Teaching phonics to children is a crucial step in their early literacy development. Phonics helps children understand the relationships between letters and sounds, which is essential for reading and spelling. As parents, you play a vital role in introducing and reinforcing phonics concepts.
If you have read our Step-by-step Approach to Introducing Phonics to your Pre-schooler at Home which showed parents how to introduce phonics to their little ones of ages two to four, we now want to discuss your child entering the actual phonics learning stage.
Depending on ages and how early a start plus how quick your child has picked up the introductory segment, kids about four to six should be able to start identifying individual sounds in a word and may even be able to blend individual sounds.
So, here’s a step-by-step approach to teaching phonics:
14 Steps To Learn Phonics At Home
Step 1: Understand the Basics
Before diving into teaching phonics, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the basic concepts yourself. Phonics is about connecting sounds (phonemes) to letters or letter combinations (phonograms/graphemes) see this blog. Familiarize yourself with the different phonemes and graphemes in the English language.
Step 2: Start with the Alphabet
Begin by teaching your child the alphabet. (See Blog Fun with Phonics) Sing the alphabet song, point out letters in books, and have letter recognition activities. Ensure they can identify both uppercase and lowercase letters.
Step 3: Teach Letter-Sound Correspondence
Introduce the connection between letters and their sounds. Start with simple, common consonants and short vowels. For instance, explain that ‘a’ makes the sound /a/ as in “apple.” Use visual aids like flashcards and illustrations to reinforce these associations. Children should also begin to learn how to write these letters using the correct formation. You may want to check out some sites like Jack Hartmann Kid’s Music Channel. His phonics songs teach young children the alphabet and the beginning letter sounds while singing and having fun.
Step 4: Introduce Blending
By blending, a child sounds out each phoneme in a written word and then putting the sounds together to read out the word such as b-l-a-c-k when blended becomes ‘black’) to say a whole word. He will start with simple CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words such as cat, pen, dog, before moving on to CCVC words (for example: step, play) and CVCC words (for example: talk, mask). Our blog 14 Fun Phonics for Kids provides some suggestions you could help your kids along as they learn their phonics in a fun and creative way. Such improvisation is also not costly and before you know it, your kid will be moving unto more challenging reading and writing.
Step 5: Practice Regularly
Consistency is key. Set aside time each day for phonics practice. Short, focused sessions are more effective than long, sporadic ones. Create a comfortable and engaging learning environment that encourages exploration and experimentation.
Step 6: Use Decodable Books
Introduce decodable books designed with controlled vocabulary that matches the phonics skills your child is learning. These books allow them to practice newly acquired phonics skills in context.
Step 7: Inculcate Phonemic Awareness
Teach tour child to have phonemic awareness . You can play games like rhyming, segmenting words into individual sounds, and deleting or adding sounds to words. This enhances their ability to decode words.
Step 8: Introduce Digraphs
Next, they will start learning to read and write digraphs (two-letter graphemes). They will learn consonant digraphs (for example: ch, sh, ng) and vowel digraphs (e.g. ea, oo, ai). Then they will move on to sounding out whole words such as hair, moon, chin and sing. Alongside this, children should slowly be introduced to ‘tricky words’ (also called common exception words). These are common words that don’t follow the normal phonics rules (for example: my, they, all). Always use visual aids and words in context to illustrate these concepts.
In a later blog, we hope to be able to help you organize phonic words into an ultimate word-list which you and your child can compile together.
Step 9: Segmenting
By now, another skill they should pick up is segmenting, which is the ability to say the word and then break it down into their separate sounds or phonemes. For example: thank >> TH + A + NK.
Hence the child will be able to write the letter or letters (graphemes) that represent the phonemes Stretching the word by saying aloud and counting those sounds will help greatly when he is trying to represent that sound on paper, in other words, to spell out that word. Oral segmenting is vital for every kid in order for him to ultimately be confident independent readers but more important is this ability will help every child to learn how to spell at an early age.
Step 10 Trigraphs and Split Graphs
Start to introduce three-letter grapheme that represents one phoneme, for example ‘igh’, ‘dge’, ‘ear’. A split graph is a when a digraph is split by a consonant. Split digraphs usually create a long vowel sound, for example ‘a-e’ (sake), ‘o-e’ (joke), ‘i-e’ (pine), ‘e-e’ (these), ‘u-e’ (rude). We call pronouncing such words as using the ‘magic e’ method.
Step 11: Explore Long Vowels and Silent Letters
As your child becomes comfortable with short vowels, you can move on to long vowels and explain how they can change the sound of a vowel. Also, introduce the silent letter words like knife, lamb and write.
Step 12: Contextualize Learning and Expand His Vocabulary
Help your child see the practical application of phonics by showing how it’s used in real life. Read together, play word games, and involve them in activities that require reading and spelling. As your child becomes more confident in their phonics skills, introduce them to new words that might not follow the typical phonetic patterns. This helps build their overall vocabulary and understanding of language.
Step 13 Fluency and Accuracy
At this point, children should be able to read many familiar words automatically and sound out unfamiliar words. They should be able to spell words phonetically, but not necessarily correctly. The aim now is to support children to become more fluent readers and accurate spellers. Children will progress to learn more complex spelling rules such as prefixes and suffixes. They should continue to practise reading on a daily basis to develop speed, fluency and comprehension.
Step 14: Be Patient and Supportive While Monitoring and Adjusting
Every child learns at their own pace. Celebrate his progress, no matter how small, and provide plenty of positive reinforcement. Keep the learning environment positive, encouraging, and low-pressure. Regularly assess your child’s phonics skills and adjust your teaching approach accordingly. If he’s struggling with a particular concept, spend more time on it and use alternative teaching methods if needed.
Remember that learning phonics is a gradual process. By following these steps and tailoring your approach to your child’s needs and interests, you’ll be providing them with a strong foundation for reading and language skills.
Best of luck! With plenty of practice and praise, your child should be reading in no time.
Learn more about our S.A.E Hougang course.