[September 2018 Update: There’s new app called Funny Phonemes by our own Greg McDonald specifically designed to make phonemic awareness training more fun for older students. Check it out!]
The importance of phonemic awareness in learning to read and the value of targeted phonemic awareness training in developing such awareness in students of all ages has been the focus of our recent #PhonemesWithTeens campaign on Twitter and Facebook. One commenter asked the excellent question, “Any suggestions to make it fun and engaging for teenagers?”
Phonemic Awareness as a Component of Reading Instruction for Adults
It can be tricky. First, I would take a look at Susan McShane’s remarks here: “Alphabetics: Phonemic Awareness Training And Phonics Instruction”, chapter 4 of Applying Research in Reading Instruction for Adults: First Steps for Teachers (available online as part of the LINCS resource collection for adult education practitioners). She gives an overview of the meaning and importance of phonemic awareness and gives examples of what phonemic awareness training looks like. She then goes on to examine decoding and phonics from an adult education point of view.
Value in Humour and Shock Tactics
This still leaves us with the question of how to engage teens. I think the answer has to be 1:1 tuition and a sensitivity to the age of a learner. Humour and shock tactics also help. For example, in the early stages of blending there are some lovely Anglo Saxon swear words that are completely decodable! I also use a lot of pseudo word (nonsense word) decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling). This often takes away the stigma attached to ‘little or easy’ words.
Multi-sensory techniques are also useful but a teacher has to beware of ‘babyish’ actions. Some teens and adults will not want to move or engage any senses other than sight and hearing until confidence has been gained. Others will love to go for a walk or play physical games to reinforce sounds.