Updated: Apr 5, 2021
Parents may hear the term "phonological awareness" or "phonemic awareness" when learning about their child's weaknesses, especially if they have Dyslexia. What do these terms mean?
Phonemic awareness is the ability to perceive and manipulate the individual sounds in words. Phonological awareness is the overarching umbrella term and incorporates phonemic awareness. It is the ability to perceive and manipulate sounds at the sentence, word, syllable, and sound levels.
We typically hear the term phonemic awareness before phonological awareness because our preschoolers or kindergarteners first learn about words at the sound level. They do various activities in school that target phonemic awareness skills, such as blending, segmenting, and elision.
Blending is the process of combining sounds together to make a word. For example, the sounds /c/ /a/ /t/ would go together to make the word "cat."
Segmenting is the opposite process, which splits words apart into their individual sounds. For example, the word "dog" would be split into 3 sounds, /d/ /o/ /g/.
Elision is the process of manipulation, specifically removing a sound from a word. For example, saying the word "jump" without the /p/ would be "jum."
Phonemic awareness skills are foundational for learning. It helps students to accurately process what their teacher is saying, so that they are able to understand and grasp new concepts. It also helps them understand words on the most basic level, and in turn, supports their reading and spelling skills.