (Chard & Osborn, 1998):

  • Start with continuous sounds such as /s/, /m/, and /f/ that are easier to pronounce than stop sounds such as /p/, /b/, and /k/;
  • Carefully model each activity as it is first introduced;
  • Move from larger units (words, onset-rime) to smaller units (individual phonemes);
  • Move from easier tasks (e.g., rhyming) to more complex tasks (e.g., blending and segmenting); and,
  • Consider using additional strategies to help struggling early readers manipulate sounds. These strategies may include using concrete objects (e.g., blocks, bingo chips) to represent sounds.

Research suggests that by the end of kindergarten children should be able to demonstrate phonemic blending and segmentation and to make progress in using sounds to spell simple words. Achieving these goals requires that teachers be knowledgeable about effective instructional approaches to teaching phonological awareness and be aware of the ongoing progress for each of their students. In the next section, we describe effective ways to assess phonological skills and monitor progress in phonological awareness.

Assessing phonological awareness

Assessment in phonological awareness serves essentially two purposes: to initially identify students who appear to be at risk for difficulty in acquiring beginning reading skills and to regularly monitor the progress of students who are receiving instruction in phonological awareness. The measures used to identify at-risk students must be strongly predictive of future reading ability and separate low and high performers. Measures used for monitoring progress must be sensitive to change and have alternate forms (Kaminski & Good, 1996). In this section, we discuss only measures that have been demonstrated to be valid and reliable. We report the technical adequacy of the measures in the Appendix, rather than in the narrative description of the measure.

As stated earlier, screening measures must be strongly predictive of future reading ability and must separate high from low performers. Measures of automatized color, object, number, or letter naming meet these criteria (Torgesen, Wagner, Rashotte, Burgess, & Hecht, 1997; Wolf, 1991). Segmentation is a second skill that is highly predictive of future reading ability (e.g., Nation & Hulme, 1997; Torgesen et al., 1994; Vellutino & Scanlon, 1987; Yopp, 1988). Unlike rapid naming, segmentation is a skill that can be taught, and the instruction of segmentation benefits reading acquisition.

Screening measures must also separate high from low performers. This means that they must address skills that are developmentally appropriate. Phonological awareness skills seem to develop along a continuum from rhyme to segmenting. Typically, students develop the ability to segment words into onset and rime during kindergarten and to segment words into separate phonemes between kindergarten and first grade. Therefore, most first-grade students perform well on an onset-rime measure, whereas most kindergarten students do poorly on a measure of segmenting into individual sounds. In either case it is difficult to separate low and high performers. Although we know a great deal about identifying students at risk for reading difficulties, many questions remain unanswered. We recommend that teachers use a variety of screening measures, including one that measures automatized rapid naming and one that measures phonemic awareness sensitivity or segmenting.

Typically, kindergarten students are screened for risk factors in acquiring beginning reading skills in the second semester of kindergarten. Appropriate screening measures for the second semester of kindergarten include measures that are strong predictors of a student's successful response to explicit phonemic awareness instruction or beginning reading acquisition. Such predictors of successful response to segmenting and blending instruction are the Test of Phonological Awareness-Kindergarten (TOPA-K; Torgesen & Bryant, 1993), a Nonword Spelling measure (Torgesen & Davis, 1996), and the Digit Naming Rate (Torgesen & Davis, 1996). Predictors of the successful acquisition of beginning reading skills include automatized naming of colors, objects, numbers, or letters (e.g., Wolf, 1991) and segmenting ability (e.g., Nation & Hulme, 1997; Torgesen et al., 1994; Vellutino & Scanlon, 1987; Yopp, 1988). Other measures used during the second semester of kindergarten to identify students at risk for not acquiring beginning reading skills include measures of phoneme deletion.

The measures appropriate for identifying first-grade students at risk for not acquiring reading skills overlap those used in kindergarten. The TOPA-K and onset-rime are no longer appropriate, as students should have developed these skills by the end of kindergarten, whereas segmenting is still an emerging skill. However, tasks such as automatized naming of colors, objects, numbers, or letters remain predictors for students at risk for not acquiring beginning reading skills, as do measures to determine whether students lag behind their peers in phonological awareness, such as measures of segmenting.

When using screening measures, the teacher must establish decision rules for identifying students requiring phonological awareness instruction. The decision rules vary. The TOPA-K has normed scores and provides information to help a teacher decide whether to provide phonemic awareness instruction to students who score one or two standard deviations below the mean. However, there is little research evidence to guide decision making about which children should receive the more intensive phonological awareness instruction.

A second use of measures is to monitor students' progress. Unlike the screening measures, progress-monitoring measures must be sensitive to growth and require multiple forms. The Dynamic Indicators of Early Literacy (Kaminski & Good, 1996) fit this requirement and are appropriate for kindergarten and first grade. After the first semester of first grade, teachers may also be interested in monitoring their students' progress in generalizing phonemic awareness to reading and spelling. Two other measures of reading that are sensitive to growth and have alternative forms are oral reading fluency (tasks) and nonsense word reading fluency (Tindal & Marston, 1990).

As with screening measures, teachers must establish decision rules about how to gauge the progress of their students. One way is to establish a baseline by graphing three measurement points before the start of instruction, adding each subsequent data point to the graph, and checking the slope of students' progress. If many students are making slower progress than necessary to reach the level of their average-achieving peers, the teacher can modify the instruction by increasing one or more of the elements in the instructional guidelines. For example, if students are not acquiring segmenting, the teacher may decide to add more scaffolds, such as cards that the students can move as they segment words, thereby making segmenting instruction more explicit, or provide students with more guided practice. If most students successfully respond to instruction but a few respond poorly or not at all, the teacher may decide to place these students in a flexible group to receive more intense instruction. The teacher could also choose to provide some individuals with more intense instruction throughout the day to keep them up with their peers. If the progress-monitoring measures indicate that the first-grade students receiving instruction in phonological awareness lag behind their peers in reading or spelling, the teacher may choose to increase the integrated instruction in letter- sound correspondence and to make stronger the links between segmenting and blending skills and reading. Brief descriptions of the screening and monitoring measures that have demonstrated validity and reliability through research follow. For each measure, we indicate the grade and purpose for which the measure is appropriate. Note that some measures are appropriate for more than one grade level and for both screening and monitoring progress.

Test of phonological awareness- kindergarten

(Second Half of Kindergarten; Screen). This measure of phonemic sensitivity strongly predicts which students will demonstrate high segmenting ability following small-group instruction in phonemic awareness (Torgesen & Davis, 1996). The measure consists of one form with 10 items requiring students to indicate which of three words (represented by pictures) have the same first sound as a target word and 10 items that require students to indicate which of four words (represented by pictures) begins with a different first sound than the other three. The measure is administered to small groups of 6 to 10 children and is untimed. Students receive raw scores that are normed.

(Video) Science of Reading: Phonological Awareness & Phonics

Nonword spelling

(Second Half of Kindergarten; Screen). This measure strongly predicts which kindergarten students will demonstrate growth in blending and segmenting after small-group phonological awareness instruction. Five nonwords (feg, rit, mub, gof, pid) comprise the measure. Students receive one point for each phoneme that they represent correctly in the spelling.

Digit naming rate

(Second Half of Kindergarten; Screen). This measure strongly predicts which kindergarten students are likely to demonstrate growth in blending after small-group phonological awareness instruction. The measure consists of six rows with five single digits per row on an 8 " x 11 " card. The students are timed as they name the digits as fast as they can, beginning at the top and continuing to the bottom. Students complete two trials using cards with differently arranged numbers. The score is based on the average time for the two series.

Yopp-SingerTest of phoneme segmentation

(Second Half of Kindergarten, First Grade; Screen). This test (Yopp, 1995) consists of 22 items and requires students to separately articulate each phoneme in the presented words. The student receives credit only if all sounds in a word are presented correctly. The student does not receive partial credit for saying /c/ or /c/ /at/ for cat. One feature that differentiates this screening measure from others is that students receive feedback after each response. If the child's response is correct, the test administrator says, "That's right." If the student gives an incorrect response, the examiner tells the student the correct response. Moreover, if the student gives an incorrect response, the examiner writes the error. Recording the errors helps the teacher decide what remediation the student requires. The student's score is the number of items correctly segmented into individual phonemes. The test is administered individually and requires about 5 to 10 minutes per child.

Bruce test of phoneme deletion

(Second Half of Kindergarten; Screen). The Bruce (1964) test assesses phoneme deletion, a more difficult and compound skill than segmenting (Yopp, 1995). The measure consists of 30 one- to three-syllable words drawn from words familiar to children between the ages of 5 and 61/2. The examiner asks students to delete one phoneme from the beginning, middle, or end of a word and to say the word that remains. The positions of deleted phonemes are randomly ordered throughout the test. The test is individually administered and requires 10 minutes to administer.

Auditory analysis test

(Second Half of Kindergarten; Screen). This measure (Rosner & Simon, 1971, cited in MacDonald & Cornwall, 1995) consists of 40 items arranged in order of difficulty from deletion of syllables in compound words to deletion of syllables in multisyllabic words to deletion of phonemes in beginning, middle, and end positions. The teacher asks the student to delete a syllable or phoneme and say the word that is left. The measure is administered individually.

Rapid letter naming, dynamic indicators of basic early literacy skills

(Second Half of Kindergarten, First Grade; Screen). The Rapid Letter Naming, DIBELS (Kaminski & Good, 1996) is another of many measures used to assess the rapid letter-naming ability of students. The measure has 18 alternate forms and consists of 104 randomly selected upper- and lowercase letters presented on one page. The measure is given individually, and students have 1 minute to name as many letters as possible in the order that they appear on the page.

Phoneme segmentation fluency, DIBELS

(End of Kindergarten, First Grade; Screen, Monitor Progress). The Phoneme Segmentation Fluency, DIBELS (Kaminski & Good, 1996) is one of many segmenting measures. The measure has 18 alternate forms. Each form consists of 10 words, each with two or three phonemes, randomly selected from words in the pre-primer and primer levels of the Scribner basal reading series. The measure is administered individually and is timed. Unlike the Yopp-Singer Test, students do not receive feedback on their responses but do receive scores for partially correct answers. In other words, for cat, a student receives a score of 1 for saying /c/, a score of 2 for saying /c/ /at/, or a score of 3 for saying /c/ /a/ /t/. Because this measure assesses the number of correct phonemes per minute, it is sensitive to growth and is, therefore, appropriate for both screening and monitoring progress.

Conclusion

As we noted at the outset of this article, efforts to understand the role of phonological awareness have far exceeded the efforts to relate research findings to classroom practice regarding phonological awareness. This article is an attempt to pull together the valuable information available on the role that phonological awareness plays in early reading development, the research-based teaching strategies that address the needs of all children, the instructional design principles that address the needs of children experiencing delays in early reading development, and the validated instruments available for screening and monitoring students' progress in phonological awareness.

Our description of the role that phonological awareness plays in reading development conspicuously fails to address the connection of phonological awareness and spelling. This failure is not an oversight, nor should it be perceived as a statement of our beliefs regarding the importance of spelling. We firmly believe that findings from spelling research (e.g., Ehri, 1998; Templeton, 1995; Treiman, 1993) represent such a significant part of our knowledge base about reading that they would go far beyond the length and scope of this article.

Recent research on phonological awareness and phonemic awareness, including how to teach and assess them, has made an extremely valuable contribution to our understanding of how to teach reading to children with learning disabilities or delays in early reading. It is not, however, a cure for reading disabilities, but a significant advance in preventing and correcting reading difficulties so that more children are prepared to learn how to read in our alphabetic writing system.

About the authors

David J. Chard, PhD, is an assistant professor of special education at The University of Texas at Austin. His current interests include research in professional developmental in early reading and analysis of children's discourse in mathematics classrooms. Shirley V Dickson, PhD, is an assistant professor of special education at Northern Illinois University. Her interests are in research on phonological awareness and reading instruction and collaboration models in special education. Address: David J. Chard, University of Texas at Austin, Dept. of Special Education, SZB 408, Austin, TX 78712.

Appendix

Table A. Technical Adequacy of Screening and Monitoring Measures
MeasureValidityReliability
Test of Phonological Awareness-Kindergarten (Torgesen & Bryant, 1993)Concurrent validity with segmenting and sound isolation(.50-.55); Concurrent validity with word identification and word analysis of Woodcock Reading Mastery Test-Revised (.60-.66); Predictive validity (.59-.75)Internal consistency (.90-.91); Total score reliability (Cronbach's Alpha = .91)
Nonword Spelling (Torgesen & Davis, 1996)Internal consistency (.88)
Digit Naming Rate (Torgesen & Davis, 1996)Split-half reliability (.91)
Yopp-Singer Test of Phoneme Segmentation (Yopp, 1995)Construct validity with subtests of California Achievement Test (.38-.78); Predictive of reading and spelling in Grades 1-6 (-.05-.55; 16 of the 25 correlations were positive and significant)Cronbach's Alpha (.95)
Bruce Phoneme Deletion Test (Bruce, 1964)Predictive validity to learning to read novel words (.67)Cronbach's Alpha (.92)
Auditory Analysis Test (Rosner & Simon, 1971, cited in MacDonald & Cornwall, 1995; Yopp,1988)Predictive validity (accounted for 25% of the variance in word identification and spelling skills at age 17); Construct validity for compound phonemic awarenessCronbach's Alpha (.78)
Rapid Letter Naming (DIBELS)Concurrent criterion-related with the Standard Diagnostic Reading Test (.50) and oral reading fluency (.45)Spearman-Brown Prophecy formula (.83 for first grade)
Segmenting Fluency (DIBELS)Alternate form reliability (.60 Spearman Prophecy formula)
Oral Reading Fluency (Children's Educational Services, 1987)Coefficient with Stanford Diagnostic Reading Test, Woodcock Reading Mastery Test-Revised, and Peabody Individual Achievement Test (.52-.91)Alternate form reliability (.97)
Nonsense Word Fluency (DIBELS; R. H. Good, August 3, 1998, personal communication)Criterion reliability with curriculum-based reading measures (.80)Alternate form reliability (high .80s)

FAQs

What type of assessments can be used to assess phonological awareness? ›

The DIBELS Phoneme Segmentation Fluency (PSF) measure is a standardized, individually administered test of phonological awareness. The PSF measure assesses a student's ability to segment three- and four-phoneme words into their individual phonemes fluently.

What are instructional methods for teaching phonological awareness? ›

  • Listen up. Good phonological awareness starts with kids picking up on sounds, syllables and rhymes in the words they hear. ...
  • Focus on rhyming. ...
  • Follow the beat. ...
  • Get into guesswork. ...
  • Carry a tune. ...
  • Connect the sounds. ...
  • Break apart words. ...
  • Get creative with crafts.

What is the purpose of phonological awareness assessment? ›

Assessing phonological awareness. Assessment in phonological awareness serves essentially two purposes: to initially identify students who appear to be at risk for difficulty in acquiring beginning reading skills and to regularly monitor the progress of students who are receiving instruction in phonological awareness.

How is the phonological awareness test scored? ›

The Total Scores

First, the student receives a score that indicates how many were correct and how many were automatic at the syllable, onset-rime, and phoneme levels. Second, the other side gives the highest level passed. Remember that a level is passed as correct if at least 4 out of 5 at that level are correct.

What assessment tools can help teachers monitor their students progress in phonemic awareness? ›

The following list is a sample of assessment measures to test phonemic awareness skills:
  • Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP)
  • DIBELS.
  • ERDA.
  • Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)
  • Phonological Awareness Test (PAT)
  • Texas Primary Reading Inventory (TPRI)

How can teachers support students who are struggling to hear and identify the individual sounds in words? ›

Exposure to rhymes at an early age helps bring attention to the sounds words make and introduces awareness to phonemic awareness. Listening to nursery rhymes, rhyming books, songs, and poems are a great way to support this awareness.

How can we help our reading teachers in promoting the teaching of phonological awareness? ›

Examples to promote phonological awareness
  1. Highlighting phonological awareness concepts in songs, rhymes, poems, stories, and written texts.
  2. Finding patterns of rhyme, initial/final sound, onset/rime, consonants and vowels, by:
  3. Matching pictures to other pictures.
  4. Matching pictures to sound-letter patterns (graphemes)
24 Apr 2020

What is the correct example of phonological awareness? ›

Phonological awareness is made up of a group of skills. Examples include being able to identify words that rhyme, counting the number of syllables in a name, recognizing alliteration, segmenting a sentence into words, and identifying the syllables in a word.

Is assessing phonological skills appropriate after a child has completed first grade? ›

When should it be assessed? Typically, phonological awareness is assessed during kindergarten and throughout first grade. During the beginning of kindergarten, assessment should be limited to recognizing words, rhyme, syllable blending, and segmentation to help guide instruction.

How much phonological training should be done with students for maximum effectiveness? ›

Research studies suggest that for most children a complete phonemic awareness program should take no more than around 20 hours in total (NICHD, 2000; Armbruster et al, 2003). This could be made up of 10–15 minutes a day for the first two terms of Reception.

What would be the purpose of administering the test of phonological awareness 2nd Edition? ›

Test of Phonological Awareness - Second Edition (TOPA-2+)

The test measures young children's ability to isolate individual phonemes in spoken words and understand the relationships between letters and phonemes in English.

What is pass in phonological awareness? ›

Phonological Awareness Skills Screener (PASS) Theoretical Foundation: The Phonological Awareness Skills Screener (PASS) is an assessment tool that can be used with Kindergarten through 2nd grade students to gauge any possible issues with reading or spelling difficulties.

How many standard phonemes are identified that a child should learn in reading? ›

There are 44 phonemes in the English language, including sounds represented by letter combinations such as /th/.

How do you assess students in phonics? ›

One way to assess these skills is by asking questions like “How many sounds do you hear in the word bake?” Another is to segment the sounds in a word and ask students to tell you the word. Then give the student a word and ask them to segment out the sounds like you were doing.

What makes a reading assessment effective? ›

Reading research also emphasizes the importance of a valid and effective reading assessment, including: Screening: Using passages written for the student's actual grade level, these assessments screen for potential risks or reading difficulties.

How do you assess students reading skills? ›

Methods of Assessing Reading Comprehension

One method is to use a formal assessment, like the example above, with reading passages followed by questions about the passage. Another method is to use informal assessments. Ask students to tell you about what they read or retell the story or event in their own words.

What is the best intervention for struggling readers? ›

The most commonly used strategy to improve reading fluency is the reading and rereading of familiar texts. Opportunities to read aloud, with guidance from teachers, peers or parents, are also associated with the development of fluent reading.

What are the 4 tips for teachers to work with phonemes? ›

These four tips were initially written for teachers, but have been adapted here for parents.
  • Tip #1: Focus on one sound at a time. ...
  • Tip #2: Make the learning memorable! ...
  • Tip #3: Help your child listen for the sounds. ...
  • Tip #4: Apply letter-sound skills to reading.

What is the best way to teach phonological awareness skills that has the most support from research? ›

One of the best ways to help support these students is to help them see and feel how words break down since many of them can't process the sounds easily. You can do this by pulling in visuals, having students practice placing their hand under their chin to feel the drop in the vowel sound, and/or by using motor cues.

How does phonological awareness enhance reading with understanding? ›

Why use phonological awareness. Developing strong competencies in phonological awareness is important for all students, as the awareness of the sounds in words and syllables is critical to hearing and segmenting the words students want to spell, and blending together the sounds in words that students read.

Why it is important to establish phonemic awareness with learners before phonics instruction can begin? ›

It is essential for the progression of reading that children are able to hear sounds and patterns used to make up words. It requires children to notice how letters represent sounds. Children who lack phonemic awareness skills do not understand what letters represent.

What are the key features of phonological awareness? ›

Phonological awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate the spoken parts of sentences and words. Examples include being able to identify words that rhyme, recognizing alliteration, segmenting a sentence into words, identifying the syllables in a word, and blending and segmenting onset-rimes.

What are the 4 phonological awareness skills? ›

Phonological awareness is an umbrella term that includes four developmental levels:
  • Word awareness.
  • Syllable awareness.
  • Onset-rime awareness.
  • Phonemic awareness.

What are the three main skills being developed by phonemic awareness activities? ›

Acquisition of these two abilities requires the development of more specific skills: Phonemic awareness: the ability to identify and manipulate the distinct individual sounds in spoken words. Phonics: the ability to decode words using knowledge of letter-sound relationships. Fluency: reading with speed and accuracy.

Why is teaching phonemic awareness important? ›

Phonemic Awareness (PA) is:

essential to learning to read in an alphabetic writing system, because letters represent sounds or phonemes. Without phonemic awareness, phonics makes little sense. fundamental to mapping speech to print.

What do students with phonological processing difficulties require? ›

Children with phonological difficulties benefit from intensive practice with phonological awareness; practice associating phonemes (sounds) to spelling patterns; and practice decoding words (Snowling, 2013).

What are phonological assessments? ›

A phonological assessment looks at the speech sounds a child or young person makes. This assessment looks at the building blocks for effective speech, language and communication.

How are students affected if they lack phonological awareness? ›

​Children with phonological awareness problems may have difficulty associating environmental sounds with appropriate objects and they generally do not play with sounds. Children with phonological awareness problems may have difficulty with spelling and may be slow to learn the ability to sound out words in print.

How can phonics instruction be organized to be most effective? ›

Phonics instruction is most effective when it begins in kindergarten or first grade. To be effective with young learners, systematic instruction must be designed appropriately and taught carefully. It should include teaching letter shapes and names, phonemic awareness, and all major letter-sound relationships.

How do you assess phonemic awareness? ›

Phonemic Awareness skills can be assessed using standardized measures. The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) assessment system provides two measures that can be used to assess phonemic segmentation skills, Initial Sounds Fluency (ISF) and Phonemic Segmentation Fluency (PSF).

How long should a phonics lesson last? ›

Each lesson generally takes 15–30 minutes, depending on the age and stage of the children being taught.

What is an effective use of phonological awareness screening assessment data? ›

Assessing phonological awareness. Assessment in phonological awareness serves essentially two purposes: to initially identify students who appear to be at risk for difficulty in acquiring beginning reading skills and to regularly monitor the progress of students who are receiving instruction in phonological awareness.

How do you teach phonological awareness in the classroom? ›

Good phonological awareness starts with kids picking up on sounds, syllables and rhymes in the words they hear. Read aloud to your child frequently. Choose books that rhyme or repeat the same sound. Draw your child's attention to rhymes: “Fox, socks, box!

Which of the following tests is used to measure phonological awareness? ›

The PAT-2:NU is a standardized assessment of phonological awareness, phoneme-grapheme correspondence, and phonemic decoding skills. Test results help educators focus on those aspects of oral language that may not be systematically targeted in classroom reading instruction.

What is the purpose of the past assessment? ›

The PAST is best used with students as part of a formal reading assessment to determine a student's level of phonological awareness (i.e., syllable, onset-rime, or phoneme) and their degree of proficiency (i.e., multisensory, knowledge or automatic).

When should phonological awareness intervention begin? ›

Phonological awareness skills are best taught in kindergarten and early Grade 1 so they can be applied to sounding out words as phonics instruction begins.

Which activities work with students at the early phonological awareness level? ›

Fun And Easy Phonemic Awareness Activities
  • Guess-That-Word. If you'd like to give this activity a go, lay out a few items or pictures in front of your child. ...
  • Mystery Bag. ...
  • Clapping It Out. ...
  • Make Some Noise! ...
  • I-Spy With Words. ...
  • Rhyme Matching Game. ...
  • Make Your Own Rhyme. ...
  • Drawing A Phonetic Alphabet.

How do you promote phonological awareness? ›

Examples to promote phonological awareness
  1. Highlighting phonological awareness concepts in songs, rhymes, poems, stories, and written texts.
  2. Finding patterns of rhyme, initial/final sound, onset/rime, consonants and vowels, by:
  3. Matching pictures to other pictures.
  4. Matching pictures to sound-letter patterns (graphemes)
24 Apr 2020

What's the difference between phonemic awareness and phonological awareness? ›

Both phonological awareness and phonemic awareness are oral and auditory, and the focus is on the sounds in words. Phonics, on the other hand, focuses on the letters that the sounds represent. Phonics involves print, phonological, and phonemic awareness do not.

What is the correct example of phonological awareness? ›

Phonological awareness is made up of a group of skills. Examples include being able to identify words that rhyme, counting the number of syllables in a name, recognizing alliteration, segmenting a sentence into words, and identifying the syllables in a word.

How much phonological training should be done with students for maximum effectiveness? ›

Research studies suggest that for most children a complete phonemic awareness program should take no more than around 20 hours in total (NICHD, 2000; Armbruster et al, 2003). This could be made up of 10–15 minutes a day for the first two terms of Reception.

Why is phonological awareness difficult? ›

Phonological awareness difficulties (and the subset, phonemic awareness) come from language processing delays, exacerbated by the challenges of learning English. Being able to process language is one the brain's most challenging functions since natural language is lightning fast.

How can a teacher teach phonemic awareness? ›

One of the easiest ways to teach early phonemic awareness is to work with rhyming words. All of these exercises can be played as a game to make learning fun. Stop when your child shows signs of distress and pick it up again another day. You would be amazed at how much can be accomplished in a few minutes every day.

How do you assess word recognition? ›

To assess word recognition in context, record children's oral reading performance. As a student reads aloud, note miscues, deviations from the printed text, and strategies children use to decode words. Recording Miscues. Children's miscues provide a window into their word recognition process.

What does the YOPP Singer test measure? ›

First Assessment: Yopp-Singer Test of Phoneme Segmentation

It aims to evaluate phonemic segmentation – and thus determine if a kindergarten child can articulate sounds in a spoken word individually and in order. This test can be used as a summative assessment and also as a pre-assessment.

How do you assess language comprehension? ›

Comprehension. There are many ways to assess comprehension. One simple way to assess comprehension is by asking students to retell what they read and/or asking a couple of questions and scoring their responses using our Retell Rubric. Maximize time by using the same passage you used for the fluency assessment.

What is a phonics assessment? ›

The Phonics diagnostic assessment is an online, on-demand diagnostic tool that informs teachers of student progress in phonics. The tool assesses how students blend sounds together to read words.

What type of assessments can be used to assess vocabulary? ›

Often vocabulary is assessed at the end of a unit using a multiple-choice task, a fill-in-the-blank task or matching task. These modes of vocabulary assessment are shallow metrics of possible word knowledge.

What are the 4 word identification strategies? ›

Readers employ a variety of strategies to accomplish this. Ehri (2004, 2005) identified four of them: decoding, analogizing, predicting, and recogniz- ing whole words by sight. Each of these will be described briefly.

What is the best way to teach phonological awareness skills that has the most support from research? ›

One of the best ways to help support these students is to help them see and feel how words break down since many of them can't process the sounds easily. You can do this by pulling in visuals, having students practice placing their hand under their chin to feel the drop in the vowel sound, and/or by using motor cues.

What is the correct example of phonological awareness? ›

Phonological awareness is made up of a group of skills. Examples include being able to identify words that rhyme, counting the number of syllables in a name, recognizing alliteration, segmenting a sentence into words, and identifying the syllables in a word.

Why is teaching phonemic awareness important? ›

Phonemic Awareness (PA) is:

essential to learning to read in an alphabetic writing system, because letters represent sounds or phonemes. Without phonemic awareness, phonics makes little sense. fundamental to mapping speech to print.

What is manipulation in phonics? ›

Phoneme manipulation is simply changing individual phonemes (sounds) in a word. An example would be if a student was asked to changed the /s/ in “sat” to /b/ –> and voila, we get “bat!” Phoneme manipulation falls under the umbrella of phonological awareness, the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words.

What is an example of phoneme segmentation? ›

Phoneme segmentation is the ability to break words down into individual sounds. For example, a child may break the word “sand” into its component sounds – /sss/, /aaa/, /nnn/, and /d/.

What does the early names test measure? ›

This Early Names Test was designed to be an informal assessment tool so that teachers can quickly assess students' beginning phonics knowledge. It is intended to measure one narrow, but important, aspect of reading performance--knowledge of grapheme-phoneme relationships.

How can assessment results improve teaching and learning? ›

Assessments can provide evidence of learning

A system of well-constructed formative and summative assessments allows students to demonstrate their abilities and knowledge and then reflects how close they are to meeting educational goals and standards. Evidence from assessments can be directly beneficial to students.

What makes a reading assessment effective? ›

Reading research also emphasizes the importance of a valid and effective reading assessment, including: Screening: Using passages written for the student's actual grade level, these assessments screen for potential risks or reading difficulties.

What are the 4 types of reading assessment? ›

There are four main types of reading assessments that are used in schools: Screening, Diagnostic, Progress Monitoring, Summative.

Videos

1. How to Differentiate Phonological Awareness Instruction
(SMARTER Intervention)
2. Phonemic Awareness
(OGOA Team)
3. PAST Administration
(Chandle Carpenter)
4. Supporting Students in Literacy: Evidence-Based Resources and Recommendations from the WWC
(Institute of Education Sciences)
5. Assessment and Analysis of Phoneme Awareness Skills
(WordScientists)
6. Phonological Awareness PLO
(South Carolina Department of Education)

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