• phonemic awareness: the ability to recognize that spoken words are made up of separate sounds (phonemes, the smallest units of sound), and to manipulate those sounds in speech
  • phonics: the understanding that letters represent the sounds in words
  • phonemes: the smallest units of sound
  • phonological awareness: the ability to recognize that words are made up of a variety of sound units
  • nonsense words: made-up words, used for the phonemic principle being taught
  • sound matching: the ability to match words that begin or end with the same sound


Before watching this video, read the text below. When instructed, watch the video from the beginning to end.

Phonemic awareness is the ability to understand that spoken words are made up of separate sounds, called phonemes—the smallest units of sound, and to differentiate those sounds. Beginning reading skills are based on phonemic awareness, phonological awareness (recognizing that words are made up of a variety of sound units), and finally phonics (letter-sound associations). One way to think about phonemic awareness is that it could be taught in the dark; in phonemic awareness children listen for sounds, while in phonics, children look at letters.

There is a sequence to teaching phonemic awareness skills. Rhyming and clapping syllables is often taught first—children learn to listen for, recognize, and then generate rhyming words. Then they identify beginning sounds, final sounds, and medial sounds.

The ability to understand and manipulate sounds in words is essential to becoming a reader. It is a first step toward understanding the alphabetic writing system. Phonemic awareness is present in good readers and usually absent in poor readers. It must be taught consistently and systematically.  But it can also be taught in fun and engaging ways.

In this 45-minute, self-paced tutorial, you will explore best for teaching phonemic awareness. Two short videos will show seasoned educators using best practices in action. After watching each video, you’ll review and reflect on what you’ve seen and heard.

During this tutorial, you will:

  • Examine phonemic awareness.
  • Explore the best practices for teaching phonemic awareness to young children.
  • Identify ways to teach phonemic awareness with books, poems, and song.
  • Develop games and activities that teach phonemic awareness by focusing on sounds in words.
  • Apply new knowledge to current practices.

First, do a self-assessment to discover what your strengths are and to identify specific skills you'd like to work on.

  1. Download and print the Self-Assessment (PDF).
  2. Complete the first half now, before you begin the training.
  3. Save the sheet with your answers. At the end of the training, you'll complete the second half, compare your "before" and "after" responses, and find out how far you've progressed.

Watch an overview of Having Fun with Phonemic Awareness featuring Eleonora Villegas-Reimers, Associate Professor of Education at Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts.

Download and print the Learning Log (PDF). Use it during the tutorial to answer questions, reflect upon the materials presented, and jot down ideas and insights about how to apply what you have learned to your own learning environment.

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