Stages of Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

Mother and young daughter reading on a bed

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Literacy researchers have identified a number of phonological and phonemic awareness skills and the stages in which they typically develop.

Phonological awareness refers to the recognition that words are comprised of sound units, or phonemes, and can be broken down into syllables.

Categories of Phonological Awareness Skills

While the specific skills and their names differ in the literature, phonological awareness skills generally fall within a set group of categories. Learn more about them with this roundup.

Words and Rhyming

Word Segmentation: This is the ability to recognize the distinct words in a sentence. A child who has developed word segmentation skills can tell how many words are in a sentence.

Recognition of Rhyming: This is the ability to recognize the common sounds in words such as the /og/ sound in "frog", "dog", and "log."

Production of Rhymes: This is the ability to produce rhyming words when asked. For example, when asked to give a word that rhymes with "boy," a child might respond with "toy."

Mastery of Syllables

Syllable Recognition: This is the ability to recognize that words are made up of groups of sounds as in jum…ping.

Practice syllable recognition by having the child place their fingertips on their chin. When the are talking and their chin moves down, that is a new syllable.

Syllable Deletion: This is the ability to recognize the part of a word that is left when a syllable is removed. For example, if the syllable "buil" is removed from the word "building," then the syllable "ding" is left.

Syllable Substitution: This is the ability to recognize that new words can be made from word parts. For example, with the word "sailboat," the word "sail" can be replaced with "tug" to make the word "tugboat."

Sound Skills

Sound Recognition or Phoneme Recognition: This is the ability to recognize the individual sounds in words. For example, in the word "house," there are four sounds, h, o, w, s.

Sound Imitation: This is the ability to repeat sounds when given a spoken model. For example, when a teacher makes the ss sound, the child repeats the ss sound.

Sound Isolation: This is the ability to recognize an individual sound at the beginning, middle, or end of a word. For example, the child would recognize the b sound in the beginning of "bat," the middle of "able" or the end of "web."

Sound Blending: This is the ability to recognize a word when given the sounds that make it up. For example, when given the sounds fff, rrr, ooo, ggg, the child would recognize the word "frog."

Sound Segmentation: This is the opposite of sound blending. This is the ability to identify the individual sounds in a word. Given the word "run," the child would recognize the sounds rrr, uuu, nnn.

Sound Substitution: This is the ability to recognize that by changing individual sounds in words, new words can be made. For example, the word "cat" can become "sat" by changing the initial sound from /k/ to /s/. The word "rug" can become "rub" when the /g/ sound is replaced with /b/.

1 Source
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  1. International Literacy Association. Phonological Awareness in Early Childhood Literacy Development. 2020.

By Ann Logsdon
Ann Logsdon is a school psychologist specializing in helping parents and teachers support students with a range of educational and developmental disabilities.