Emergent Literacy Development: Phonemic Awareness Sample Assignment


Emergent  literacy  development  is  an  issue  that  has  received  a  lot  of  attention  in  the  literature  of  education  in  general  and  particulary  in  the  literacy  development  researches.  Scholars  have  investigated  the  factors  that  contribute  to  the  development  of  emergent  literacy  and  many  of  them  agree  that  preschool  experiences  and  certain  areas  that  are  directly  related  to  literacy  such  as  phonological  awareness,  print  awareness  and  oral  language  development  have  a  significant  effect  on  emergent  literacy  development  (Peck  et  al,  2004;  Pullen  &  Justice,  2003;  Allor  &  McCathren,  2003).

It  is  agreed  that  emergent  literacy  development  is  enhanced  with  preschool  children  who  have  the  opportunities  of  having  access  to  language  related  activities  such  as  listening  to  stories,  examining  printed  material  (Peck  et  al,  2004).  It  has  also  been  pointed  out  that  phonemic  awareness  is  a  powerful  predicter  of  reading  fluency.  Phonemic  awareness  simply  explained  is  the  ability  of  being  consciously  aware  of  the  sounds  in  spoken  words.  But  the  following  quote  gives  a  precise  explanation  for  phonemic  awareness:

“A  second  area  of  emergent  literacy  is  phonological  awareness,  the  understanding  that  oral  language  is  made  up  of  sounds  or  groups  of  sounds.  The  process  of  developing  phonological  awareness  begins  when  a  child  recognizes  that  speech  is  composed  of  words  (Pikulski,  1989).  This  understanding  is  then  extended  until  a  child  is  able  to  recognize  that  words  are  composed  of  sounds,  or  phonemes,  and  he  or  she  is  able  to  manipulate  those  phonemes  to  accomplish  various  tasks.  One  of  the  early  phonological  awareness  tasks  is  to  learn  to  recognize  and  generate  rhyming  words.  Another  more  difficult  task  is  to  say  words  with  phonemes  deleted  (e.g.,  Say  meat  without  the  /m/  sound).”  (Allor  &  McCathren,  2003)

In  this  paper  I  am  going  to  review  two  articles  emphasising  the  relevance  of  phonemic  awareness  to  emergent  literacy  development.  This  will  be  discussed  under  two  parts:  a-  Review  of  articles  b-  How  the  theoretical  findings  can  be  applied.

A-  Review  of  Articles

Phonemic  Awareness:  An  Important  Early  Step  in  Learning  To  Read  By  Roger  Sensenbaugh

This  article  mainly  investigates  the  significance  of  phonemic  awareness  in  developing  reading  skills  and  also  in  enhancing  other  skills.  Like  most  of  writers  who  address  phonemic  awareness  he  tried  to  illustrate  the  concept  with  evidence  from  the  literature  and  thus  furnished  a  basic  point  of  reference  for  further  discussions  to  be  built  on.  It  was  impressive  for  as  an  educator  that  he  cited  Adams’  (1990)  five  levels  of  abilities  for  phonemic  awareness.

In  the  next  section  of  the  article  he  addressed  the  question:  why  is  phonemic  awareness  important.  Although  he  starts  with  commonly  accepted  notion  that  phonemic  awareness  is  one  of  the  predictors  for  the  early  reading  acquisition,  he  later  subscribes  to  the  assertion  of  (Stanovich,  1993-94)  “…phonological  awareness  appears  to  play  a  causal  role  in  reading  acquisition.  Phonological  awareness  is  a  foundational  ability  underlying  the  learning  of  spelling-sound  correspondences.”  Yet  in  his  later  attempts  to  cover  most  of  the  literature  he  tends  to  agree  with  other  researchers  who  regard  phonemic  awareness  as  a  necessary  condition  but  not  sufficient;  and  cites  Adams  (1990)  who  points  out  the  necessity  of  linking  phonemic  awareness  to  kowledge  of  print  for  achieving  reading  ability.  Later  in  further  attempts  to  cover  the  literature  he  emphasises  the  role  of  phonemic  awareness  as  prime  one  whether  it  is  adopted  by  whole  language  advocates  or  other  debaters  who  emphasise  phonemic  awareness  as  a  priority.  It  is  clear  that  the  author  covered  the  literature  and  clearly  indicated  the  necessity  of  employing  phonemic  awareness  along  with  other  predictors  and  factors.

In  the  last  section  he  addressed  the  practical  recommendations  under  the  title  “Teaching  methods”  and  continues  to  review  the  literature  and  all  the  recommendations  and  suggestions  for  practical  applications  of  phonemic  awareness  are  from  the  literature.  When  he  tries  to  suggest  classroom  activities  for  teaching  phonemes  or  employing  it  in  teaching  reading,  he  again  relies  on  the  literature  and  cites  the  recommendations  of  Spector  (1995)  &  Yopp  (1992).  In  other  words,  the  only  original  contribution  of  the  author,  which  can  be  taken  as  his  conclusion,  is  the  following  in  his  own  words:  “Spending  a  few  minutes  daily  engaging  preschool,  kindergarten,  and  first-grade  children  in  oral  activities  that  emphasize  the  sounds  of  language  may  go  a  long  way  in  helping  them  become  successful  readers  and  learners.”

Although  the  article  is  a  valuable  summary  of  the  literature  on  the  topic  of  phonemic  awareness,  it  offers  very  little  of  the  ideas  of  the  author  and  his  contribution  as  a  researcher.  When  literature  is  reviewed  it  is  not  expected  to  be  a  chrongical  picture  of  what  has  been  done  so  far,  but  a  critical  review  that  may  point  out  gaps  in  research  and  recommend  further  study  areas.  An  article  that  addresses  a  certain  topic  is  different  to  annotated  bibliography  about  the  topic.  Literature  review  should  be  the  basis  for  discussing  the  issue  in  hand  in  order  to  suggest  practical  solutions  for  using  the  findings  of  research  or  refine  research  findings  in  order  to  justify  further  research.

However,  the  design  of  the  article  under  the  subheadings:  what  is  phonological/phoneme  awareness;  why  is  it  so  important;  relation  to  the  “great  reading  wars”;  and  teaching  methods,  was  the  appropriate  approach  to  inform  the  reader  of  the  literature  and  what  has  been  achieved  as  far  as  the  theoretical  part  of  phenemic  awareness  is  concerned.  The  article  can  serve  as  an  important  reference  for  those  who  investigate  the  term  ‘phonemic  awareness.

2.     Phonemic  awareness  and  young  children;  by  Wasik,  Barbara  A

The  author  identifies  her  audience  (young  children  teachers)  by  justifying  a  gap  in  the  literature  of  ‘phonemic  awareness’  for  the  purposes  of  this  category  of  audience.  Thus  she  designs  her  approach  to  dealing  with  her  title  with  the  teachers  of  young  children  in  mind  and  theefore  her  subheadings  are:  what  is  phonemic  awareness;  what  research  says  about  phonemic  awareness;  the  development  of  phonemic  awareness;  Creating  a  Classroom  Environment  That  Supports  Young  Children’s  Phonemic  Awareness  and  conclusions.  I  liked  her  approach  in  developing  the  article  as  this  made  it  an  invaluable  document  for  all  young  children  teachers  who  are  interested  in  finding  out  the  role  of  phonemic  awareness  in  teaching  reading  to  young  children.

When  explaining  the  term  ‘phonemic  awareness’  although  he  relied  on  reviewing  the  literature,  different  to  others  her  explanations  were  detailed  and  more  vivid  for  her  audience.  For  example  she  quotes  the  definition  of  the  International  Reading  Association  (IRA)  and  the  National  Association  for  the  Education  of  Young  Children  (NAEYC):  “typically  described  as  an  insight  about  oral  language  and  in  particular  about  segmentation  of  sounds  that  are  used  in  speech  communication”  (NAEYC/  IRA,  1998).  It  is  apparent  that  this  explanation  is  more  relevant  to  the  teachers  of  young  children  than  the  relatively  complicated  ones  that  deal  with  contrasts  between  phonic  and  phonemic  terms.

Even  in  her  section  on  ‘what  research  says  about  phonemic  awareness’  she  focused  on  the  relevant  aspects  in  the  literature.  It  is  reported  in  the  literature  that  phonemic  awareness  of  1st  and  2nd  grade  learners  is  directly  related  to  their  subsequent  achievement  in  reading.  She  also  brings  in  evident  that  teaching  the  meaning  of  phonemic  awareness  and  the  practice  of  identifying  sounds  brings  in  effective  results  in  teaching  reading  to  young  learners.  The  following  quote  from  her  article  illustrates:  “Cunningham  (1990)  demonstrated  that  children  who  are  provided  with  an  explanation  of  the  underlying  purpose  and  meaning  of  the  phonemic  awareness  activities  outperformed  children  who  were  not  given  an  explanation  for  the  skills  being  taught.”

The  article  later  develops  into  practical  suggestions  when  dealing  development  of  phonemic  awareness  and  creating  classroom  environments  that  supports  young  children’s  phonemic  awareness.  The  author  illustrates  how  to  develop  awareness  and  with  evidence  from  the  literature  proves  that  phonemic  awareness  progresses  from  simple  recognition  of  rhyming  words  into  more  complex  tasks  of  discriminating  words  with  similar  beginnings  and  isolating  initial  letter  sounds.  Then  she  provides  valuable  practical  suggestions  for  incorporating  phonemic  awareness  tasks  in  classroom  activities.

I  find  it  necessary  to  quote  the  author’s  conclusion  in  this  article:

“Phonemic  awareness  activities  can  be  woven  into  an  early  childhood  classroom  curriculum  to  create  a  seamless  connection  between  regular  classroom  activities  and  those  that  emphasize  sounds  in  words.  Research  suggests  that  children  who  have  adva.”nced  phonemic  awareness  are  more  ready  to  learn  to  read  and  are  more  successful  at  it.  Learning  to  read  is  a  complex  process  that  begins  longbefore  1st  grade.  The  foundation  is  laid  when  the  child  begins  to  learn  language  and  understand  speech  (Wells,  1986).  Teachers  of  young  children  can  facilitate  the  reading  readiness  process  in  a  developmentally  appropriate  fashion  by  providing  opportunities  for  children  to  comprehend  the  relationship  between  sounds  and  words,  as  opposed  to  presenting  concepts  in  isolation.  In  achieving  phonemic  awareness,  young  children  can  develop  a  foundation  for  understanding  sounds  in  words  in  an  appropriate  context  and  through  appropriate  methods.  Children  need  to  learn  phonemic  awareness  by  engaging  in  fun  and  motivating  activities  that  promote  the  recognition  and  manipulation  of  sounds  in  words”

These  are  invaluable  words  for  any  teacher  engaged  in  teaching  reading  to  young  children  and  consulting  the  literature  to  learn  about  phonemic  awareness  relevance  to  teaching  reading  and  how  to  incorporate  tasks  or  games  that  develop  phonemic  awareness  in  his  classroom  activities.

This  article  is  a  piece  of  writing  that  has  achieved  all  the  objectives  the  author  set  in  her  introduction.  As  a  reader  I  would  not  ask  for  more  except  that  I  would  have  found  specific  practical  tasks  or  games  suggested  in  this  article  more  than  helpful  in  initiating  phonemic  awareness  tasks  in  my  classroom.  This  of  course  is  not  a  weakness  in  the  article  but  rather  some  sort  of  asking  for  more.

B-  How  the  theoretical  findings  can  be  applied

Any  practicing  teacher  who  reads  these  two  articles  will  definitely  be  convinced  that  phonemic  awareness  is  only  one  of  the  predictors  for  developing  reading  abilities  but  the  most  important  factor  that  should  be  thoroughly  investigated  and  understood  and  be  applied  in  classroom  environments.  The  first  thing  one  would  appreciate  from  the  literature  review  in  these  two  articles  is  that  phonemic  awareness  is  not  phonic  and  that  it  is,  contrary  to  the  normal  belief  among  teachers,  developmentally  appropriate  to  young  children.  When  the  concept  or  the  term  ‘phonemic  awareness  is  clear  in  the  mind  of  the  teacher  ne  can  confidentally  deal  with  teaching  his  young  learners  to  become  aware  of  phonemes.  The  first  step  here  is  to  differenciate  between  sounds  associated  to  the  alphabet  and  the  phonemes.

Of  course  applying  the  theoretical  findings  in  classroom  cannot  be  attempting  to  explain  the  rationals  in  the  theory.  Not  at  all.  Learners  need  to  develop  the  ability,  skill  or  habit,  whatever  we  call  it,  to  isolate  phonemic  sounds  and  relate  such  knowledge  in  discriminating  pronunciation  and  spelling  of  words.  Another  important  finding  of  the  theory  is  that  learners  should  not  be  engaged  in  drills  of  repeating  sounds  or  memorizing.  The  findings  clearly  indicate  that  playing  with  the  language  and  designing  rhymes  and  games  that  help  the  learners  to  develop  phonemic  awareness  is  the  right  approach  to  teaching  phonemic  awareness.  In  fact,  as  I  see  it,  at  this  level  of  teaching,  i.e,  kindergarten  or  1st  and  2nd  grades,  it  is  imperative  to  make  classroom  activities  fun  rather  than  problem  solving  or  labelling  the  results  of  activities  as  wrong  and  right.

Therefore,  it  is  vital  that  the  teacher  is  well  informed  theoretically  in  order  to  be  able  to  deal  with  the  critical  stage  of  developing  basic  skills  for  the  ‘human  resources’  of  tomorrow.  Teaching  young  children,  which  in  some  developing  countries  regarded  as  the  easiest  type  of  teaching,  is  a  very  demanding  task  and  the  outcome  of  this  level  of  teaching  affects  all  aspects  of  a  nation’s  future,  i.e.  economical,  social,  political,  academical  etc.  Accordingly  the  qualifying  of  teachers  of  this  level  and  carefully  designing  in-service  training  for  me  should  prioritize  as  one  of  the  national  objectives.

What  I  would  take  from  such  theoretical  knowledge  to  my  classroom  is  an  endless  list  of  activities.  Already  teachers  are  familiar  with  the  rhymes  and  the  simple  vowel  sound  drills  in  our  schools.  But  this  theoretical  background  can  enable  young  children  teachers  to  be  creative  and  design  a  number  of  games  and  activities.  It  is  essential  for  the  young  learners  to  develop  the  phonemic  awareness  related  to  vowel  sounds  and  combined  vowel  sounds  (dipthongs)  e.g  /?/  as  in  rat,  or  /??/  ratio.  However,  these  should  be  introduced  carefully  and  progress  gradually  from  simple  to  complex.

A  game  I  would  introduce    for  beginning  young  learners  is  a  game  of  vowel  sounds:

–          First  introduce,  for  example,  the  vowel  sound  /ae/  by  a  set  of  simple  words  e.g.:  man,  pan,  tan,  ran  etc.  Then  give  some  pictures  to  a  group  of  students  and  on  the  board  or  screen  there  will  be        -a-,  which  means  that  there  are  two  letters  missing.  When  the  picture  is  shown  in  a  short  time  of  40  seconds  the  learners  who  will  be  in  two  groups  should  form  the  word  (examples  of  pictures;  rat,  cat,  hat,  man,  fan,  etc..)    at  the  end  of  five  minutes  the  scores  of  groups  will  be  announced.

–          Another  game  can  be  the  deletion  of  the  first  letter  sound  and  pronouncing  the  new  word.  For  example:  meat  becomes  eat,  treat  becomes  eat,  slip  becomes  lip,  flip  becomes  lip  etc..

Precisely,  teachers  who  have  the  opportunity  being  exposed  to  such  literature  and  the  opportunity  of  in-service  training  will  definitely  engage  in  creatively  designing  hundreds  of  games  and  other  classroom  activities.


1.      Wasik,  Barbara  A.  “Phonemic  awareness  and  young  children.”  Childhood  Education.  01  Apr  2001.  128.  eLibrary.  Proquest  CSA.  TORONTO  PUBLIC  LIBRARY.  14  Oct  2008.  ;http://elibrary.bigchalk.com.ezproxy.torontopubliclibrary.ca/canada;.

2.      Sensenbaugh,  Roger  (2000)  “Phonemic  awareness:  an  important  early  step  in  learning  to  read”  Kids  Source  Online  accessed  at  http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content2/phoemic.p.k12.4.html  on  14th  October  2008

3.      Peck,  Alec;  Scarpati,  Stan.  “Literacy  Instruction  and  Research.”  Teaching  Exceptional  Children.  6  2004.  7.  eLibrary.  Proquest  CSA.  TORONTO  PUBLIC  LIBRARY.  11  Oct  2008.  ;http://elibrary.bigchalk.com.ezproxy.torontopubliclibrary.ca/canada;.

4.      Pullen,  Paige  C  ;  Justice,  Laura  M.  (2003)  “Enhancilng  Phonologilcal  Awareness,  Print  Awareness,  and  Oral  Language  Skillls  in  Preschool  Children”  Intervention  in  School  and  Clinic  Vol.  39  No.  2

5.      Allor,  J.  and  McCathren  (2003).  “Developing  emergent  literacy  skills  through  storybook  reading”  Intervention  in  School  and  Clinic,  39,  2,  72-79.


Literacy For The 21st Century

The article “Fostering Emergent Literacy for Children Who Require AAC” by J.C. Light and J. Kent-Walsh discusses the need of children with communication disabilities to be provided with alternative approaches to teaching literacy skills. Official statistics show that more than 2 million Americans have significant communication problems and they face the difficulty of choosing where to learn and how to learn.

The authors argue that literacy skills are very important for children as they provide “a channel for educational assessment and learning, enhance vocational opportunities, promote self-expression, and facilitate independent living”. (Light & Kent-Walsh, p.4) The authors underline that literacy skills provide vocabulary access to AAC systems as far as they are based on alphabet. The access to mainstream technologies will be improved and will give and excellent opportunity for children to bypass the limitation of face-to-face communication.

Literacy skills are of critical importance for children with AAC and the problem is that such children experience challenges in literacy development. The authors recommend immediate intervention to improve literacy development for children with AAC.  Foundations for literacy development are established in pre-school age and with years it is more difficult to become literary developed, especially for children with communication disabilities. During pre-school age children are introduced to books, they develop language skills, learn phonological awareness skills, etc. Therefore, this stage is crucial for children with AAC as they require more detailed reading and writing instruction. (Light & Kent-Walsh, p.4)

Recent researches illustrate that children with communication problems have different experiences which affect literacy skills. In many cases, their adult partners fail to provide supportive opportunities for their children to develop skills within story-telling interactions. Instead of providing access to AAC systems, parents concentrate mainly on mechanical aspects of reading.

The authors indicate that development of literacy skills is the most empowering developments for children with communication disabilities and those foundations are established before formal reading and writing at school. In the age of emergent literacy development, such children should be provided with access to AAC systems to enhance their language and phonological skills. (Light & Kent-Walsh, p.5)

The authors recommend concerted intervention to maximize literacy development of children with communication problems. Research shows that such children are able to participate actively in developing language skills and story-reading interactions with the help of AAC systems. However, the primary challenge is to provide every child with effective instruction and to lay the foundations for later literacy.

I agree with the authors that more extensive research should be done in the filed of developing literacy skills for children with communication disabilities as such children should feel support, assistance and care. Moreover, they should realize they are not aliens in this world and they are provided with the same opportunities as children with normal communication skills.

Of course, children who require AAC systems learn differently and a balanced approach in learning literacy skills is needed. Therefore, we see the article is strongly related to our reading – “Literacy for the 21st Century: A Balanced Approach” – as the author also recommends combination of psychological, physiological and social factors when working with children who require AAC systems. Balanced approach is a combination of interactive, constructivist, response and sociolinguistic theories of literacy learning and it will be of great help for children with communication disabilities. (Tompkins, 2006)

The article stresses the importance of literacy skills, developing new theories of learning and their role in future life of the child. With the help of parents, teachers and professional literature children who require AAC will be able to meet the needs of changing world.


  1. Light, J. C., & Kent-Walsh, J. (2003, May 27). Fostering Emergent Literacy for Children Who Require AAC. The ASHA Leader , 8, pp. 4-5, 28-29.

Tompkins, Gail (2006).Literacy for the 21st Century: A Balanced Approach. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Literacy Learning Of At Risk First Grade Students

            The study was designed to assess the need for literacy intervention services to first grade students. Intervention services are designed to assist students who are performing low in areas of literacy. The benefit of intervention services are improved scores on literacy based standardized tests. The gap between at risk first grade students and average students is a large problem for many school districts. Intervention services attempt to close that gap before it poses a much bigger problem for students.

            The web based program used for this study was chosen because only the data provided by thirty seven teachers was included. The web based program allowed for comparison among the complete data sets received. The surveys chosen to assess the at-risk students were chosen because they included an updated set of norms to be used for comparison. They also assessed a variety of reading and writing skills. Finally, the tests were based on a set of standardized reading books that had already been leveled.

            The study included 148 first graders – 53% were males and 47% were females. The students were assessed using a variety of surveys designed to assess literacy skills. Examples include the Letter Identification Task where students were required to respond to lowercase and uppercase letters and the Ohio Word Test which required students to write as many words as they could within a specific time period. The teachers participating in the study had access to the web site in order to correctly administer the surveys. This program allowed teachers to identify the students who need intervention services.

            The study concluded that students who struggled in literacy and received intervention services improved their test scores. Further, Reading Recovery proved to be an effective measure in identifying the students who needed intervention services. However, there are two limitations to this study. One is the lack of double blind procedure. The second is that the study isn’t representational of the whole country. Overall, this is a well implemented study with interesting results that can lead to further research when working with at risk students.

Schwartz, Robert M. (2005). Literacy learning of at risk first grade students in the reading

            recovery early intervention. Journal of Educational Psychology, 47 (2): 257 – 267.


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