To become a good reader a child needs to know letters and corresponding letter-sounds. He/she also needs to retrieve these linguistic items from the memory (rapid automatized naming or RAN) and keep them in short-term memory. Finally, phonological awareness is a skill that is also needed.
Phonological awareness is a skill that includes identifying and manipulating units of oral language-parts such as words, syllables, and sounds. Also onsets and rimes in English. Children who have a good phonological awareness are able for example to identify and make oral rhymes, can clap out the number of syllables in a word, or can recognize words with the same initial sounds (some-sit).
Phonemes (letter-sounds) are the smallest units in spoken language. Phonemes can be combined to form syllables and words. For example, the word ‘sit’ has three phonemes: /s/ /i/ /t/. Phonemic awareness is important because it is the foundation for word recognition skills. When a person relates letter-sounds to letters he/she is able to form written words. This skill is especially useful in transparent orthographies like Bantu languages, Finnish or Spanish where the correspondence of letters and letter-sounds is very high and stable. English is not transparent because the spelling of most words is very different from the way they are pronounced (e.g. eye /ai/). Phonemic awareness is one of the best predictors of how well children will learn to read and spell.
Phonological awareness includes the following skills:
When assessing and training phonological awareness it is important for the teacher or therapist to know what kind of skills the pupils already have and what kind of skills still need more practice.
The following tasks are useful for both assessment and training. Examples are in English, but you can see the tasks in local languages here.
Training phonological awareness
Start training from easy tasks like rhyming. Also, tasks with syllables are usually easier than tasks with phonemes.