We often hear teachers talk about phonics as this is a big part of the national curriculum in the UK in the early years. Phonics can be defined as the ability to know the sound that a letter represents so helping children to be able to break down words, spell and write effectively. However, before a child can start to ‘map’ sounds to letters in phonics, they need to have developed good Phonemic Awareness.
Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear the individual sounds in words. So, if a child cannot ‘hear’ those individual sounds then phonics is going to be extremely hard if not impossible with knock on effects to their reading and reading comprehension.
There has been further research which has shown that pitch awareness and production are essential to good phonemic awareness skills!
To explain this a bit further, pitch awareness is being able to sing in tune, identify the differences between the tones and to be able to sequence and remember them in the right order.
There can be many reasons why a child’s pitch awareness and phonemic awareness development can be adversely affected, for example, ear infections, blocked ears from colds, auditory processing disorder, but is there anything that we can do to help?
Well, in Fast ForWord Foundations I, we have an exercise which purely focusses on processing of tones and not speech sounds – this is called Sky Gym. The tones are presented at different pitches – high and low and in different combinations. Those students who do not have an awareness of pitch, tone sequencing and poor memory find this exercise very challenging. These are the students who need this exercise the most and once they have mastered this exercise it can lead to massive life changing improvements in reading, language and communication.