Shifting The Balance: Phonemic Awareness

Ya’ll! I am so excited to join my friend Abby from Kindergarten Chaos for our annual summer book study. This summer we’re reading the book, Shifting The Balance.

We have all been hearing about the “science of reading” or “SOR” lately. We’ve all heard about balanced literacy. And probably, we’ve heard about “the reading wars.” Guess what? I don’t believe any of these are the singular magic bullet for teaching reading. I believe in using the best approaches and combining the tools to make teaching the best it can be. Can I learn from all approaches? Absolutely. And that is the purpose of this summer book study! We’re going to learn and grow and add more tools to our toolbox! Also, what you won’t find is Mr. Greg saying you did it wrong or you should never do this or that. I know we see that on social media but I know we’re all doing what is best and we’re all learning and improving and we’re all on this journey together!

We chose this book because “SOR” is the buzzword in education right now and we wanted to dive in and learn how to improve our reading instruction. As we complete our book study this summer, we will be sharing our takeaways, our questions, and changes we’re making in our own instruction!

Shift 1: Phonemic Awareness Instruction

Overall, for me, this shift is a reassurance of what we’ve been doing in our classroom! We have intentional phonemic awareness routines built into our day every single day. Phonemic awareness can be part of our morning meeting, it’s part of our TKS BOOTCAMP curriculum, we have oral blending and segmenting built into our literacy blocks, and more! It’s always reassuring to know that we’re following best practices! But we also know we can continue to grow and improve!

Here are my takeaways from Shift 2!

Articulation And Where Sounds Are Formed

This is an area that comes up in our classroom for some sounds (such as TH/F, etc) but isn’t an intentional part of our phonemic awareness. After teaching with a mask on for a year, I’ve seen how important this skill is. I noticed we struggled more this year with phonemic awareness and that’s because they couldn’t see my mouth. Towards the end of the year I did start removing my mask for phonics and phonemic awareness( while maintaining 6 feet from the students) so they could see my mouth and when I did this, it definitely helped. We will be adding in more intentional work with articulation and discussing how our mouths look and feel.

Adding Phonemic Awareness Activities To Transitions

Even though transitions in our classroom are pretty efficient, it’s still a minute or two each time. And while I do not believe that every single minute of every single day should be academic, a few times a week it’s ok to add in some phonemic awareness into transitions. My favorite from the book (pg. 59) is “Guess my secret word!” As students are coming to the carpet, you say the sounds in a word and students blend the sounds to say the word. I can see this being fun and encouraging them to come to the carpet faster!

Increase Deletion Activities

This is something that we do not do in our classroom. This is an area of definite improvement. We do a lot of phonemic awareness work where we delete a sound and a new sound but we don’t do any where we just delete a sound. This is something we will be adding into our whole group and small group lessons.

Phonemic Awareness In Our Classroom

TKS BOOTCAMP-with our TKS BOOTCAMP we have phonemic awareness built into each lesson. For ABC BOOTCAMP, our phonemic awareness is identifying the onset sound in words. For the remainder of our TKS BOOTCAMP curriculum, phonemic awareness is oral blending and segmenting. After we do the phonemic awareness we move to the phonics component of Bootcamp!

word family bootcamp

Change your name-This is a daily phonemic awareness game in our classroom. It’s fun, it’s fast and it’s easy. As part of our morning literacy routine, we change our names. The Boss Of The Day picks a sound. Each child then changes their name to that sound. For example: if the Boss picks “z” then Mike becomes Zike. The kids love this and I love the daily phonemic awareness practice!

Morning Meeting-this year, as part of our virtual morning meetings and our in-person Covid morning meetings, we had to adjust the activity part of our morning meeting. So we added in phonemic awareness activities which really helped my students! Here are some ideas for bringing phonemic awareness into your morning meeting:

  • Oral blending-I would say the sounds and students blended them into words
  • Oral segmenting-I would say the word and students would say the sounds and identify the number of sounds
  • How many sounds?-This was a beginning-of-the-year activity that the kids loved. I would knock and the students would count the number of sounds. While, not phonemic awareness, this activity helped us to hear and count sounds.
  • Same or different?-This was another beginning of the year activity that isn’t necessarily phonemic awareness but again builds that foundation. I would make two sounds (I actually used Adelynn Rose’s music instrument set for this!) and students would identify them as the same or different!
  • Sound sorts-we do these in small groups and they make a huge impact with my kids! Great for phonemic awareness, great for vocabulary and great for identifying sounds!

One Final Thought…

On page 58, the authors discuss the importance of clean pronunciation of every phoneme. This means not adding the “uh” sound at the end. And we all know this is important. But I’m going to say something controversial: We. are. all. human. And mistakes happen. None of us are perfect and occasionally the uh sound comes out. Guess what?? It’s ok. As long as we’re not adding that sound every single time, it’s ok. Don’t be hard on yourself for this. And let’s be real: teaching with a mask on made this so difficult. Because of the masks, we had to be louder which made it harder not to say the “uh” sound. And guess what? We still learned to read and write!

Now I want to hear your thoughts! Leave your thoughts in the comments and make sure to join us on Facebook for our discussions about the book and what we’ve learned!

For more information and ideas, check out these blog posts:

Also, be sure to visit Abby at Kindergarten Chaos for her thoughts on Shift 1!

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