Learning is essential for student mental development and the elements of learning are applied to ensure this. More specifically, phonics and phonemic awareness comprise the first stages of learning involving various activities and student assessment tests to facilitate adequate learning in students.
Key Words: Elements of Learning, Phonemic Awareness, Phonics
In education, there are five essential elements of reading including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary development and reading comprehension strategies (Schwanenflugel et al., 2006). These elements are critical for ensuring effective reading and learning for students in the basic classroom setting. Just as teaching principles demand, each of these elements requires plenty of instructor-student participations and comprises of diverse learning and assessment activities. At the outset, phonemic awareness requires than students learn how to speak, and the assessment at this stage is through oral examinations. Just like phonemic awareness, phonics demands that a student learns the association between speaking and writing. At this stage, students are taught how to write what they speak, with assessment tests at this stage including written examinations. With fluency, student assessment is based on their understanding of both spoken and written language, and the accurate application of this (Ranson et al., 1996). Assessment in this stage requires that students demonstrate accurate reading, expression and phrasing.
Vocabulary goes beyond the basic language and revolves around knowledge of words and their definitive contexts. Assessments include written and oral examinations with the use of specific words to test student understanding of these words. Lastly, comprehension refers student understanding of the taught subjects and is usually based on scientific research (Schwanenflugel et al., 2006). Here, students receive comprehensive assessment tests for educational and professional development.
This paper examines the first two elements of reading, phonics, and phonemic awareness. Illustrating their importance to learning, the paper also draws attention to the elements’ differentiated strategies, as well as, activities and assessment for each strategy.
To understand phonemic awareness as an element of reading, one must consider the concept of phonemes, which refers to a diminutive, segmental unit of sound and utterance. Essentially, phonemic awareness refers to student ability to recognize and apply phonemes in their reading (Ehri et al., 2001). Put simply, phonemic awareness refers to individual ability to discern, assume, and work with distinct sounds in spoken words. In reading, student ability to hear and recognize sound is the first step towards successful learning and performance. Students need to demonstrate their knowledge of language through the use of spoken sound effortlessly.
Differentiated strategies in language and dialect include strategies used for students with special needs such as ELLs, students with disabilities, as well as, gifted students. The main differentiated strategy for phonemic awareness is the individualized approach to instruction to ensure superior phonemic awareness in students (Ehri et al., 2001). When students begin their education, they demonstrate different levels of phonemic awareness, and for that reason, phonemic awareness is highly individualized to bridge this gap. For example, a gifted student’s level of phonemic awareness may be different from that of an ELLs level. Notably, the child demonstrating low levels of phonemic awareness should be given the most personalized attention. Individualizing phonemic awareness allows educators to meet specific student needs, and is the greatest indicator of future reading and learning abilities in students.
There are five main manipulative and group activities for phonemic awareness including rhyming, syllable segmentation, sound isolation, beginning sound substitution, and phonemic segmentation (Ehri et al., 2001). Rhyming refers to student ability to recognize sounds that are similar in sound for example kit and hit. Rhyme promotes knowledge and understanding of phonemes in language and dialect. Segmentation of syllables assists students in indentifying individual sounds in a word, whereas, isolation refers to recognizing individual sounds in words. Substitution refers to student recognition of substituted words in rhyming, in this case, recognizing that ‘h’ substituted ‘k’ when rhyming the words kit and hit.
Assessment and assessment tools in phonemic awareness are related to the activities provided at this stage. Likewise, different activities have different assessment tests including rhyming assessment tools, assessment of phoneme identification, isolation and substitution, as well as, assessment of student syllable segmentation abilities (Ehri et al., 2001).
One fundamental principle of learning and education is monitoring and ensuring student progress with regards to what he or she is taught. In phonemic awareness, instructors need to monitor the progress of students pertinent to recognition and application of different sounds (Ehri et al., 2001). Owing to its individualized strategic outlook, instructors teaching phonemic awareness need to ensure that their students can recognize and speak words effectively and efficiently.
Relatable to phonemic awareness, phonics involves students’ ability to relate the words that they speak, and the letters that make up the word/sound (Nunes et al., 2001). This is the basic educational element for reading and writing, and the main tool used for teaching is the alphabet. As a learning element, phonics is important for assisting students in realizing the systematic and conventional relationship between speaking and writing. Basically, phonics involves student familiarization of letter-sound associations, which is important in ensuring proper learning in students.
This element of reading suggests two main differentiated strategies to promote student learning. These strategies include word construction and reading aloud, and are used for both groups, and individual students in the classroom (Nunes et al., 2001). Individual strategies facilitate individual learning by students, whereas, the group setting is meant to encourage apposite communication by the student. Word construction allows students to use the alphabet to create words familiar to them as sounds. For example, after learning the alphabet, a student will be able to spell the word with relation to the letters that make up sound in the word. Reading aloud, on the other hand, helps in recognizing student knowledge of letter sounds, and the combination of these sounds to come up with words.
Notably, there are three main group activities including letter-sound-word associations, analyzing sound-letter correspondences and speech (Nunes et al., 2001). The former activity requires that students recognize the different letters in a word, their sounds, and blending theses sounds to come up with a word. This is closely related to word construction as it requires that students have the ability to recognize all letter sounds and use them to create words. Activities in this case may include learning the alphabet, word games, and digraph phonics among other things. Analyzing sound-letter correspondences allows students to understand the different spellings of words without necessarily having to relate these letters to the sound. Conclusively, speech requires that the student is able to read and speak what he or she reads accurately. Speech promotes learning in that, students are able to read and speak gradually, hence promoting learning in students.
Just like in phonemic awareness, assessment of phonics is related to the activities used to facilitate learning. In this case, assessment may include, word construction assessment, reading assessments, as well as, writing assessments (Nunes et al., 2001). These assessment tests can be administered both orally and in writing to ensure that students have properly understood lessons regarding phonics.
Instructors and educators ensure student progress through active engagement of the student in phonics. The more the engagement, the greater the chances of student comprehension, thus, ensuring student learning (Nunes et al., 2001).
Ehri, L. C. (2001). Phonemic Awareness Instruction Helps Children Learn to Read: Evidence
from the National Reading Panel’s Meta-Analysis. Reading Research Quarterly, 36(3): 250-287.
Nunes, S. R. et al., (2001). Systematic Phonics Instruction Helps Students Learn to Read:
Evidence from the National Reading Panel’s Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 71(3): 393-447.
Ranson, S. et al., (1996). Towards a Theory of Learning. British Journal of Educational Studies,
Schwanenflugel, P. J. et al., (2006). Becoming a Fluent and Automatic Reader in the Early
Elementary School Years. Reading Research Quarterly, 41(4): 496-522.
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