Phonemic awareness is the basis for learning phonics. So, for parents and educators who teach reading and writing, it’s very important to become fluent in all the phonemes and pass this fluency on to learners. To brush up on your phonemic awareness, I invite you to watch and listen to my new video. It covers 44 American English phonemes and 4 blends. Enjoy!
Before researching phonemic awareness, I only consciously knew the phonemes for the single-letter consonants, short vowel sounds and long vowel sounds. I did not realize, for example, that consonant digraphs like /ng/, /sh/, /ch/ and /th/ were phonemes. I also did not realize that vowels paired with an R like /er/, /ar/, /or/, /ear/ and /air/ were phonemes.
Knowing the difference between phonemes and blends can really help in segmenting and blending exercises. For example, it would be easy to make segmenting harder by failing to recognize r-controlled phonemes. Those fluent with the 44 phonemes would model the segmenting of the word ‘bird’ as /b/ – /ir/ – /d/, which easily blends back together as bird. Those without fluency would model the segmenting as /b/ – /i/ – /r/ – /d/, which does not blend back together as ‘bird’ and can lead to a belief that phonics doesn’t work and only applies to the simplest of words, which truly is not the case. In fact, a complete approach to phonics can explain 98% of all English words.
My video includes 4 blended sounds in addition to the 44 phonemes for two reasons. First, since long U, QU and X are so core to the alphabet, it’s important to recognize that they are NOT phonemes. Instead, they are blends of two smaller units of sound. Specifically, long U (pronounced like you and yew) is a blend of consonant y and long double O. QU is a blend of /k/ and /w/. X can either be a blend of /k/ and /s/ or a blend of /g/ and /z/. Secondly, I included EUR for the /yr/ sound in order to complete the list of r-controlled sounds in English. The other r-controlled sounds in my video ARE phonemes, but EUR like the /yr/ in Europe is a blend because it begins with a distinct consonant /y/ sound.