Phonics experts have determined that phonics is the foundation of early reading and writing skills. They recommend systematic and explicit phonics teaching. Phonics is based on the alphabetic principle where the relationship between letters and sounds they represent is established.
According to the National Assessment of Education Progress, 66% of students cannot read at grade level by 4th grade in the U.S alone. This fact alone is enough to question the strategies adopted in early reading and literacy instruction. Phonics-based instruction is a powerful approach that should be embraced at this stage.
There's a reading expectation by the end of each grade and that can only be realized through correct phonics teaching. There is plenty of phonics teaching programs but not all of them are worthwhile.
The teaching process should start from simple frequent sounds and spellings and progress to complex infrequent ones. This way, instruction is done in a sequential manner that enables learners to grasp reading and spelling easily.
To ensure effectiveness, here's a step by step guide on how phonics should be systematically taught.
Children first learn to recognize individual letters and say the sounds they produce. The most commonly taught letter sounds include s, a, t, n, i, p. They then proceed to make words out of these letters and sound them out.
Blending (Short Vowels and Consonants Blends)
Blending involves merging the individual letter sounds to form words. The sequential order entails:
CVC words: Children decode simple 3-letter words [consonant-vowel-consonant] like bag. They can build word families such as ‘am’ in jam, dam. Phonogram flashcards are helpful in this stage. Children should be able to read smoothly before proceeding to the next step.
Consonant blends: CCVC and CVCC
This should start with blends that appear at the beginning like tr in tree, st in stop, and proceed to end blends in post. Three-letter blends should come later like scr in screen, spr. Letter cards and magnetic letters on the fridge can help in this stage.
Digraphs and Trigraphs
Digraphs- are two letters that make a single sound.
This step first introduces long vowels. These include:
- Vowel digraphs like in ‘oa’ in boat, ‘ea’, ‘ay’.
- Split digraphs-formerly known as 'magic e'. These involve 2 vowels that make the same sound but are split by a consonant like a-e as in cake, e-e, i-e, o-e.
Children proceed to learn consonant digraphs like th, ch, and make words like think, chain.
Trigraphs- three letters that produce a single sound like ‘tch’ in itch come next.
Phonic charts are handy in this step since they show sounds made when letters are blended. By the end of year 1, children are expected to have learned these.
Tricky words teaching. These are high-frequency words with regular and irregular spellings like and, am, they, some. They don't follow phonics rules.
They learn how different letters and letter clusters can produce similar sounds like ‘ai’ in rain and ‘ay’ in the day. They also learn how grapheme(s)can produce different sounds like ‘ea’ in dream and bread.
Silent letters should also be taught like ‘k’ in talk.
After learning to decode words, children need to learn to spell and write down the spoken word using correct letter formation. By the end of year 2, children should have mastered the alternate spellings of the 40 plus phonemes which include short, long, and r-controlled vowels, simple and complex consonants, and digraphs and be able to write down their graphemes. A phonemes list will help in this stage.
Children should later be taught spelling rules like adding suffixes and prefixes to words. It helps them understand the context in which words are used for instance ‘-ing’ represent actions, ‘-ed’ for tenses. Others include -est, -ful, -ly, -less.
Children should learn to read and spell familiar words accurately and rapidly at this stage. They should practice decoding unfamiliar words by sounding them out. This will set them on a path to being accomplished, confident readers.
Reading stories aloud to a child is crucial at this stage since children listen and pick up new words easily.
Phonics is of utmost importance in instilling effective reading, spelling, and writing skills. Other skills like fluency, reading comprehension, and vocabulary rely on phonics knowledge. Phonics enables children to learn sounds, words, sentences, paragraphs, and confidently read books eventually. It transforms them into competent readers.
The power of a correct approach in phonics instructions can't be underestimated. The English language has a complicated spelling system that requires sequential instruction. Appropriate implementation of the above steps will rid confusion in learners and save parents the difficult task of finding the best strategies for early reading. The above steps are straightforward and easy to follow. Tools that can complement the above steps include songs, YouTube videos, colorful books, stories, pictures, and letter cards, and word games.
Phonic lessons should be well structured, short, and interesting. They should not strain children. Each step should be well understood before proceeding to the next.
How do I start teaching phonics at home?
You can teach phonics at home by following steps used in phonics-based teaching programs. Joining support forums is also good.
In what order do you teach phonic sounds?
Phonics should be taught in a systematic way starting from simple, short words then progressing to complex words. The above steps should be followed.
How do you teach phonics in a fun way?
Phonics instruction can be made interesting using songs, rhymes, stories, games, and videos, and lessons are made reasonably short.
How do you teach phonetics?
Phonetics are taught sequentially from letter sounds, letter formations, blending, segmenting, and alternate spellings. Simple words to complex word combinations are advisable.