top of page
Phonemic Awareness Instruction

According to Reading Rockets, “Instruction in phonemic awareness (PA) involves teaching children to focus on and manipulate phonemes in spoken syllables and words.

PA instruction is frequently confused with phonics instruction, which entails teaching students how to use letter-sound relations to read or spell words. PA instruction qualifies as phonics instruction when it involves teaching children to blend or segment the sounds in words using letters. However, children may be taught to manipulate sounds in speech without any letters as well; this does not qualify as phonics instruction.”

According to Hattie’s 2022, Meta-Analysis, PA instruction shows a mean Effect Size of .75, which makes it a high yield strategy. However, I wanted to explore in which contexts Phonemic Awareness Instruction works best and how best that can be executed. While the NRP meta-analysis might be out of date, at this point in time, it did include an extremely large amount of data on this topic and I therefore think its findings are still incredibly relevant today. To better understand the topic I charted the NRP outcomes for PA instruction on spelling, reading and phonemic awareness. 

Reading Outcomes:

Spelling Results:

Phonemic Awareness Results


Upon looking at these results, I immediately noticed some trends. Firstly, PA instruction seemed to be the most effective in Pre-K, with increasingly diminishing returns afterwards. While more instruction for PA seemed in general a positive thing, there were diminishing returns for more extended PA interventions, suggesting that there might be an ideal amount of PA instruction. It also seemed that teaching 2 PA skills was better than 1, but that teaching more than 2 PA skills actually yielded worse results. It also appeared that PA instruction worked best as a small group intervention. To better parse out these results, I did a secondary analysis, where I took the mean result across the three measurements, in order to make more specific recommendations. 

Secondary Analysis Results:


While this meta-analysis clearly shows that PA instruction is a high yield strategy, it also shows that it provides diminishing returns in some situations. I think it is therefore reasonable to make the following recommendations based on this data: 


  1. PA instruction should be primarily done in Pre-Kindergarten to Kindergarten, but not beyond, unless individual student needs require it. 

  2. PA instruction should include 2 types of PA skills, no more or less. 

  3. PA instruction should be a minimum in 5 total hours.

  4. PA instruction should be a maximum of 18 hours. 

  5. PA instruction should be ideally taught in small groups.


-NRP. (2001). Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence Based Assessment of the Scientific Literature on Reading Instruction. United States Government. Retrieved from <>. 


J, Hattie. (2022). Meta-X. Visible Learning. Retrieved from <>. 

bottom of page