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Development of Phonological Awareness Skill

Development of Phonological Awareness Skill
Linda Schreiber
May 19, 2008
IntroductionThe literature is replete with evidence of the value of intact phonological awareness skills as a foundation for speech, language, and literacy development. Phonological awareness has been shown to have a direct relationship to reading achievement (Adams, 1990; Bishop & Adams, 1990; Blachman, 1994, 1997; Catts, 1993; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000; Stanovich, 2000), to written language achievement (Bradley & Bryant, 1985; Clarke-Klein & Hodson, 1995), to the development of expressive speech and language (Bird, Bishop, & Freeman, 1995; Carroll & Snowling, 2004; Gillon, 2000, 2002, 2005; Larrivee and Catts, 1999; Rvachew, Ohberg, Grawburg, & Heyding, 2003; Stackhouse, 1992; Webster and Plante, 1992), and to the development of the speech processing system (Stackhouse & Wells, 1997). In spite of the importance of phonological awareness skill in young learners, the typical development of these skills is infrequently studied as part of university coursework. In addition, veteran educators (including classroom teachers, reading specialists, speech-language pathologists, and learning disabilities teachers) who have been teaching prior to the release of the National Reading Panel Report (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000) and recent research on the value of phonological awareness, may have had little exposure to the development of these important foundation skills. This article presents a definition of phonological awareness, differentiates terminology, delineates the phonological awareness subskills, and presents the sequence of development of skills and age of typical emergence as is suggested in the literature.Definition Phonological awareness is an awareness of the ways 'in which words and syllables can be divided into smaller units" (Goswami & Bryant, 1990, p. 2) or an awareness of the sound system of language that allows an individual to make judgments about, or manipulate sounds and syllables in words (Catts, 2000). A similar term, metaphonological awareness, refers to the individual's ability to talk about and explain his or her use or understanding of the phonological awareness skill. In rhyming for example, a child may rhyme in vocal play but not be aware of the fact that he or she is rhyming. The child's skill becomes metaphonological, if when asked how two words (that rhyme) are alike, the child responds with the fact that they rhyme. Goswami and Bryant describe three levels of phonological awareness of sound within words: syllable awareness, intra-syllable awareness, and phonemic awareness. Intra-syllables are the units we often refer to as onset and rime. Phonemes are the smallest unit of meaningful sound. So for example in the word wishing:the syllables are wish and ing;the intra-syllables are w- (onset) and -ishing (rime); andthe phonemes are /w/ /I/ /ʃ/ /I/ /ŋ/.Note that phonemes are different from letters and the spelling of words. Phonemes represent sounds and although a letter (or grapheme) represents a sound, there is not always one-to-one correspondence, as in the case of the word wishing, where there are 7 letters and 5 phonemes; or in the word fish, where there are 4 letters and 3 phonemes; or in the word extra, where there are 5 letters and 6 phonemes.Phonological awareness is an umbrella term used to describe the overall awareness of how words and syllables can be divided into smaller units. Phonological awareness is comprised of the following skills:Syllable segmentation (segmenting the syllables in words)Syllable blending (blending syllables together to form words)RhymePhoneme blending (blending sounds to form words)Phoneme segmentation (segmenting the sounds in words)Phoneme manipulation (adding, deleting, or changing the sounds in words)Phoneme cluster manipulation (adding, deleting, or changing sounds in a sound cluster)Phonemic awareness is a subcategory of phonological awareness. Phonemic awareness is the awareness that words are composed of phonemes or sounds and that those sounds have distinct features (Torgesen, 1999). Phonemic awareness refers to the last four skills listed; these skills involve hearing, focusing on, and manipulating phonemes in spoken syllables and words. Phonemic awareness instruction can be confused with phonics instruction. Phonics refers to teaching students letter-sound relationships or the relationship among graphemes. Children may be taught to manipulate sounds in speech without any letters so phonemic awareness instruction is not phonics instruction. Phonemic awareness can also be confused with auditory discrimination. Auditory discrimination refers to the ability to recognize whether two spoken words are the same or different, as in dog and log vs. dog and dog.Development of SkillsAccording to Stackhouse and Wells (1997), children develop awareness of the sounds and structure of their language by developing the speech processing system, although an intact processing system is necessary for the development of phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is for the purpose of speaking and also allows children to match their spoken language with the written form of language (i.e., through orthographic and letter knowledge). According to Stackhouse and Wells, phonological awareness skills develop along a continuum, with children relying on their auditory skills for the early developing phonological awareness skills (syllable segmentation, blending, and rhyme), then relying on their articulatory skills (how they produce the word) for the middle stages of phonological awareness tasks (sound blending and sound segmentation), and finally relying on their orthographic knowledge for the upper-level skills of sound manipulation and cluster segmentation. Most children develop phonological awareness incidentally without any instruction (Stackhouse, 1997), though the skills do not necessarily develop in a linear fashion (Sterling-Orth, 2004). In other words, children do not master or become proficient at one skill before developing the next skill. However, phonological awareness skills have a general progression of development and there is flexibility within that progression. The following is the general progression of development:Stackhouse (1997) refines this progression and suggests the sequence is the following:Also, historically the debate has been whether phonological awareness is a prerequisite of literacy or a consequence of literacy. But researchers now believe a reciprocal relationship exists between the two. In other words, phonological awareness skill provides the foundation for literacy achievement but once children begin to read, their phonological awareness becomes even more explicit through their experiences with text. Phonological awareness is not dependent on literacy skill as evidenced by preschool nonreaders' ability to segment words into syllables...

linda schreiber

Linda Schreiber

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