Phonological Skills

What is Phonological Awareness?

Phonological Awareness is the first skill identified in reading development. Research has identified five core components to develop efficient reading skills and there is decades of research that has informed program development and teaching methods included in SpellRead.


Learning to read is a complex and sometimes difficult process. Although, we don't think it has to be. For some children, it seems to happen naturally but for others, reading development can be a frustrating and restrictive experience. Parents often feel they have failed their child and children often accept that reading is "too hard" or they "hate reading".

At Halifax Learning we know neither of these statements is true.

The good news is, research has identified five core components to inform effective reading instruction and we're proud to say SpellRead was designed with them in mind. This blog post is the first of a series of blogs about the five core components. Revisit the blog or Download our free guide, "All Children Reading Well" to learn more.

What are the 5 core components in developing reading?

  1. Phonological Awareness
  2. Phonics
  3. Vocabulary Development
  4. Reading Fluency
  5. Reading Comprehension

Let's start at #1. So, what is phonological awareness?

This is the most important skill in learning to read and should be starting to develop prior to the age of 4. Phonological awareness provides the foundation for all other skill development and includes three subset skills:

Awareness, manipulation, and detection of: 

  1. Syllables
  2. Onsets and Rimes
  3. Phonemes

Children with strong phonological awareness can easily manipulate the smallest units of the English language and this skill is a strong indication of later reading ability.  The terms phonological awareness, phonemic awareness and phonics are often used interchangeably. Although they are intimately related, having strong phonemic awareness is only a part of the overarching skill of phonological awareness. Phonemic awareness requires the ability to identify, blend, break apart, and substitute all 44 phonemes in the English language. 

halifax learning reading program reading support tutor tutoring read write spell education literacy

Some examples of tasks to develop phonological awareness include manipulating words and syllables by identifying onsets, rimes, and rhymes.

For example:
Ask a student to synthesize the initial consonant, consonant-blend or digraph of a word (onset) with the remaining vowel and phonemes in the syllable. 

/b/ /at/ = "bath"
/sm/ /art/ = "smart"

Watch this short video from the Institute of Education Sciences for a demonstration. 

halifax learning phonemic awareness spellread

In addition to developing phonological awareness, developing readers also need explicit, systematic instruction in phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency and comprehension. Download our free guide to effective reading instruction and start the path to skilled, confident, reading.

Free Guide


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