Phonemic Awareness and Phonics

Difference Between Phonemic Awareness and Phonics

Simplified: phonemic awareness is only concerned with the sounds of a word, while phonics explores the relationships between sounds and letters. Thus, it will be complicated for a learner to develop their skills in phonics without having basic phonological and phonemic awareness skills.

In order to understand the value of phonemic awareness and phonics, it is essential to acknowledge that reading is not a natural process, which means that individuals do not learn to read the same way they learn to speak. Because of this, it is crucial to specifically teach students how sounds work in words, which represents phonemic awareness, and how the sounds connect to the letters that are seen in print, which represents phonics.

Meeting Developmental Needs

Phonemic awareness and phonics instruction do not replace each other; instead, both skills are essential for teaching students how they can accurately and automatically decode words. Both aspects of instruction represent strong determinants of success that children will experience in learning to read as well as the subsequent achievement in writing. To help children meet their developmental needs, it is essential to implement activities to build sound skills and identify barriers to achievement that should be addressed.

From kindergarten through third grade, reading instruction must emphasize word decoding until students meet the developmental need of becoming fluent readers. In the partial alphabetic phase of reading, children will start understanding that words are made from individual sounds so that they can learn the letters representing sounds. As students move forward into the full alphabetic stage, they start using such skills as segmentation and blending for decoding and encoding words.

Using Technology for Phonemic Awareness

To support phonemic awareness of students at home, technologies offer abundant tools to be used by students and their parents on a regular basis. The following are some of the tools:

  • Reading Rockets. Offers activities for teaching both phonemic and phonological awareness. Contains abundant resources for young children to learn to read, address their struggles with the process, as well as engage adults into helping.
  • Alphabet Organizer. Enables students to build their phonemic awareness by using the tool both at school and at home. Students can create alphabet charts or books with words for each letter, upload relevant images, and make visual connections between words and letters.
  • Get Ready to Read. A website for supporting early childhood literacy that allows for individualized instruction based on the needs of students. Includes offline activities and can be used both for whole-class and individual assignments through an interactive interface.

Phonics Skills Activities

Besides developing and perfecting phonemic awareness, it is also crucial to introduce learners to different phonics activities to give kids “a leg up” on spelling and writing. The following are the activities for improving phonics skills:

  • Sorting Activities. Such activities are excellent for students to practice their phonics knowledge. For example, learners can be asked to sort objects into different categories labeled with the initial consonant sounds, while more advanced students can work on consonant blends.
  • Bingo. A versatile game that can be used for practicing sound and letter recognition among young learners. The grids of bingo cards can include initial consonants, vowels, or pictures of nouns, while learners are asked to fill in their grids according to sounds that are being read to them.


Both phonics and phonemic awareness are instrumental for addressing the learning needs of children while also helping avoid the literacy gap that prevents them from becoming proficient readers who can succeed in their future learning (Shapiro & Solity, 2016). The rationale behind choosing the activities mentioned in the digital handout is concerned with the need for assignments to be engaging and interactive, as well as have high levels of versatility so they can fit the needs of learners with different skill levels. In addition, the suggested activities can be used both at home and in the classroom.

When choosing suitable activities, differentiation is crucial because it allows aligning the assignments to students’ needs (Bondie, Dahnke, & Zusho, 2019). As a result, young learners are more likely to have high levels of engagement, become less frustrated with the process, as well as be less bored. For teachers, the differentiation of activities is essential because it can improve behaviors in the classroom, allowing for more time focusing on connecting with students.

To support all learners, activities can be modified in terms of levels of engagement, levels of difficulty, as well as degree of teacher support. Mastering phonemic awareness skills for some children can be difficult because of their slowly developing oral or language skills. There are learners that are not able to effectively enunciate some of the phonemes to which they are being exposed in their oral language (Sánchez, Lutz, & Pérez, 2019). In addition, it may be a challenge for children to facilitate their phonemic awareness in the classroom only without practicing it at home. It is essential that parents or caretakers are engaged in the learning process of children to facilitate a multi-dimensional and immersive learning process that does not end in the classroom.


Bondie, R., Dahnke, C., & Zusho, A. (2019). How does changing “one-size-fits-all” to differentiated instruction affect teaching? Review of Research in Education, 43(1), 336-362. Web.

Sánchez, M., Lutz, M., & Pérez, N. (2019). English vowel sounds: Pronunciation issues and student and faculty perceptions. Actualidades Investigativas en Educación, 19(3). Web.

Shapiro, L.R. & Solity, J. (2016). Differing effects of two synthetic phonics programmes on early reading development. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 86, 182-203. Web.

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