National Literacy Learning Progression

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Phonological awareness description

Phonological awareness is the term used to describe the awareness of the constituent sounds of spoken words which can be distinguished in three ways: by syllables, by onset and rime and by phoneme (the smallest unit of spoken word)

Phonemic awareness is a sub-element of phonological processing and is the awareness of phonemes which is demonstrated when students identify and manipulate phonemes.

Phonemic awareness is essential for students to understand the relationship between speech and print and, therefore, to read and write.

This sub-element supports the sub-elements of Listening, Speaking, Phonic knowledge and word recognition and Understanding texts.

Some students will communicate using augmentative and alternative communication strategies to demonstrate their literacy skills. This may include digital technologies, sign language, braille, real objects, photographs and pictographs.

Each sub-element level has been identified by upper-case initials and in some cases lower-case letters of the sub-element name followed by ascending numbers. The abbreviation for this sub-element is PhA. The listing of indicators within each level is non-hierarchical. Where appropriate, examples have been provided in brackets following an indicator.


  • joins in rhymes and chants and songs (see Listening)
  • repeats sounds, words, sayings, poems
  • completes familiar phrases in texts including chants, songs and poems


  • segments a short spoken sentence of three to five words into separate spoken words
  • orally blends and segments words with two and three syllables hopp-ing, fam-i-ly
  • blends onset/rime to say a word (m/um = mum, h/at =hat, sh/op = shop)
  • provides a word when given a starting phoneme (p, picture)
  • consistently says the first phoneme of a spoken word (good, g)
  • listens and indicates words that end the same (rhyme) from a choice of up to four one-syllable words (sing, thing, wing, dog)
  • listens to a group of words and indicates those that start with the same phoneme and says other words that start with that phoneme


  • orally blends two or three phonemes together to make a one-syllable word (a-sh, s-u-n, b-i-n, sh-i-p)
  • orally segments words of two or three phonemes into separate phonemes (c-a-t, s-u-n, k-i-ck)
  • identifies the number of phonemes that make up a spoken one-syllable word comprised of less than four phonemes


  • orally blends four phonemes together to make a one-syllable spoken word (s-t-o-p, stop)
  • orally segments spoken words comprised of four phonemes into separate phonemes (fresh, f-r-e-sh)
  • identifies the number of phonemes that make up a given word
  • identifies the number of phonemes that make up a spoken, one-syllable word comprised of less than five phonemes