First Year Teacher Self-Study Course

First Year Teacher is a self-paced professional development course for novice K-3 teachers, developed by Reading Rockets. The program provides teachers with an in-depth knowledge of reading so they are prepared to guide their students into becoming skilled and enthusiastic readers.

Photo of teacher and students

Phonemic Awareness: Intro

Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify, hear, and manipulate the individual sounds in spoken words. Manipulating the sounds in words includes blending, stretching, or otherwise changing words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become aware of how the sounds in words work — and that words are made up of speech sounds, or phonemes.

Phonemes are the smallest parts of sound in a spoken word that make a difference in the word's meaning. For example, changing the first phoneme in the word hat from /h/ to /p/ changes the word from hat to pat, and so changes the meaning. (A letter between slash marks shows the phoneme, or sound, that the letter represents, and not the name of the letter. For example, the letter h represents the sound /h/.)

Children can show us that they have phonemic awareness in several ways, including:

  • Recognizing which words in a set of words begin with the same sound
    ("Bell, bike, and boy all have /b/ at the beginning.")
  • Isolating and saying the first or last sound in a word
    ("The beginning sound of dog is /d/." "The ending sound of sit is /t/.")
  • Combining, or blending the separate sounds in a word to say the word
    ("/m/, /a/, /p/– map.")
  • Breaking, or segmenting a word into its separate sounds
    ("up – /u/, /p/.").

Adapted from: Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read, 2001)

Phonemic Substitution

Dr. Louisa Moats and kindergarten teacher Virginia Campbell practice a phonemic awareness activity focusing on substituting letters within words.

Phonemic Awareness: Intro
Diary of a First Year Teacher

Diary of a First Year Teacher

Join Barbara Zielinski, a first grade teacher at River Plaza Elementary School in Middletown, NJ, during her first year teaching.

"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." — Jorge Luis Borges