Saturday, July 24, 2021

Phonological Awareness vs. Phonics

Are you new to working with young children? Maybe you are needing a refresher on phonological awareness. Read on . . .

Phonemic Awareness

What is Phonemic Awareness? Phonemic Awareness is a group of skills in identifying sounds and using sounds to blend or break the individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. Early childhood educators spend a substantial amount of time building these oral skills.


What is Phonics? According to,  phonics is “the teaching of correspondences between letters or groups of letters and their pronunciations. Decoding is the process of converting printed words to spoken words. Readers use phonics skills, beginning with letter/sound correspondences, to pronounce words and then attach meaning to them.” Reading, spelling, and writing are phonic skills, all related to the written word.

How is phonics different from phonemic awareness? Phonics is the connection between sounds and written symbols. Whereas young learners begin with phonemic awareness by making sounds and forming words.

Phonological Awareness

Phonological Awareness is the overall umbrella that includes phonemic awareness skills. It is the set of skills that are essential for children to become successful readers. Educators spend a great deal of time helping children to build these skills in Pre-K, Kindergarten, and 1st grade.

Knowledge of Letter Names

Knowing letter names is strongly related to children's ability to remember the forms of written words and their ability to treat words as a sequence of letters that belong together.

Have you heard of the alphabetic principle?

Most children begin to learn letters between the ages of 3-4. 

So, it becomes key to begin to expose them to the world of letters. The Alphabetic Principle is the understanding that there are relationships between letters and spoken sounds.

In the book, Know Better, Do Better, Dave and Meredith Liben say, “It is not an option to skip or shortchange phonemic awareness! Children without mastery of it will inevitably struggle.” So, when we observe our students having difficulty, we tend to put them into interventions focusing on phonics and we leave out the phonemic awareness. A solid phonemic awareness instruction needs to be provided for our young learners.

They learn letter shapes as they play with blocks, playdough, plastic letters, and alphabetic books. This is a developmentally appropriate approach in which children have many hands-on and engaging opportunities to see, play with, and compare letters. This leads to letter learning. 

Children appear to acquire alphabetic knowledge in a sequence that begins with letter names, then letter shapes, and finally letter sounds. Children learn letter names by singing songs such as the Alphabet Song, letter chants, reciting rhymes, and letter poems.

This is where phonological awareness begins to take place with planned instruction that includes activities in which children learn to isolate sounds (beginning, middle, end), segmenting sounds, onset-rime, blending sounds, substituting, and deleting sounds. 


I have created resources to help students with these skills. Short Vowel Onset and Rimes Worksheets give students the opportunity to practice matching and sorting.  They can also play with the Onset and Rime Boom Cards and Google Slides.

      Then we take these skills and connect the oral part with phonics to reading and writing through writing letters, words, and passages. 

  • Teach letter-sound relationships explicitly and in isolation.
  • Provide opportunities for children to practice letter-sound relationships in daily lessons and in playtime.
  • Give children a variety of activities to see, hear, touch, write letters and sounds.
As educators, we need to help young learners recognize and discriminate letters. Give your students as much exposure to letters as possible. As they begin to master letter recognition, we bring in letter sounds and teach that these can be beginning, middle, and ending sounds.
To help with this, I have created some products that will give your students practice with letter recognition and matching to beginning sound pictures and ending sounds as well!  Letter Sound Recognition Activities and Letter Sound Recognition Center Activities.

Kindergarten has been where a big part of my heart has been in my years of teaching kids. I continue to work at creating more teaching resources that will help you meet the needs of your students. My goal is to make your job just a little bit easier!

How to Blog Like a Boss? You will get great ideas on how to write an effective blog!

Take a look at these Alphabet Activities that you find on Customize My Classroom.

The Kindergarten Zone has some things to consider About the First Day of Kindergarten.

Smiling and Shining in Second Grade gives My Top 5 Activities for the First Day of School.




  1. Thank you for sharing this was full of information! Many of these terms I was not fully aware of!!

    1. You are very welcome! So glad to hear that this is helpful information!