Introduction. Learn more: National Reading Panel (NRP) Frequently Asked Questions:

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1 Introduction For many years, a sight word approach was considered the most effective way to teach students with significant cognitive disabilities. However, when a sight approach is the only method being taught, the students do not acquire the strategies needed to identify words that are not in their sight word vocabulary. They are limited to only the words they have been taught. The National Reading Panel (NRP) issued a report in 2000 to provide an evidenced-based assessment of the scientific literature on Reading and its implications for reading instruction. The findings of this report provide analysis and discussion in five areas of reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and text comprehension. While this panel did address low-achieving students, it is likely that this did not specifically include students with severe/profound disabilities, who are the focus of this document. Because these areas have been identified as central to learning to read, they should be considered as a component to reading instruction for all students. Learn more: National Reading Panel (NRP) Frequently Asked Questions: Phonemic awareness is a skill that is typically taught in preschool, kindergarten and first grade. Current research has shown that phonemic awareness training can also benefit older students who struggle with reading. Yet, many students with significant disabilities have not been exposed to phonemic awareness instruction. We are suggesting that phonemic awareness instruction should be taught with all emerging and early readers. We will also consider modifications that can be implemented with students who struggle with oral communication, thus will have difficulty responding to phonemic awareness in typical modes of expression. For non-verbal students, the development of phonemic awareness may be a process of learning an adult s voice in their head. The Unique Learning System TM provides a variety of early phonics skills within the Elementary and Intermediate grade bands. These do not, however, constitute phonemic awareness training. This guide will suggest ways that phonemic awareness activities can be integrated into all reading instruction at all grade bands, while using the current materials that are provided with the Unique Learning System. ULS, August 2012 Page 1 of 10

2 What is Phonemic Awareness? Phonemic Awareness is the ability to notice, think about and work with the individual sounds in spoken words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become aware of how the sounds in words work. They must understand that words are made up of speech sounds, or phonemes. Children who have phonemic awareness skills are likely to have an easier time learning to read and spell than children who have few or none of these skills. If children are to benefit from phonics instruction, they need phonemic awareness. Without being taught, typical young children grasp that language is used to express thoughts. Eventually, they learn to identify individual words and then the syllables that make up those words. They can drag out the pronunciation of a word, clapping on each syllable. Then they learn to hear onsets the initial consonant sound of a word and rimes the vowel and ending sound. For example, in the word cat, the /c/ is the onset and /at/ is the rime. But hearing onsets and rimes isn t enough for children to become readers. They must be able to hear the individual sounds in words the phonemes. The word cat is one syllable with three phonemes: the initial /c/, the vowel /a/ and the ending sound /t/. Frequently, phonemic awareness is confused with phonics. They are not the same. Phonemic awareness is a precursor to using phonics. Phonics involves knowing the letter or letters that stand for the phonemes, recognizing letters in print and being able to associate the sound that those letters usually stand for. In other words, phonemic awareness is speechbased, whereas phonics is print-based. This presents some obvious challenges for our students who have difficult speech patterns and/or who do not have any speech ability. To become literate, the student must grasp the alphabetic principle which means that the sounds we hear in words in English can be represented by written symbols. Decoding, which is required for reading, involves looking at a print symbol and associating it with a sound. Encoding, which is required for writing, involves hearing a sound and knowing what symbol, or letter(s), to write to represent that sound. Phonemic awareness is critical to both decoding and encoding. ULS, August 2012 Page 2 of 10

3 Activity # 1: Words in a Sentence Select a sentence from one of the unit stories. Segment sentences into words: Model: We catch the ball = we catch the ball. Say the sentence. Students will segment the words of the sentence. Motor support: Clap the segmented sentence. Visual support: Use the color sentence card to touch a color as each word is spoken (This card may be folded to show the correct number of spaces for a sentence with fewer words.) For students with motor and speech challenges, provide the model with supports and aided participation. Blend words into a sentence: Model: We catch the ball = We catch the ball. Say the segmented words from the sentence. Students will say the complete sentence. Motor support: Clap the segmented sentence. Visual support: Use the color sentence card to touch a color as each word is spoken (This card may be folded to show the correct number of spaces for a sentence with fewer words.) For students with motor and speech challenges, provide the model with supports and aided participation. *Present the printed words/sentences to reinforce word recognition ULS, August 2012 Page 3 of 10

4 Activity # 2: Syllable in Words Select one, two, three and four syllable words from unit stories and vocabulary. Segment syllables in a word: Model: together = to ge ther. Say the word. Students will say the word in syllables. Motor support: Clap the segmented word. Visual support: Use the color syllable card to touch a color as each syllable is spoken. (This card may be folded to show the correct number of spaces for a word with fewer syllables.) For students with motor and speech challenges, provide the model with supports and aided participation. Blend syllables into word: Model: to ge ther = together. Say the word in segmented syllables. Students will say the word. Motor support: Clap the segmented word. Visual support: Use the color syllable card to touch a color as each syllable is spoken. (This card may be folded to show the correct number of spaces for a word with fewer syllables.) For students with motor and speech challenges, provide the model with supports and aided participation. *Present the printed words and picture or symbol to reinforce word recognition. ULS, August 2012 Page 4 of 10

5 Activity # 3: Onset and Rime Blending Select words with a rhyme/rime from unit stories and vocabulary. Blend segmented onsets and rimes into words: Model: /g/ /ame/ = game Say the word in segmented onset/rime. Students will say the word. Motor support: Clap the segmented word Visual support: Use the color syllable card to touch a color as each onset/rime is spoken. Present three picture choices. Students will point to the picture of the word that is modeled in segments. Model: /g/ /ame/ Present pictures for selection. goat game girl For students with motor and speech challenges, provide the model with supports and aided participation. Look for response to select a picture that is presented with the segmented word. ULS, August 2012 Page 5 of 10

6 Activity # 4: Phoneme Blending Select words with two, three and four phonemes from unit stories and vocabulary. Blend segmented sounds into the word: Model: /g/ /ay/ /m/ = game Say the word in segmented sounds. Students will say the word. Motor support: Clap the segmented word. Visual support: Use the color sound card to touch a color as each segmented word that is spoken. Letters may be written on the circles. (This card may be folded to match the number off phonemes/sounds in a word.) Present three picture choices. Students will point to the picture of the word that is modeled in segments. Model: /g/ /ay/ /m/ Present pictures for selection. goat game girl For students with motor and speech challenges, provide the model with supports and aided participation. Look for response to select a picture that is presented with the segmented word. ULS, August 2012 Page 6 of 10

7 Activity # 5: Phoneme Categorization Select words and pictures from unit stories and vocabulary that begin with the same sound and some that do not. Pick a Pair: Present three pictures and words where two begin with the same sound. Say: run, red, ball Which two words begin the same? Student will say words or point to pictures. Adding the printed word to each card will not make it a pure phonemic awareness activity; however, some students may require the visual support of letter matching to hear the like sounds. Students with speech challenges will need to hear the model as the voice in their heads. Look for response to select pictures that begin the same. ULS, August 2012 Page 7 of 10

8 Activity # 5: Phoneme Identification Select words and pictures from unit stories and vocabulary that begin with the same sound. Same Game: Present three pictures and words where all begin with the same sound. Say: fix, fun, fall What sound do you hear at the beginning? Student will repeat the words and say a sound heard at the beginning. As a phonemic awareness activity, the letters are not presented. Students with speech challenges (even with articulation errors) need to hear the model provided by an adult or another student who can pronounce the words. Support phonemic awareness by becoming the voice in their head. ULS, August 2012 Page 8 of 10

9 Activity # 5: Phoneme Substitution Select words and pictures from unit stories and vocabulary that are rimes. Change Up: Present three pictures and words that are word rimes. Say: big, wig, pig. Let s start with big. Change the first sound to /w/. What word will you have? Present pictures for the student to select the word. Say the word wig. Continue to make the word pig. As a phonemic awareness activity, the letters are not presented. However, some students may do better with the visual presentation of the word, and physically changing the initial letter as the words are spoken. ULS, August 2012 Page 9 of 10

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