Word Recognition View

By: C.Q. Wilder

June 3, 2014

The word recognition view is how I taught phonemic awareness in my classrooms. According to Freeman & Freeman (2004), students need to be taught phonemic awareness skills, names and sounds of letters, phonic rules, sight words, and structural analysis skills. These components help students identify words. The focus for this article is on phonemic awareness.

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is the ability to isolate individual letter sounds in words. Phonological awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate phonemes in a given word.

There are eight types of tasks that are taught in schools (Adams, 1990; Freeman & Freeman, 2004; Rasinski & Padak, 2000) and that can be extended at home.

Phoneme isolation 

Phonemes are the sounds in a word. Phoneme isolation is the ability to isolate the individual phonemes in a word. For example, I can ask a child, “I have the word cat. What is the beginning or first sound in the word cat?” The answer is the sound of the letter /c/. If the child says the letter “c” have them actually say the sound of the letter, not name the letter.

To be able to master this task, a child must understand what the word is, hear the individual phonemes, correctly identify each phoneme, and repeat the phoneme correctly back (Herrera et al., 2010, p.48).

Phoneme Identify

According to Block & Israel (2005) and Burns (1999), “The task of phoneme identity requires students to recognize, identity, and match the same sound in a series of different words” (as cited in Herrera et al., 2010, p. 50) For example, you can ask a child, “What is the same sound you here in the words hat, house, and hop?” They should respond with the sound not the letter. The answer is the phoneme for /h/.

To master this task, a child will need to understand what the word is in English, hear and say the phoneme, and repeat back the phoneme sound (Herrera et al., 2010, p. 51).

Phoneme Categorization

Phoneme categorization is the ability to recognize the one word in a sentence that doesn’t make sense or sounds odd. For example, you can ask, “Which word doesn’t sound like the others?  Dog, Spoon, Door, Dot?” The correct answer is spoon because it has a different beginning sound which means that it different than the other given words.

To master this task, a child will need to be able to determine the meaning of the words, identify the phonemes in the given words, and then compare the phonemes amongst the others to determine which one doesn’t belong (Herrera et al., 2010, p. 52). This stage might take more practice, especially if the child is struggling with phonemes or letter identification.

Phoneme Blending 

Phoneme blending, according to Block & Israel (2005), is the ability to listen to isolated phonemes and combine them together to form a word. For example, you can ask, “What word would am I saying if I say the sounds /d/-/o/-/g/?” The answer is dog. Mastery level on this task supports children’s ability to decode when reading. A great way to help students master phoneme blending is to tap out the sounds with their fingers or on their arm.  Of course, you would have to model this expectation first and then have the child repeat.

Phoneme Segmentation 

Phoneme segmentation is the ability to isolate individual phonemes within a word (Herrera et al., 2010, p. 55). For example, you can ask “What sounds do you hear in the word hot?” They should respond with isolated or individual sounds: /h/ /o/ /t/.

To master this task, a child will need to understand the words, segment words by their individual phonemes, and hear each phoneme. (Herrera et al., 2010, p. 55).

The use of Elkonin box’s are a great resource. For more information on Elkonin boxes go to: http://www.readingrockets.org/strategies/elkonin_boxes

Phoneme Deletion  

According to Block & Israel (2005), “Phoneme deletion tasks require students to recognize the word that remains when a phoneme is removed from the larger original word” (as cited in Herrera et al., 2010, p.59). For example, you can ask, “What word is left if I take the initial or beginning sound /s/ from stalk?” The answer is talk.  This can also be used with compound words. For example, “I have the word rainbow. What is rainbow without rain?” The answer is bow. This process can be accomplished with the deletion of individual phonemes or a whole word. Achieving master level with phoneme deletion is a good predictor of reading achievement (Adams, 1990).

Phoneme Addition 

This is the opposite of phoneme deletion. Here, children make a new word by adding a phoneme to the existing word (Block & Israel, 2005). For example, you can ask, “If I have the word “hot” and I add the /s/ sound to the beginning, what is my new word?” The answer is stop. This is a great rhyming support tool. The best way to target both ideas is to use word families. Examples of word families include but are not limited to: olt, ild, ank, ig, at. For example, you can have on a piece of paper the -at ending sound and the child can add in new phonemes for the beginning sound. So, some new words could be: sat, hat, bat, chat. A fun song that I like to sing with kids is, “Sat change the /s/ to a /h/ makes Hat. Hat change the /h/ to a /b/ makes bat. Bat change the /b/ to /ch/ makes chat.”

Phoneme Substitution 

Phoneme substitution is the ability to replace a phoneme for another to create a new word (Block & Israel, 2005). This can be used for the beginning and ending sound. For example, you can ask to substitute the beginning sound by saying, “If I have the word cat, and change the /c/ to a /b/, what is my new word?” The answer is bat. For the ending sound, you can ask “If I have the word cat, and change the /t/ to a /b/, what is my new word?” The answer is cab. This is a very hard task for many child. It takes concentration and a strong understanding in isolating phonemes to just be able to identify which place the sound is in (beginning or ending) and then to switch the sound to create a new word. You will have to practice this concept a lot and I would begin with easy C/V/C (consanent, vowel, consanent) words like cat, hot, car, etc.


Herrera, S.G., Perez, D.R., & Escamilla, K. (2010). Teaching reading to English language learners: Differentiated literacies. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.