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  • Questions &AnswersAuthor(s): John J. PikulskiSource: The Reading Teacher, Vol. 42, No. 8, Empowerment through Literacy (Apr., 1989), p.637Published by: Wiley on behalf of the International Reading AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20200250 .Accessed: 24/06/2014 21:47

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    John J. Pikulski_

    \? I have been hearing and seeing

    references to the terms "phonemic seg mentation1'and "phonemic awareness" in

    discussions of reading and reading read iness. Are these the same as the old term

    "auditory discrimination," or are they something that kindergarten and 1st

    grade teachers should know more

    about? I find the terms confusing. Can

    you give some examples of how to build

    phonemic awareness or segmentation, if they are worth teaching?

    J\.% The term phonemic segmenta tion is part of a larger area of research and instruction called phonemic aware

    ness, which is part of a still larger area

    called metalinguistic awareness. I think some recent research and thinking in these areas go well beyond older notions of readiness and auditory chscrimination and have important instructional impli cations.

    Virtually all children enter kindergar ten with well developed auditory dis

    crimination, that is, the ability to

    perceive subtle phonemic differences that are part of speech. Actually there is some evidence that as early as 1 month infants begin to make phonemic distinc

    tions, even among very similar sounds such as Ibl and /p/. By several months of

    age children begin to manipulate pho nemes so that by the time they produce speech sounds as part of words, an enor

    mous amount of consistent ability to use

    auditory chscrimination is demonstrated.

    However, because phonemes are such a critical part of speech, they are learned so well their use sinks below the level of consciousness. This automaticity is ex

    cellent for speech because no attention to

    the phonemes is required, freeing chil dren to concentrate on interpreting what

    they hear and on composing their own

    messages. Thus auditory chscrimination,

    per se, is not an area that needs instruc tion. It's very well learned.

    One critical thing children must learn as they begin to read Western languages, however, is the alphabetic principle, where letters represent phonemes. Meta

    linguistic awareness refers to con

    sciously thinking about language, not

    just using it. It involves becoming aware

    of some elements of language and how

    they operate. As strange as it may seem, young chil

    dren don't even realize that speech is

    composed of words?the spaces and

    pauses of speech are not at word bounda ries. Perhaps one of the easier tasks of

    metalinguistic awareness is realizing that flow of speech separates into words.

    This may be the beginning of phonemic awareness. Then awareness must spread to the individual sounds that compose

    words. The word cat has both 3 letters and 3 phonemes, but young children cer

    tainly don't know that automatically. Some of the most famous research on

    phonemic awareness has focused on the

    ability to segment words into their indi vidual phonemes. For example, in a

    classic study by Isabelle Liberman and her colleagues, the examiner spoke a

    word or syllable composed of 1-3 pho nemes and the child tapped with a ham

    mer for each phoneme. Children are sometimes asked to put out a marker for each phoneme in a word or syllable. These segmentation tasks correlate well with reading achievement at the end of

    1st grade. While tapping out the num ber of phonemes may seem distantly re lated to learning to read, it may be a

    way to build some prerequisites for

    learning phonics. There are also phone mic awareness tasks in which children

    manipulate phonemes. In one, children are asked to split off a word's initial

    consonant. For example, they may be

    given cat and asked what word would be left if the Ikl were removed. More

    difficult are tasks that ask them to delete sounds from within a word (e.g., what

    would be left if you took the M from


    Perhaps a less demanding task is one

    where children are given 3 words; they are asked to say which is different from the other 2 in its beginning or ending sound. For example, of ball, run, and

    boy, which begins with a sound that is different from the others?

    This type of task was frequently rec

    ommended for auditory discrimination, but it requires more than discrimina

    tion; it requires active comparison of

    the beginning phonemic element and a conscious awareness of how the words differ. A child who would never con

    fuse ball, run, and boy in listening or

    speech might still have difficulty re

    porting which word has a different be

    ginning sound. The exact relationship between pho

    nemic awareness and learning to read has been debated. Some researchers maintain that it develops as a result of

    learning to read. However, in a recent

    Reading Research Quarterly article

    (Summer, 1988), Lundberg and others

    report an impressive study wherein a

    preschool program that developed pho nological awareness had a demonstra ble effect on not only 1st but 2nd grade reading achievement. While some may find the article rather technical, the de

    scription of the program is easy to un

    derstand and has immediate suggestions for instruction (pp. 268-69). And many of the activities sounded like they could be fun!

    If you have questions about the teaching or learning of reading, send them to John J. Pikulski, Department of Educational Development, University of Delaware, Newark DE 19711, USA.


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    Article Contentsp. 637

    Issue Table of ContentsThe Reading Teacher, Vol. 42, No. 8, Empowerment through Literacy (Apr., 1989), pp. 559-656Front MatterA Special Issue on Empowerment through Literacy [p. 559-559]Building Communities of Readers and Writers [pp. 560-567]Dialogue Journal Writing [pp. 568-571]Empowered Students; Empowered Teachers [pp. 572-578]A Young Authors Program: One Model for Teacher and Student Empowerment [pp. 580-583]Taking the Second Step in Reading [pp. 584-590]Visual Interpretation of Children's Books [pp. 592-595]Questions We Ask of Ourselves and Our Students [pp. 596-606]Computers Can Enhance Transactions between Readers and Writers [pp. 608-611]The Teacher's Role in Students' Success [pp. 612-617]Extending Collective Experience into and beyond the Text [pp. 618-622]Research Views: The Whole Language Approach: Teachers between a Rock and a Hard Place [pp. 628-629]Test Review: Test of Early Written Language (TEWL) [pp. 630-631]ERIC/RCS: Teachers as Decision Makers [p. 632-632]Letters [p. 633-633]Emerging Readers & Writers: Assessment and Early Literacy [pp. 634-635]The Printout: Reading Diagnosis via the Microcomputer [p. 636-636]Questions & Answers [p. 637-637]When the Principal Asks: "Why Don't You Ask Comprehension Questions?" [pp. 638-639]Critically SpeakingLiterature for Children [pp. 640-645]Classroom Materials [p. 645-645]Computer SoftwareReview: untitled [pp. 646-647]

    Professional MaterialsReview: untitled [pp. 647-648]Review: untitled [pp. 648-649]Review: untitled [p. 649-649]Review: untitled [p. 650-650]Review: untitled [pp. 650-651]

    Briefly Noted [p. 651-651]

    In the ClassroomIncluding Our Students Acquiring English [p. 652-652]1st and 5th Graders Coauthor Books [pp. 652-653]Reading on the Move [p. 653-653]A Week with Millions of Cats [pp. 654-655]In Defense of "Crabby" Teachers [p. 656-656]

    Back Matter


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