Okay, today I have my crankypants on.
There is so much in our press about how poor our school results are, how children are not being taught the basics, how the levels of literacy are becoming ever lower, that one would assume that educators would be looking for ways to address the problems.
Why then, is it so hard for the powers that be to see the elephant in the room? There is little to no specific teaching of phonemic awareness in our schools. Pre-service teachers are not being taught how to teach reading. They are being taught about literacy and literacy programs, about the four resources model, about whole language (Gasp!) but they are not being taught how to teach a child to decode and encode the language.
These same pre-service teachers are returning from practice periods in schools and reporting that they feel “lost’ and ‘inadequate’ when faced with the teaching of reading.
Phonemic awareness refers to the ability of listeners to hear, identify and manipulate phonemes, the smallest units of sound. Even experienced teachers think phonemic awareness is just another name for phonics. Phonemic awareness is not phonics. Phonemic awareness is auditory and does not involve words in print.
Within the phonemic awareness elements children learn to hear the smaller parts in spoken words, to identify placement, to blend, segment and manipulate speech sounds and to pronounce speech sounds more easily. They learn to spell words according to speech sounds, using lines to represent the speech sounds – ready to make choices with regards to speech sound pics. The biggest predictor of reading and spelling difficulties is poor phonemic awareness, which could be called ‘voice blindness’.
As part of a literacy program this approach builds the base for reading/spelling success for all students, including autistic and dyslexic children. It is fun for the children. They see themselves learning quickly. Success breeds success.