What is Phonological Awareness?
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What is Phonological Awareness?

  • PDF

In this new series of lessons we are going to be talking about a concept called phonological awareness. Phonological awareness encompasses many different things about language and literacy development. As we move along in this series, we will break down the many aspects of phonological awareness and its related topics. Let's first start at the beginning: “What is phonological awareness?”

What is Phonological Awareness?

Phonological awareness is one of the key building blocks of language. Strong phonological awareness skills help us identify and understand the structure and sounds of our language.

One example of phonological awareness is the ability to recognize when words rhyme. For many of us, this comes quite naturally. We know that "cat" rhymes with "hat" and "dog" rhymes with "frog."

For children that have trouble understanding the rules of rhyming, this can pose a challenge. For example, they may believe that the word "cook" rhymes with "cat" because they have the same beginning sound. However, the beginning sound doesn't determine a rhyming word, the sound at the end does.

While we've covered rhyming, there are many other areas that fall underneath phonological awareness, including:

  • Rhyme
  • Alliteration
  • Ability to count words in a sentence
  • Ability to count syllables in a word
  • Onset and rime
    • Onset is the initial phonological unit of a word (the "h" in "hat"), whereas rime refers to the strong of letters that follow (the "at" in "hat")

Some of the items above may seems self-explanatory, like counting words in a sentence. Others, like alliteration and onset and rime may not be as familar. Don't worry! We're going to go through each one in subsequent lessons.

Why Does Phonological Awareness Matter?

Strong phonological awareness skills matter because they reflect understanding of how oral language works. Good oral language skills essentially set the stage for literacy development. If the ability to understand the “makeup” of our language is impaired, then it can directly impact literacy skills.

We want children to have good reading and writing skills as these are basic skills needed for school, formal and informal communication, career development, and more.

Keep following along in this series as we break down the specifics of what all phonological awareness entails, and how you can help your child if they are struggling.

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