Phonics is one of the primary building blocks of reading. Without an understanding of the relationship between letters and sounds, reading cannot occur. The connection between print and pronunciation is an important component of any instructional program in reading, because it provides readers with tools for discovering new written words. In this article I will give instructions on how to teach kids phonics.
Don’t worry; phonics isn’t boring theory, it’s best taught in action through recognizing letter symbols and sounds and practicing them in a fun way with many activities and games.
What is phonics?
Simply put, phonics is the connection between graphemes (letter symbols) and phonemes (sounds). Because we have been readers for a good portion of our lives this relationship seems apparent and common sense. However, ESL learners need to learn this step by step.
Phonics teaches children to be able to listen carefully and identify the phonemes that make up each word. This helps children to learn to read words and to spell words
At the very core of phonics lies the alphabet. In order to master phonics a person must master the alphabet. Letters then need to be connected to their corresponding sounds. As we know as English speakers, this is easier said than done. Many letters can represent a number of different sounds. English only has around 44 phonemes but there are around 120 graphemes or ways of writing down those 44 phonemes. Thus learning phonics is an ongoing process for a developing reader.
So why bother learning phonics?
In the past people argued that because the English language is so tricky, there was no point teaching children phonics. Now, most people agree that these tricky bits mean that it is even more important that we teach phonics and children learn it clearly and systematically. A written language is basically a kind of a code. Teaching phonics is just teaching children to crack that code. Children learn the simple bits first and then easily progress to get the hang of the trickier bits.
Phonics instruction has a strong impact on the reading abilities of young children. Those receiving phonics instruction in the early grades (K-1) showed significant gains in their reading comprehension and spelling abilities and moderate growth in oral reading skills. Studies show that children in grades 2-6 also show growth in these areas, but theirs is not as considerable as that seen in primary grade students.
How to teach kids phonics?
Some people worry that phonics is taught to children when they are too young. However, those people might be surprised if they stepped into a phonics lesson. Phonics sessions are almost entirely made up from games, songs and actions. Children love it!
The three basic phonics items are as follows:
- The alphabet. Teach all the sounds of the alphabet letters.
- Blending short vowels. Teach the students to blend the sounds to read words made up of one vowel, e.g. mat, pet, rod, cub.
- Blending long vowels. Teach the students to blend consonants with two vowels to make the long vowel sounds, e.g. mate, Pete, rode, cube.
A nice page to listen to the alphabet letter sounds is right here: http://www.letterland.com/parent-guide/alphabet-sounds
If you want more information on how to teach the alphabet and the short and long vowels, please check out my e-book.