Knowledge, Skills, and Practices concerning Phonological Awareness among Early Childhood Education Teachers

Article excerpt

A sample of 83 kindergarten teachers participated in this study to examine their knowledge, skills, and classroom practices concerning phonological awareness. Analyses of data revealed significant gaps between knowledge and practice, knowledge and skills, and skills and practice. The gap between knowledge and skills, on one hand, and classroom practices, on the other hand, was significantly noticeable, an indication that participants did not practice, in reality, significant proportions of their knowledge and skills during teaching. Analyses showed that in-service training affected the result of this study and that skills in phonological awareness predicted classroom practices.

Keywords: kindergarten teachers, observations, phonological awareness, practice, self-reporting

**********

Researchers revealed that children who do not receive good literacy preparation and come from homes with poor literacy experiences may be at risk for reading failure as they progress in schools (e.g., Dickinson & Tabors, 2001; see Justice & Ezell, 2001). One important aspect of literacy preparations is teaching children phonological awareness (PA) (Ball & Blachman, 1991; Blachman, Tangel, Ball, Black, & McGraw, 1999; Lonigan, Burgess, & Anthony, 2000), which deals with the degree of sensitivity that children have toward sounds in the language being used. Children who possess good PA have the ability to manipulate and detect sounds in words, independent of their meanings.

Researchers have identified the significant role of PA instruction in developing children's reading abilities (e.g., Ball & Blachman, 1991; Lyon & Moats, 1997; Pratt & Brady, 1988; Stanovich, 1991; Torgesen, 2002; Wood, 1999, 2000). After conducting a 2-year study, Bradley and Bryant (1983) reported that receiving explicit instruction in PA positively influenced reading ability. Authors mentioned that training in alphabetic principles, rhyming, identification of words, and alliteration strongly and positively affected children's reading ability. Stanovich (1986) mentioned that children with higher levels of PA skills progressed in their language skills better and quicker than those who started with little or low levels of PA skills. Peterson and Haines (1992) found that the effects of teaching kindergarten children PA skills in the form of orthographic analogies, based on alliteration and rhyming, varied according to whether or not the children were able to segment words. Orthographic analogy is performed by giving children a clue word (e.g., "beak") to help them read a new word (e.g., "peak") that shares a rime unit or an onset unit (e.g., "beak"-"bean") with the clue word. It amounts to decoding unknown words, phoneme by phoneme, based on knowledge of spelling patterns of known words. Foorman and Moats (2004) reviewed research-based practices in early reading instruction and found that PA--along with letter-sound identification and rapid naming, vocabulary knowledge, and word reading--are valid predictors for the identification of children at risk for reading problems (see also Torgesen, 2002). Finally, Vloedgraven and Verhoeven (2007) found, in a recent study, that rhyming performance, phoneme blending, phoneme identification, and phoneme segmentation are vital aspects of PA. These authors revealed that phoneme segmentation appears to be the most difficult and discriminating task, yet informative of children's PA ability, while rhyming performance appears to be the easiest task. However, the authors stated that the discriminating power of phoneme segmentation declined considerably as children enhanced their PA abilities in first grade, due to the start of literacy instruction with a focus on phonics.

In this context, instruction in PA and in phonological skills significantly improves reading and spelling, not only in normally developing children who have no academic problems, but also in poor readers who need special attention (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000). …