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Literacy Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Phonological and phonemic awareness

Sounds and words.

Sounds and Words is designed to support teachers and students to learn about phonological awareness and spelling. It builds on the Literacy Learning Progressions in support of the reading and writing standards.

We should better understand what is going on before our eyes because better understanding results in better-quality teaching interactions ...

Clay, 1998, page 131

Definition:

  • Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and consciously break words into syllables, rhyme, onset and rime, and individual sounds or phonemes.
  • Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, differentiate, and attend to the individual sounds or phonemes within words and is part of phonological awareness.

Children need to have phonological awareness skills when learning to read to enable them to make the link between sounds and letters. Phonological awareness ability at school entry is considered to be one of the best predictors of a child’s reading success.

Successful teaching of phonological awareness relies on the teacher knowing how to explicitly teach and help children to understand how words can be segmented and blended. Teachers effectively model (for example, through "talk alouds") and then scaffold children’s responses to shape successful understanding.

What do I need to know and do?

"When teachers have a sound knowledge base themselves, they are able to work with students in putting sounds, spelling, and meaning together".

A thorough knowledge base

When a thorough knowledge base underpins your teaching, you can confidently:

  • teach students how words work so that they can read and write them efficiently
  • teach the phonological, phonemic, orthographical, and morphological knowledge that students need
  • teach students strategies to help them work out unfamiliar words
  • enable students to develop metacognition – awareness of how and when to use their knowledge and strategies.

The sounds of language: Phonological awareness

This is the general ability to attend to and appreciate the sounds of language as distinct from the meaning. It includes the ability to recognise and produce rhyme and to distinguish the onset (the initial sound) of a one-syllable word from its  rime (the remainder of the word).

Sounds – one by one: Phonemic awareness

This is the ability to hear, distinguish, and manipulate the individual sounds within words. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a spoken word.  Phonemic awareness involves the ability to break up a word into its individual sounds, hear each sound of a word in sequence, and blend individual sounds into a word.

Sounds and letters: Phonics

Phonics is the relationship between spoken sounds and the letters that represent them. Put another way, it’s about the correspondence between sounds (phonemes) and symbols (letters) in an alphabetic writing system. Knowledge of letter–sound relationships enables students at all year levels to read and write the sounds in words.

Learning the code

The grapho-phonic sources of information (see diagram) are essential for students to draw on when learning the code.

As they learn the code, students make meaning and think critically. These three aspects of literacy learning develop together. Refer to:

  • Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1 to 4, pages 24–31, 41–42
    • See the framework of literacy acquisition and further information on using sources of information in reading and writing.
  • Learning through Talk: Oral Language in Years 1 to 3, page 17
  • Sound Sense, pages 9–10.
    • Presents a clear example of the sources that young learners draw on when writing.
Sources of information.

Source: Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1 to 4

Phonological awareness and literacy

Information about  phonemic awareness and phonics and their essential role in literacy learning can be found in:

  • Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1 to 4, pages 32–37 and 144–148
  • Sound Sense, pages 2–10
  • Exploring Language
  • Switch on to Spelling, Joy Allcock, pages 22–24

Teaching phonological awareness

  • Deliberate, goal-focused instruction in  phonemic awareness and  phonics is essential.
  • Students need to continue building their phonological awareness, and this is best done in the context of the wider literacy programme.
  • Careful assessment identifies students’ individual strengths and needs in order to inform instruction. Students at all levels continue to benefit from instruction and practice to help them figure out words with challenging structures and unfamiliar words in the different subject areas.
  • This section includes subsections with information on effective literacy teaching, related knowledge (including  morphologyorthography, and  visual memory), and the role of oral language.

Knowledge of effective literacy teaching

The following resources include information on effective literacy teaching:

  • Literacy Online: What do I need to know and do? includes resources to help teachers know and use instructional strategies and to build literacy content knowledge. Also see  English Online and  ESOL Online.
  • Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1 to 4, chapter 2 and chapter 4. Chapter 4 describes the deliberate acts of teaching (such as modelling and giving feedback) that are indispensable tools in all aspects of teaching. The chart 'How Students Learn and What Teachers Do' is valuable.
  • Learning through Talk: Oral Language in Years 1 to 3, page 50 – Their version of the chart 'How Students Learn and What Teachers Do'; includes aspects of oral language.

Useful resources

  • Phonological awareness: Enhancing early literacy success – On page 4 of this resource is a helpful chart to help adapt phonological awareness tasks for children.
  • Sound Sense – Pages 4–12 include ideas about planning for phonological awareness and phonics instruction, and discussion of phonics in the wider literacy programme and writing. The teaching ideas (page 15–42) include excellent suggestions for using Ready to Read materials to teach hearing sounds in words (syllables; initial, final, and medial sounds), building and breaking words, matching letters and sounds, and identifying common word endings. There’s also a series of appendices from the Ready to Read books, poem cards, big books, and the Kiwi Kidsongs series.
  • Ready to Read teacher support material – This contains introductory information and notes on titles, with many relevant ideas for developing phonological awareness in reading contexts. You can also search for information about initial letters, blends, digraphs, and rimes.
  • Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1 to 4 – Includes a discussion of deliberate acts of teaching – modelling, prompting, questioning, and giving feedback, including examples for teaching phonological awareness (pages 78–87); sections on spelling (pages 144–148), engaging learners with texts (pages 128–143), conversations (pages 88–89), and approaches to reading and writing (pages 90–109).
  • An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement, Marie Clay, pages 111–112
  • Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5 to 8 – Includes a discussion of deliberate acts of teaching – modelling, prompting, questioning, and giving feedback, including examples for teaching phonological awareness (pages 80–93), fluency (page 24), engaging learners with texts (pages 139–160), conversations (pages 94–95), and approaches to reading and writing (pages 96–118).
  • The New Zealand Curriculum Exemplars: English – These provide guidance about students’ progress and help teachers make decisions about next learning steps. Some of the annotations include comments on students’ use of phonological information to write words.

  • Switch on to Spelling, Joy Allcock –  This provides many relevant teaching topics. See appendices A and B for strategies for decoding and writing unfamiliar words, and Appendix D for activities for teaching phonological and phonemic awareness.
  • This article by Louisa Moats and Carol Tolman explores why phonological awareness is important for reading and spelling.

Websites to explore for teaching ideas include:

Suggestions for assessment

Never underestimate the richness of the information you build up through:

  • focused observation and listening (for example, observing students’ use of independent phonics activities or observing during guided or shared reading or writing)
  • brief, on-the-run interactions focused on how the student uses word-level information
  • discussing sounds and words during interviews or conferences
  • observing students’ reading, writing, and talking at all times of the school day.

"We used to spend a lot of time talking about other things like their home backgrounds. Now we constantly bring it back to ‘What is the data telling us?’, ‘What can we change and what can’t we change?’ … The idea that we can’t make a difference just disappears".

Principal, quoted in Using Evidence in Teaching Practice, page 123

Information from specialised assessments

Computer based phonological awareness assessment
This assessment is part of Dr Karyn Carson's PhD thesis. The tests are designed to help teachers screen and monitor students' phonological awareness development in the first year of school.

Phonological awareness assessment probes for preschool children
Although this assessment is for preschool children it is a very good assessment for school entry.

Sutherland Phonological Awareness Test - Revised (SPAT-R)
SPAT-R is an Australian developed simple and comprehensive standardised test that provides an overview of the phonological awareness skills required for early literacy development. May be used diagnostically for older children and alternate forms are available for pre-and post testing.

Pre-Reading Inventory of Phonological Awareness™ (PIPA)
Easy to administer inventory of phonological awareness skills. Helps identify children at risk for reading failure (American and British norms).

Test of Phonological Awareness, Second Edition Plus (TOPA-2+)
Measures phonological awareness. The test has two versions – a Kindergarten version and an Early Elementary version – that measure young children's ability to (a) isolate individual phonemes in spoken words and (b) understand the relationships between letters and phonemes in English (American).

Free screening tools
American developed assessments that may be useful for assessing children at school entry and older children.

Information from oral language

You can gather information as you monitor how students hear and articulate the sounds of English and as you listen to the rhythm and intonation of their talk.

Gathering assessment information on phonological awareness

The following resources include information on assessment procedures and tools:

  • Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1 to 4, pages 55–63 includes a summary of a range of procedures and tools.
  • Sound Sense, page 14
  • Monitoring Progress in Spelling Using Developmental Information, pages 24–26
  • An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement, Marie Clay – This resource provides test items and a discussion of the understandings that underpin them. In includes information about phonological awareness (pages 4–13), concepts about print (pages 37–45), knowledge of the sounds and names of letters (pages 82–90), control of sound-to-letter links (pages 111–120), and knowledge of letters and letter sequence (pages 97–107).
  • Using Running Records – supports teachers to gain detailed knowledge about a student’s attention to visual and grapho-phonic information.
  • Using Evidence in Teaching Practice, Helen Timperley and Judy Parr, pages 59–68 – Includes a description of benchmarked assessment tools.
  • Switch on to Spelling, Joy Allcock – Provides an assessment guide (pages 74–76) and assessment tools (Appendix C). These include tasks for gathering information about aspects of phonics and phonemic awareness, such as information about students’ letter–sound knowledge and sound–letter knowledge.

Information from analysis of students’ writing

Finding out how your students record sounds when writing will give you rich information about what knowledge of the sound system of English (and related skills) they have already acquired. You can discover, for example, whether they are writing all sounds or whether there is a pattern in their omissions.

  • Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1 to 4, page 148.
  • The New Zealand Curriculum Exemplars: English – Provides examples of how students progress and how teachers can make decisions about next learning steps. The annotations of writing include comments about students’ recording of sounds.

  • Monitoring Progress in Spelling Using Developmental Information, pages 30–47 – Provides aand annotated writing samples, including guidance on what to look for in students’ writing of sounds in words.
  • Switch on to Spelling, Joy Allcock – Includes writing samples across three stages of spelling development, with comments on what the writing reveals about students’ progress and suggested next steps in learning.

Other specialised assessment resources:

  • defines and describes dyslexia and provides information about assessments as well as support for teachers. It includes activities to build phonemic and phonological awareness and writing and spelling activities.
  • The English Language Learning Progressions: A resource for mainstream and ESOL teachers.

Noticing the effect of changed practice

Over the next few weeks

  • What is the difference I expect to see in my students’ reading and writing?
  • What do I need to do differently?
  • What will I notice my students saying and doing that will show my teaching is having the intended impact?

Reflecting on teaching

  • What is the impact of my teaching? How do I know?
  • What do I need to know more about?
  • What changes to my practice do I now need to consider?
  • What improvements do I expect to see in my students’ reading and writing?

"Teaching practice can be described as truly effective only when it has a positive impact on student achievement".

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1 to 4, page 8

After 1 year at school

What should my students know and be able to do?

The New Zealand Curriculum: English, level 1 indicators

Listening, reading, and viewing

Processes and strategies

  • Uses sources of information (meaning, structure, visual and grapho-phonic information) and prior knowledge to make sense of a range of texts.
  • Associates sounds with letter clusters as well as with individual letters.

Speaking, writing, and presenting

Processes and strategies

  • Creates texts by using meaning, structure, visual and grapho-phonic sources of information, prior knowledge, and some processing strategies with some confidence.

After one year of instruction, most students will be working towards level 1 achievement objectives.

National Standards

Standard: Reading

After one year at school, students will read, respond to, and think critically about fiction and non-fiction texts at the Green level of Ready to Read (the core instructional series that supports reading in the New Zealand Curriculum).

Standard: Writing

After one year at school, students will create texts as they begin learning in a range of contexts across the New Zealand Curriculum at level 1. Students will use their writing to think about, record, and communicate experiences, ideas, and information to meet specific learning purposes across the curriculum.

Literacy Learning Progressions

Reading

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • using their developing phonemic awareness to aurally identify and distinguish individual phonemes within words, that is, to blend phonemes (for example, by saying m/a/n is man) and to segment phonemes (for example, by saying seat is s/ea/t/
  • identifying all letters by name and being able to produce an associated sound for each letter 
  • decoding unfamiliar words by using their developing knowledge of grapheme–phoneme relationships, which enables them to:
    • identify common graphemes (for example, shch,owaithoy) and produce an associated sound for each one
    • apply the knowledge that letters can be pronounced in different ways (for example, about, and, apron)
    • apply strategies such as: sounding out words; using knowledge of graphemes (for example, shawtpor); and using  analogy to read words that contain familiar  chunks (for example, estenump
  • decoding unfamiliar words by using some knowledge of  morphology (for example, the word endings-s, -ing, and -ed).

Writing

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • using their developing phonemic awareness to aurally segment words into syllables (for example, win-dow, ham-bur-ger) and one-syllable words into individual phonemes (for example, b/a/n/d; sh/i/p
  • using their developing  visual memory to accurately write some key personal words and some high-frequency words 
  • encoding (spelling) unfamiliar words by using their developing knowledge of phoneme–grapheme relationships, which enables them to:
    • recognise and write most sounds of English in at least one appropriate way (for example, s, t, ch,ow, k, f, oy)
    • recognise that there can be different ways of representing the same sound (for example, phone/father; keep/cat)
    • apply sound–letter relationships in order to write words they want to use (for example, catapulla).

After 2 years at school

What should my students know and be able to do?

The New Zealand Curriculum: English, level 1 indicators

Listening, reading, and viewing

Processes and strategies

  • Uses sources of information (meaning; structure; visual and grapho-phonic information) and prior knowledge to make sense of a range of texts.
  • Associates sounds with letter clusters as well as with individual letters.

Speaking, writing, and presenting

Processes and strategies

  • Creates texts by using meaning, structure, visual and grapho-phonic sources of information, prior knowledge, and some processing strategies with confidence.

The New Zealand Curriculum: English, level 2 indicators

Listening, reading, and viewing

Processes and strategies

  • Selects and uses sources of information (meaning; structure; visual and grapho-phonic information) and prior knowledge with growing confidence to make sense of increasingly varied and complex texts.
  • Uses an increasing knowledge of letter clusters, affixes, roots, and compound words to confirm predictions.

Speaking, writing, and presenting

Processes and strategies

  • Creates texts by using meaning, structure, visual and grapho-phonic sources of information, and processing strategies with growing confidence.

After two years of instruction, most students will be working at level 1 and towards level 2 achievement objectives.

National Standards

Standard: Reading

After two years at school, students will read, respond to, and think critically about fiction and non-fiction texts at the Turquoise level of Ready to Read (the core instructional series that supports reading in the New Zealand Curriculum).

Standard: Writing

After two years at school, students will create texts in order to meet the writing demands of the New Zealand Curriculum at level 1. Students will use their writing to think about, record, and communicate experiences, ideas, and information to meet specific learning purposes across the curriculum.

Literacy Learning Progressions

Reading

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • decoding unfamiliar words by:
    • using their knowledge of grapheme–phoneme relationships to identify both consonant sounds (for example, s, t, p, sh, th, ch, ng) and vowel sounds (for example, e, a, o, ai, ow, igh, ou, ee)
    • recognising common  chunks of words and making  analogies to words that look similar
    • using their developing knowledge of  morphology (such as knowledge of prefixes and suffixes).

Writing

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • using their developing phonemic awareness to form new words aurally by changing or taking out some of the sounds in a word or by adding new sounds to words 
  • using their  visual memory to spell personal vocabulary as well as high-frequency words, which could include most of the words in essential lists 1 and 2 as well as some of the high-frequency words in essential lists 3 and 4 
  • encoding (spelling) unfamiliar words by:
    • using their knowledge of diverse phoneme–grapheme relationships to write some of the sounds of English in different ways (for example, photolaughFriday)
    • applying strategies such as sounding out words, making  analogies to words that sound or look the same, and using known chunks and rimes
    • using their increasing knowledge of  morphology to correctly spell word endings and other morphemes (for example, greatestflorist)
    • applying their knowledge of simple spelling rules (for example, using -es for plural nouns ending in s, such as buses).

After 3 years at school

What should my students know and be able to do?

The New Zealand Curriculum: English, level 2 indicators

Listening, reading, and viewing

Processes and strategies

  • Selects and uses sources of information (meaning, structure, visual and grapho-phonic information) and prior knowledge with growing confidence to make sense of increasingly varied and complex texts.
  • Uses an increasing knowledge of letter clusters, affixes, roots, and compound words to confirm predictions.

Speaking, writing, and presenting

Processes and strategies

  • Creates texts by using meaning, structure, visual and grapho-phonic sources of information, and processing strategies with growing confidence.

After three years of instruction, most students will be working towards level 2 achievement objectives.

National Standards

Standard: Reading

After three years at school, students will read, respond to, and think critically about fiction and non-fiction texts at the Gold level of Ready to Read (the core instructional series that supports reading in the New Zealand Curriculum).

Standard: Writing

After three years at school, students will create texts in order to meet the writing demands of the New Zealand Curriculum as they work towards level 2. Students will use their writing to think about, record, and communicate experiences, ideas, and information to meet specific learning purposes across the curriculum.

Literacy Learning Progressions

Reading

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • articulating and using a variety of decoding strategies appropriately when they encounter unfamiliar words (for example, by recognising syllables within words or by applying their knowledge of regular and irregular spelling patterns) 
  • knowing the meanings of some common prefixes (for example, un-re-in-dis-) and suffixes (for example, -s-es,-ed-ing-ly-er-less-ful) and understanding how they affect the meanings of words.

Writing

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • encoding (spelling) unfamiliar words by:
    • using their knowledge of phoneme–grapheme relationships, along with their developing awareness of spelling conventions, to select correct spelling patterns for sounds in words (for example, spelling the sound correctly in both catch and kitchen)
    • applying their growing knowledge of useful spelling rules (for example, the rules relating to adding simple plural suffixes such as those in baby/babies and half/halves) and their growing knowledge of morphology (for example, adding a to hear to make heard)
    • applying their expanding knowledge of graphemes (for example, of graphemes such as orawe, oar, and oor, which record similar sounds) to write words correctly.

End of year 6

What should my students know and be able to do?

"Even the most experienced readers and writers will need to use word-level information at times, for example, when trying to decode or encode unfamiliar technical terms. All students, therefore, will benefit from deliberate instruction on how to use the sources of information".

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5 to 8, page 32

At this level, students continue to draw on word-level information to meet the widening range of vocabulary requirements across the curriculum. Use a variety of teaching opportunities to deepen students’ knowledge of how written English works and to build their confidence and awareness.

The New Zealand Curriculum: English, level 3 indicators

Listening, reading, and viewing

Processes and strategies

  • Integrates sources of information and prior knowledge with developing confidence to make sense of increasingly varied and complex texts.

Speaking, writing, and presenting

Processes and strategies

  • Creates a range of texts by integrating sources of information and processing strategies with developing confidence.

The New Zealand Curriculum: English, level 4 indicators

Listening, reading, and viewing

Processes and strategies

  • Integrates sources of information and prior knowledge confidently to make sense of increasingly varied and complex texts.

Speaking, writing, and presenting

Processes and strategies

  • Creates a range of texts by integrating sources of information and processing strategies with increasing confidence.

By the end of year 6, most students will be working at level 3 and towards level 4 achievement objectives.

National Standards

Standard: Reading

By the end of year 6, students will read, respond to, and think critically about texts in order to meet the reading demands of the New Zealand Curriculum at level 3. Students will locate, evaluate, and integrate information and ideas within and across a small range of texts appropriate to this level as they generate and answer questions to meet specific learning purposes across the curriculum.

Standard: Writing

By the end of year 6, students will create texts in order to meet the writing demands of the New Zealand Curriculum at level 3. Students will use their writing to think about, record, and communicate experiences, ideas, and information to meet specific learning purposes across the curriculum.

Literacy Learning Progressions

Reading

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • decoding texts fluently and accurately, using a range of reliable strategies 
  • finding and learning the meanings of unknown vocabulary by using strategies such as applying their knowledge of how words work or seeking explanations in the text or in illustrations.

Writing

When students at this level create texts, they:

  • independently revise and edit their writing to clarify its meaning and add impact, often in response to feedback 
  • proofread to check the spelling, grammar, and punctuation, using appropriate computer-based or print tools.

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • using their knowledge of how words work (for example, knowledge of diverse phoneme–grapheme relationships, of common, reliable spelling rules and conventions, and of the meanings and spellings of morphemes), along with their knowledge of word derivations, to fluently and correctly encode most unfamiliar words, including words of many syllables 
  • correctly spelling all high-frequency words used in their writing.

End of year 8

What should my students know and be able to do?

"Even the most experienced readers and writers will need to use word-level information at times, for example, when trying to decode or encode unfamiliar technical terms. All students, therefore, will benefit from deliberate instruction on how to use the sources of information".

Effective Literacy Practice in Years 5 to 8, page 32

At this level, students continue to draw on word-level information to meet the widening range of vocabulary requirements across the curriculum. Use a variety of teaching opportunities to deepen students’ knowledge of how written English works and to build their confidence and awareness.

The New Zealand Curriculum: English, level 4 indicators

Listening, reading, and viewing

Processes and strategies

  • Integrates sources of information and prior knowledge confidently to make sense of increasingly varied and complex texts.

Speaking, writing, and presenting

Processes and strategies

  • Creates a range of texts by integrating sources of information and processing strategies with increasing confidence.

The New Zealand Curriculum: English, level 5 indicators

Listening, reading, and viewing

Processes and strategies

  • Integrates sources of information and prior knowledge purposefully and confidently to make sense of increasingly varied and complex texts.

Speaking, writing, and presenting

Processes and strategies

  • Creates a range of increasingly varied and complex texts by integrating sources of information and processing strategies.

By the end of year 8, most students will be working at level 4 and towards level 5 achievement objectives.

National Standards

Standard: Reading

By the end of year 8, students will read, respond to, and think critically about texts in order to meet the reading demands of the New Zealand Curriculum at level 4. Students will locate, evaluate, and synthesise information and ideas within and across a range of texts appropriate to this level as they generate and answer questions to meet specific learning purposes across the curriculum.

Standard: Writing

By the end of year 8, students will create texts in order to meet the writing demands of the New Zealand Curriculum at level 4. Students will use their writing to think about, record, and communicate experiences, ideas, and information to meet specific learning purposes across the curriculum.

Literacy Learning Progressions

Writing

They draw on knowledge and skills that include:

  • fluently and correctly encoding most unfamiliar words (including words of many syllables) by drawing on their knowledge of how words work (for example, in terms of diverse phoneme–grapheme relationships, common and reliable spelling rules and conventions, and the meanings and spellings of morphemes) and their knowledge of word derivations.

Published on: 07 Mar 2015




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