Phonemic Awareness Research


National Reading Panel Findings

Major points from the report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction, 2000

  • Phonemic awareness (PA) refers to the ability to focus on and manipulate phonemes in spoken words.... To be clear, phonemic awareness instruction is not synonymous with phonics instruction that entails teaching students how to use grapheme-phoneme correspondences to decode or spell words.

  • Phonemic awareness instruction is effective in teaching children to attend to and manipulate speech sounds in words. PA can be taught and is effective under a variety of teaching conditions with a variety of learners.

  • Findings show that teaching children to manipulate the sounds in language helps them learn to read.

  • PA instruction produced positive effects on both word reading and pseudoword reading, indicating that it helps children decode novel words as well as remember how to read familiar words.

  • PA instruction helped all types of children improve their reading, including normally developing readers, children at risk for future reading problems, disabled readers, preschoolers, kindergartners, 1st graders, children in 2nd through 6th grades (most of whom were disabled readers), children across various SES levels, and children learning to read in English as well as other languages.

  • PA was found to help most children learn to spell, and its effect lasted well beyond the training. However, PA was not effective for improving spelling in disabled readers. This is consistent with other research indicating that disabled readers have a difficult time learning to spell.

  • PA instruction may be [sic] most effective when children are taught to manipulate with letters, when instruction is explicitly focused on one or two types of phoneme manipulations rather than multiple types, and when children are taught in small groups.

  • PA instruction is more effective when it makes explicit how children are to apply PA skills in reading and writing.

  • PA instruction does not need to consume long periods of time. Acquiring PA skills is a means rather than an end.

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