Spring into Literacy: Teaching Phonological Awareness

Recently I have been working on phonological awareness skills with a 1st grade speech fluency student who also has difficulty with reading decoding and reading fluency. I provide services for an older elementary school student as well with language impairment that struggles immensely with basic literacy skills. From my observation, this is not an area that all speech-language therapists address. However, literacy is a part of our scope of practice according to ASHA.

These literacy areas are considered appropriate roles and responsibilities for SLPs: 1) preventing written language problems by fostering language acquisition and emergent literacy 2) identifying children at risk for reading and writing problems 3) assessing reading and writing 4) providing intervention and documenting outcomes for reading and writing 5) providing consultation to teachers, parents, students about effective literacy practices

Woah! Did you realize how in depth our responsibilities can extend in the area of literacy?  SLPs can assist with reading & written expression. Say what? I know we have a lot on our plates working with the listening and speaking components of literacy so to think about helping with reading and written expression may be a bit daunting.  After all, the resource special education teachers directly teach that for our IEP kiddos.

Nevertheless, a few years ago, I decided to get additionally training in the area of reading. I quickly observed that many of my students with speech-language impairment had a language based learning disability in the areas of reading and writing. Therefore, I completed a Georgia State University reading endorsement certification program. I learned valuable reading assessment and instruction best practices in this program that I can use when I provide consultation for students in the RTI process. It also helps me know what to do as I directly address phonological awareness with students from time to time.

So, what is phonological awareness? This is the term used to describe essential literacy skills that require a child to manipulate syllables, words, and sounds. These are auditory skills that generally begin at age three and are typically mastered by ages 6-7 if a child does not have a reading disability.

Here is what an SLP can do to teach this skill:
1) create word lists of rhyming and non-rhyming words
*Tell the child 2-3 words. Then ask, “do these words rhyme?”
*Give a child a target word and ask “What rhymes with ____?”

2) create word lists for syllable counting (segmentation) activities
*Tell and show a child a word and ask “How many syllables are in these words?”

3) create word lists with compound words and other multi-syllabic words * Have kids combine syllables to express words. For example, say “What word do you hear when I say hot…dog?

What is phonemic awareness? This is a component of phonological awareness and involves skills such as phoneme blending, phoneme segmenting, phoneme deletion, phoneme substitution.

Here are tips on how to work on these 4 skills:
*Use letters that you can manipulate such as these foam letters from Dollar Tree.

1) blend or combine sounds to say words
c-a-r, w-a-t-ch, b-o-o-k, p-e-n-c-i-l, p-l-a-y

2) verbally segment or separate sounds when given words
mom, dad, crayon, water, bear

3) verbally delete or omit a sound from a word to say a new word
say plate without /p/, say mat without the /m/

4) verbally change a sound to another sound
say /hat/, now take away /h/ and  add /b/  or change /h/ to /b/
say /sun/, now take away /s/ and  add /f/ or change /s/ to /f/

I highly recommend Hearbuilder Phonological Awareness program. It is available as an iPad or iPhone app or as paid subscription for use on the internet.

I hope you learned some new information or refreshed your memory about how to teach phonological awareness skills. These can be used in speech-language therapy sessions or shared while consulting with general education teachers as they deliver RTI interventions in the classroom.

Thanks for reading the blog today!

Tamara Anderson

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Reference: Lanza, Janet; Flahive, L. (2012) Guide to Communication Milestones. East Moline, IL: LinguiSystems, Inc.

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