Phonemic awareness means understanding that speech is made up of individual sounds – phonemes – arranged in a particular sequence. When we pronounce and fluidly blend together the phonemes making up a word, we say a meaningful word. For example, when articulated smoothly and in the proper sequence, the phonemes /k/ – /a/ – /t/ form the word “cat.” Going from individual phonemes to an intelligible word is called phonemic blending.
Phonemic awareness is NOT phonics. Phonics refers to the sounds that letters represent and how these sounds and letters combine to form words. Phonemic awareness
is strictly oral: knowing how to manipulate the sounds in spoken words. Phonemic awareness requires focusing on the sounds of speech, not the meaning. This is surprisingly difficult, because people tend to focus on meaning. Developing phonemic awareness requires attention to meaningless sounds making up spoken words. We are naturally drawn to the meaning of the word “cat” and not to the sounds that mike it up. Ask a young child what sounds he hears in “cat,” and he might look at you puzzled. Or he might say, “meow.”