“PLAYING WITH SOUNDS”: A PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME
Phonological awareness is understood as a metalinguistic skill that consciously allows learners to reflect on and manipulate the sounds that compose oral language – speech. The development of phonological awareness is a very important primary skill for subsequent learning of reading and writing skills.
Therefore, due to the lack of preparation in this field in the early learning stage of childhood educators, training these professionals with the aim of developing their students’ ability more effectively is crucial. This will enable students to become fluent readers and writers and in so doing improve the children’s communicative functionality and, therefore, their life quality.
The aim of this study is to analyse the contribution of the participation of childhood educators to a programme of stimulating phonological awareness, “Playing with sounds,” in terms of these professionals’ theoretical and practical knowledge.
For this purpose, an action-research study was carried out, involving a methodological approach that seeks to change a particular situation in order to improve it, as well as to produce knowledge and a transformation/training of the actors themselves. The research involved a dynamic process of planning, action, observation and evaluation in which two questionnaires were used as data collection instruments, one prior to the training and the other afterwards.
There were 18 kindergarten teachers, aged between 47 and 58 years, participating in this study. The vast majority hold a bachelor’s degree and belong to a large school group in Viseu, Portugal. This was a non-probabilistic convenience sample selected for practical reasons.
A comparison of the results before and after the participation in the programme showed that that the training contributed to the improvement of the childhood educators’ theoretical and practical conceptions regarding development, activities and strategies to be used in terms of phonological awareness. It also contributed to their understanding of the importance of developing phonological awareness in children from the age of 3 to 6, as well as the crucial role it has in the future learning of the reading and writing skills. In addition, the training promoted the ability to detect difficulties in phonological awareness in the early stages, in order to reduce future cases of children with reading and writing learning difficulties.