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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.

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Phonemic Awareness: In Practice

Which methods of phonemic awareness instruction will have the greatest impact on my students' learning to read?

You can use a variety of teaching methods that contribute to children's success in learning to read. However, teaching one or two types of phoneme manipulation — specifically blending and segmenting phonemes in words — is likely to produce greater benefits to your students' reading than teaching several types of manipulation.

Teaching your students to manipulate phonemes along with letters can also contribute to their reading success.

Your instruction should also be explicit about the connection between phonemic awareness and reading. For example:

Teacher: Listen: I'm going to say the sounds in the word jam — /j/ /a/ /m/. What is the word?

Children: Jam.

Teacher: You say the sounds in the word jam.

Children: /j/ /a/ /m/.

Teacher: Now let's write the sounds in jam: /j/, write j; /a/, write a; /m/, write m.

Teacher: (Writes jam on the board.) Now we're going to read the word jam.


Which of my students will benefit from phonemic awareness instruction?

Phonemic awareness instruction can help essentially all of your students learn to read, including preschoolers, kindergartners, first graders who are just starting to read, and older, less able readers.

Phonemic awareness instruction can help most of your students learn to spell. Instruction can be effective with preschoolers, kindergartners, and first graders. It can help children from all economic levels.

How much time should I spend on phonemic awareness instruction?

You do not need to devote a lot of class time to phonemic awareness instruction. Over the course of a day, your phonemic awareness program should take no more than 15 minutes.

Your students will differ in their phonemic awareness. Some will need more instruction than others. The best approach is to assess students' phonemic awareness before you begin instruction. Assessment will let you know which students do and do not need the instruction, which students should be taught the easier types of phoneme manipulation (such as identifying initial sounds in words), and which should receive instruction in more advanced types (such as segmenting, blending, deletion/addition, and substitution).

Should I teach phonemic awareness to individual students, to small groups, or to the whole class?

In general, small-group instruction is more effective in helping your students acquire phonemic awareness and learn to read. Small-group instruction may be more effective than individual or whole-group instruction because children often benefit from listening to their classmates respond and receive feedback from the teacher.

Do we know enough about the effectiveness of phonemic awareness instruction for me to implement it in my classroom?

Yes. Bear in mind, however, that based on the National Reading Panel report, phonemic awareness instruction is not a complete reading program; it cannot guarantee the reading and writing success of your students. Adding well-thought-out phonemic awareness instruction to a beginning reading program or to a remedial reading program is very likely to help your students learn to read and spell. Whether these benefits are lasting, however, will depend on the comprehensiveness and effectiveness of the entire literacy curriculum.


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

Phonemic Awareness: In Practice
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.

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." — Groucho Marx