The Heggerty Phonemic Awareness program is brilliant. It requires very little preparation and the lessons are engaging, quick, fun, and effective. The results speak for themselves, with a majority of students showing improved outcomes in both reading and writing.
Anna Burgess, Wendell H State School, Queensland, Australia
Do all students need instruction in Phonemic Awareness?
Phonemic awareness is a skill that is essential to teaching students to be automatic decoders of print. The Heggerty Phonemic Awareness curriculum provides students with consistent and repeated instruction, and this transfers to developing a student’s decoding and encoding skills.
All students participate in the lessons as part of the Tier 1 curriculum in Preschool, Kindergarten, 1st grade, and some 2nd grade classrooms. Students in 2nd grade and above may still be developing phonemic awareness skills and may benefit from instruction in the areas of blending segmenting, substituting, and deleting phonemes.
The National Reading Panel found more than 50 studies verifying that explicitly teaching phonemes was one critical component of effective reading and spelling instruction. (Moats, 2012)
What separates Heggerty Phonemic Awareness from other literacy curricula?
Our lessons are designed to provide daily instruction in 8 phonological and phonemic awareness skills. We have created an explicit and systematic approach in which students are practicing blending, segmenting, isolating and manipulating words, syllables, onset-rime and/or phonemes each day. Most literacy curriculum currently available places minimal focus on phonemic awareness, only practicing 1-2 skills each day.
The two best predictors of early reading success are alphabet recognition and phonemic awareness. (Adams, 1990) With our curriculum, students receive daily practice in both alphabet recognition and 8 phonological awareness skills. This explicit instruction scaffolds support for students to work with early, basic and advanced phonemic awareness skills. phonemic awareness instruction, along with phonics, provides students with the foundational skills they need to become automatic decoders of print.
How can the lessons be differentiated to meet the needs of all learners?
The instruction provided throughout the daily lessons can be scaffolded to meet the unique needs of all learners. Teachers can provide support for students through teacher modeling of the skills and using kinesthetic hand motions from some skills.
As teachers work with students with special needs, the lessons and skills can be taught with scaffolded support and used to provide targeted instruction. Teachers may select specific components to provide explicit instruction to meet the needs of a student.
Students who excel can be challenged with activities focusing on advanced phonemic awareness skills of deleting and substituting phonemes, which will help them add new multi‐syllabic words to their sight vocabulary.
Can the curriculum be used with English Language Learners?
Yes. Students who have limited proficiency with the English language may benefit from receiving phonemic awareness instruction in their native language. We offer three levels of the curriculum in Spanish as well as in English. For a child who is bilingual, it can be helpful for them to receive instruction in sounds in both English and Spanish. An understanding of sounds in their native language transfers to English as students develop an understanding of their second language. The focus of the lessons is on isolating sounds, blending sounds into words, and manipulating sounds, rather than on vocabulary development.
Can phonemic awareness be used as an intervention?
Yes. Students can also receive explicit instruction in sounds when working with an interventionist for additional support. This may be in addition to the instruction that is provided within the classroom. The interventionist can provide targeted instruction for specific skills and an intervention lesson may last around 5-7 minutes.
All versions of the Heggerty Phonemic Awareness curricula are based on the curriculum that Dr. Heggerty originally developed for his own classroom. The daily lessons in the three English versions contain the same eight phonemic awareness skills: Rhyming, Onset Fluency, Blending, Identifying Final or Medial Sounds, Segmenting, Adding Phonemes, Deleting Phonemes, and Substituting Phonemes. Daily opportunities for working with letter names and sounds are included within a Letter Naming activity, and students work with repeating sentences and nursery rhymes during Language Awareness activities.