Five Essential Skills That Are Crucial for Effective Reading Instruction

Phonemic Awareness | Systematic Phonics | Fluency | Vocabulary | Comprehension

Teacher and student working on phonemic awareness skills

Why Is Phonemic Awareness Important?

Reading at its most elemental level is about sounds. Written words are a series of phonograms or pictures of sounds. To read a word, students need to be able to blend the sounds into a word.

Many struggling readers, however, try to memorize whole words, which often results in guessing when encountering an unknown word.

Teacher and student practicing phonemic awareness skills

The first step in teaching anyone to read is to develop the student’s awareness of how sounds are produced and how all spoken words are made up of sounds. Logic of English provides a granular progression of skills to help develop the student’s understanding of words and sounds and to build their confidence.

As students learn phonics, they should continue to deepen their phonemic awareness skills by:

  • Learning to identify the first, last and medial sounds
  • Substituting sounds
  • Blending and segmenting two, three and four-syllable words

How To Teach Phonemic Awareness

As students learn phonics, they should continue to deepen these phonemic awareness skills:

Kinesthetic Awareness of Sounds

English phonemes (sounds) are made by shaping the mouth into different positions and turning the voicebox on or off. An awareness of how sounds are produced supports reading and spelling instruction.

Distinguish and Identify Sounds

To be able to read and spell, students need to recognize and distinguish the sounds in the language. A kinesthetic awareness of sounds helps students feel the differences when it is difficult to hear them.

Blend Two Words Into a Compound Word

By auditorily blending two words into a compound word (with no print involved), students are introduced to the idea that words can be broken apart and put back together.

Blend One-Syllable Words Without a Consonant Blend

The skill of blending is foundational to reading. Students should practice blending consonant-vowel-consonant words until they are able to easily and quickly recognize the words.

Blend Two Consonants

Many students struggle to read words with consonant blends. By practicing the skill of blending consonants in isolation, students develop a foundational skill needed to decode these words.

Blend One-Syllable Words With a Consonant Blend

Practicing blending one-syllable words with consonant blends helps to build confidence and teaches the foundational skills needed to read words with consonant blends.

Segment One-Syllable Words

As students master blending one-syllable words, they are ready to begin segmenting them. The ability to segment a spoken word into its individual sounds is the first step in being able to spell it.

Initial Sounds

Once students have mastered the skill of segmenting one-syllable words, they are ready to identify the initial sound. Changing the initial sound to create new words builds further upon this skill.

Final Sounds

Identifying the final sound is a bit more difficult than identifying the initial sound. As students practice each step, they become increasingly aware of the sounds in words and able to identify, isolate and manipulate the sounds in words.

Medial Sound

Identifying the medial vowel sound is difficult for many students. This results in students misspelling vowels. Learning to accurately hear and identify vowels in the context of words prepares students to become strong readers and spellers.

Blend Multi-Syllable Words

Blending multi-syllable words is more difficult than blending one-syllable words. Blending practice with multi-syllable words is beneficial for beginning readers as well as for any student struggling to read longer words.

Segment Multi-Syllable Words

As students become comfortable segmenting one-syllable words, increase the difficulty by adding multi-syllable words. This skill is vital for learning how to spell longer words.


Rhyming enhances the enjoyment of language and word play. However, it is not a prerequisite for developing strong reading skills(1). Logic of English recommends formal instruction in rhyming skills once students have developed the more foundational phonemic awareness skills.

Logic of English curriculum based on the Science of Reading accessible in print-, downloadable- and online-friendly formats.

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Cited Sources

(1) Brady, Susan. “A 2020 Perspective on Research Findings on Alphabetics (Phoneme Awareness and Phonics): Implications for Instruction.” Edited by Louisa Moats and Ed.D. The Reading League Journal 1, no. 3 (2020): 20–28.