Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in spoken words. An example of how beginning readers show us they have phonemic awareness is combining or blending the separate sounds of a word to say the word.
Phonemic awareness and phonics are not the same thing. Phonemic awareness is understanding that the sounds of spoken language work together to make words. Phonics is the understanding that there is a relationship between letters and sounds through written language. Children who have a difficult time hearing and working with phonemes of spoken words, will have a difficult time learning how relate phonemes to letters when they see them in a written words.