The first use of the phrase falling “down the rabbit hole” comes to us thanks to the great Lewis Carroll who introduced the term in 1865 in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the story, Alice literally falls down the hole of the White Rabbit, taking her to Wonderland.

I began searching the internet for resources to give my online students who are in a Masters level course to earn their teaching credential. I have weekly resources for them that coincide with the week’s topic. I took a look at a topic that generally has them confused, the difference between phonemic awareness and phonics. I wanted the clearest information that would be easy to understand. Boy, did I go down a rabbit hole!

I could tell students a thousand times how important it is to know the sounds that make up words, and they always refer to phonics instruction. Most students are able to learn both the letter and the corresponding sound, but for some, the two skills do not stick. That is why it is important to teach sounds first. A child who can recite the alphabet but doesn’t have knowledge of the sounds, will not be able to read. There are important distinctions between phonemic awareness and phonics.

Phonemic awareness refers to the sounds in words. Not the letters, the sounds. The word cat has three phonemes: /c/a/t/. You can practice phonemic awareness in the dark because it does not include sight, just sound.

Phonics is awareness of both the letters and their sounds.

If child cannot read, you must go back and teach sounds. It is the only way they will be able to decode.

So, here’s what I found:

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