Research Supports Teaching Phonemic Awareness To Older Students

phonemic awareness instruction for older studentsOften phonics instruction is used primarily in kindergarten and first grade. But should it stop there? New research reveals that teaching phonemic awareness to students in 2nd grade, as well as English language learners of all ages, is beneficial to reading development.

The research confirming this finding can be found in the article titled, Older Children Need Phonemic Awareness Instruction, Too, which defined phonemic awareness as "the understanding that speech is composed of a series of individual sounds. … Having phonemic awareness allows students to distinguish the sounds that letters make individually and together when creating words."

The study found that phonemic awareness instruction is beneficial for second graders and English language learners because they are still developing their understanding of phoneme relationships.

In fact, the study found that teaching phonemic awareness to English language learners helps them progress with their reading skills at a faster rate than with alternative instruction.

The article made these bold statements about the relationship of phonemic awareness and learning to read:

“Phonemic awareness is both a prerequisite for and a consequence of learning to read.”

“Research suggests that phonemic awareness is the best single predictor of students’ reading success.”


The article also referenced the National Reading Panels criteria for Phonemic Awareness instruction:

  • Focus on 1-2 phonetic skills at a time
  • Base instruction on students needs
  • Help children manipulate the phoneme (sound) with the grapheme (letter)
  • Carefully plan and teach skills in a very clear & specific manner (explicit instruction)
  • Include activities that actively involve students in experimenting with language

If you are interested in incorporating phonemic awareness into your reading instruction, Reading Horizons offers the following reading resources that can be used to teach phonemic awareness:

Word Builder Practice Tool ›

42 Sounds Card Kit ›

strategies for teaching explicit phonics