Where am I in the Reading Universe Taxonomy?
The research is not definitive about this. In practice, younger children and children with less experience playing with and thinking about language will, at first, have a hard time with phoneme-level tasks, like separating onset from rime. Syllable-level tasks (breaking words into syllables, for example) can pave the way for phoneme-level activities by introducing instructional routines and providing practice with attending to the larger sound structure of words. But it may not be necessary for all children.
The goal is to learn syllable awareness as quickly as possible before moving on to first sound awareness, or onset. The most important target skill for supporting reading and spelling is awareness of individual phonemes in words. Therefore, as soon as appropriate, we should direct our students to phoneme-level instruction (Louisa Moats, 2023).
A couple of recent studies indicate that some children can learn phonemic awareness by starting with sound segmentation rather than syllables. However, phonological awareness develops for larger units first (/pĭc/ in picnic) before children are aware of smaller units (/p/ in picnic). Students of any age who do not know all their letter names, who cannot read a three-letter nonsense word accurately (for example, fup), who had chronic ear infections before kindergarten (which may have compromised their ability to hear nuances of sounds), or who have attention issues will benefit from learning how to segment and blend two-syllable words before moving to first sound segmentation (onset). (Jane Ashby, 2023)