Praxis Elementary Education Exam—Phonological Awareness

By Carla C. Kirkland, Chan Cleveland

You will probably encounter a question or two that involve phonological awareness on the Praxis Elementary Education exam. Phonological awareness is a broad skill involving sound recognition.

Beginning readers start by learning the individual sounds, or phonemes, in spoken words. For example, the word cat has three phonemes: /c/ /a/ /t/. A beginning reader learns to hear and repeat each sound in isolation and then to repeat a sound heard within a word. Putting sounds together, or blending them, follows. As readers progress, they learn to make new words from existing words by adding or switching sounds.

A related skill involves segmenting the sounds. Beginning readers learn to segment a word into all its sounds—for cat, that would be /c/ /a/ and /t/. Readers also work with larger parts of a word, blending the beginning, or onset, /c/, with the vowel + consonant, or rime, /at/.

The familiar word “rhyme” refers to words sounding alike, such as kale and pail. But these words do not have the same “rime.” The word rime refers to a part of a word, the part that begins with a vowel sound and ends before the next vowel sound. The rime of kale is /ale/; the rime of pail is /ail/.

What other strategies might you use to help students gain phonological awareness? In addition to direct instruction, scaffolding may be very useful. Scaffolding begins with the teacher instructing the student and then gradually moving from occasional prompts to a release, where the students can blend and segment on their own, with previously learned phonemes. When new phonemes are learned, the teacher may need to begin the scaffolding process from the start, depending on the student.

Other useful strategies to help students with phonics include oral language games involving rhymes and saying nursery rhymes together.