Teaching Of English Through Effective Language Instruction:

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is difficult for ELLs because they may not yet have enough experience with English to be able to distinguish sounds that differ from those of their native language. There are three aspects of phonological awareness when learning to read in a second language that are important for teachers of ELLs to remember and incorporate into their instruction:

ELLs cannot develop phonological awareness in English until they are familiar with the sounds of English not only 26 alphabets.

This means that before explicit instruction in phonological awareness begins, children should have extensive experiences with fun and appealing songs, poems, chants, and read-alouds that will allow them to hear and reproduce the sound patterns of English.

Once explicit instruction has begun, modifications must be made to allow for more practice with sounds that can potentially cause confusion.

These are sounds that either don’t exist in the native language (most of the short vowel sounds of English don’t exist in Spanish, for example), or sounds that are perceived as different in English but the same in the native language (such as /r/ and /l/ for speakers of Japanese, or /b/ and /v/ for speakers of Spanish). Because these differences vary from one language to another, teachers will have to become familiar with which sounds of English will need extra practice, depending on the language backgrounds of their students.

Once phonological awareness has developed in any language, it transfers to other languages that are learned.

Therefore, students who are literate in their native language will not need to develop this skill again in English; they will only need to become familiar with the sounds of English and to learn to discriminate sounds that are different between their native language and English.


Phonics can be problematic because ELLs often have difficulty discriminating between similar sounds, and because the English language does not have a regular system of correspondence between letters and sounds. Here are some issues related to phonics instruction for ELLs, with discussion of their implications:

Systematic phonics instruction can be very effective in helping ELLs, even those at fairly low levels of language proficiency, learn to decode words.

However, this skill does not facilitate reading comprehension if students’ oral language proficiency is not developed to the level of the texts they are expected to read. For this reason, reading instruction should be combined with intensive development of the oral language needed to understand the text.

The most effective reading programs for ELLs combine systematic phonics instruction with a print-rich environment that provides exposure to appealing reading materials in varied genres.

Skills practice that is embedded in meaningful texts helps ensure that decoding skills don’t progress beyond students’ ability to comprehend the text.

Many of the components of phonics instruction need to be modified to meet the particular needs of ELLs.

For example:

  • Before phonics instruction begins, students must have the phonemic awareness skills they need in order to perceive individual sounds in words. This is particularly important for sounds that are problematic because of the native language.
  • Teachers must be aware of whether a students’ native language uses a non-Roman alphabet or is non-alphabetic. Even if ELLs have had no instruction in reading in the native language, environmental exposure to a different writing system can negatively affect the ease with which they learn to recognize the letters of the English alphabet.
  • ELLs must be able to hear and reproduce English sounds with a degree of accuracy commensurate with their pronunciation abilities, before they are taught to make associations between those sounds and particular letters.
  • It is helpful to explicitly point out different letter combinations that have the same sound, and provide extra practice with them. Multiple spellings of the same sound can be very confusing for ELLs, particularly if they have had some reading instruction in a language such as Spanish, which has almost completely regular sound-symbol correspondences.
  • Teachers must pay attention to the meanings of the words used to teach phonics skills. Teaching students to decode words they don’t know only reinforces the idea that “reading” is pronouncing sounds out loud rather than creating meaning.
  • Automatic recognition of frequent words is very important for ELLs, whether the words follow phonics rules or not. Although ELLs may develop good decoding skills, their lack of total proficiency in the English language will always slow them down somewhat. Automatic recognition of words can help mitigate this difficulty.
  • For reading blending and segmenting practice at an early age is recomended.

Most ELLs will need additional time to master phonics. Given the need for extra practice to learn to hear and produce the sounds of English, to learn the meanings of the words used in phonics instruction, to learn the multiple combinations of letters that make the same sound, and to learn many more sight words than English speakers need, additional time for phonics instruction should be built into reading programs for ELLs.

Leading Phonics Program Providers

There is a relatively small body of very complete programs that have been widely used in schools and learning centres . These are listed below. There is an increasing number of programs available for computers and online. The quality of these products varies dramatically.In Pakistan leading reading programs are:

Education Department Approved Programs:

The following phonics programmes were approved by the Department for Education in England, because they conform to the English government’s criteria for assuring high-quality phonic work:

A list of Full Phonics Programmes and Supplementary Phonics Resources approved by the Department for Education in England can be found on the UK Government website page entitled ‘Phonics: choosing a programme

Jolly Phonics Pilot Projects In Pakistan:

Phonics Club have organised “Pilot Schools” in Pakistan jointly with Jolly Learning UK .These pilot schools(private and government) are associated with Punjab Education Foundation,AFAQ and ITACEC.

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