Phonological awareness is the foundation of reading and writing. As teachers, it’s our job to identify areas of strength and weakness in our students’ understanding and manipulation of the sounds of spoken language. By doing this, we can make sure that we’re meeting students where they’re at and use the best resources and strategies to support their learning.
What is Phonological Awareness?
Phonological awareness is the ability to identify, manipulate, and understand the sounds of spoken language. It is a fundamental skill that is essential for developing reading and writing skills.
Phonological awareness involves the ability to recognise and work with individual sounds, called phonemes, in spoken words. For example, the ability to identify the first sound in a word, break a word down into its individual sounds, blend individual sounds together to form a word, and manipulate sounds within a word.
Why is Phonological Awareness Important?
Research has shown that phonological awareness is critical in learning to read and write. Phonological awareness is important because it helps children to develop the ability to decode words accurately, understand the meaning of words, and express themselves clearly in writing.
If students have poor phonological awareness, they may not know what to do with a word they’ve never seen before. Some students can get away with memorising the spelling of words for a time, but being able to pick apart the sounds in a word is a core skill to being able to decode and understand texts.
There are a range of phonological awareness assessments can be used to identify students who need additional support and to track their progress over time. By providing targeted interventions and support, we can help all of our students develop strong phonological awareness skills and become successful readers and writers.
The Phonological Awareness Screening Test (PAST)
One of my go-to tools for assessing phonological awareness is the Phonological Awareness Screening Test (PAST). It’s a quick and easy assessment that I’ve used it with students of all ages, from kindergarten to year six, and it’s been a valuable tool for identifying areas where my students need extra support.
I had a year-two student who was struggling with reading. He could decode words, but he had difficulty understanding what he was reading. When I administered the PAST, I discovered that he had difficulty with phoneme segmentation – the ability to break words down into individual sounds. Armed with this information, I was able to provide targeted support in phoneme segmentation, and within a few weeks, his reading comprehension improved significantly.
Phonological Awareness Profile (PAP)
Another assessment tool I’ve used is the Phonological Awareness Profile (PAP). It’s a more comprehensive assessment that measures students’ understanding and manipulation of sounds at the phoneme, syllable, and word level.
Many teachers think that phonological awareness is only something to work on with younger students, but I’ve used this assessment with older students who are struggling with reading and writing. It’s been a valuable tool for identifying areas where they need extra support.
Using Phonological Awareness Data to Support Students
Phonological Awareness assessment data can be a valuable tool for teachers to inform teaching strategies and provide targeted support that helps students build their Phonological Awareness skills. You can use this data to decide what tasks you do with your students, how to differentiate, and even if you need to take a step back and start at a different point with your entire class.
It’s important to remember that phonological awareness is one of the core building blocks of literacy. It’s well worth taking the time to get it right before charging on with higher level literacy skills. By tracking your students’ phonological awareness, you can see how they’re progressing and what they need in the moment.