Reading, writing, speaking & listening. These four words play such a pivotal role throughout our lives and are critical during childhood development.
One way of developing these skills is phonics. An essential way of helping children how to read, write and spell, phonics has grown in importance over recent years. It is a great teaching method as it helps simplify the English language and is perfect for young children.
Phonics – teaching children the sounds made by individual letter or letter groups (for example, the letter “c” makes a k sound), and teaching children how to merge separate sounds together to make it one word (for example, blending the sounds k, a, t makes CAT). This type of phonics teaching is often referred to as “synthetic phonics”.
For children, numbers and letters are just some alien symbols unless they provide any meaning to them. Therefore, the early stages of learning for kids start with the phrases like “A is for apple” and “B is for ball”. But how does a child know that if “A” is for an apple, then “A” can also be used to spell an ant? This is where we need the teachings of phonics for kids.
Once children learn the phonics words, they understand that an alphabet can denote various things around them.
Rather than teaching the short vowel sounds this year and the long vowel sounds next year, which is often the case in today’s classrooms, students need to be taught all of the sounds that each letter and each group of letters make. This removes the need to memorize “sight words” and gives students a greater grasp of how words are made and read.
Phonics as a method is a great way to learn to read as it simplifies the English language down into just 44 sounds. Children therefore ‘decode’ words by breaking it down into it’s sounds rather than having to memorise 1,000’s of words individually.
Research shows that phonics when taught correctly is one of the most effective ways of teaching children to learn to read. Sounds are taught from easiest to hardest: single letter sounds first then moving on to two letters making a sound and so on. Learning phonics is one of the most important stepping stones in early reading.
Phonics provides a foundation of learning meant to help make reading easier. Phonics builds a foundation used to help children learn to read by breaking down words into sounds and building letter and word recognition. This can enhance a child’s ability to use unknown words in the future. Phonics enables children to blend words and teach them how to dissect words, while improving spelling ability and increasing pronunciation
Phonics teaches this information to help children learn how to read. Children learn the sounds that each letter makes, and how a change in the order of letters changes a word’s meaning. For example, if we don’t pay attention to letter order, words such as ‘dog’ and ‘pat’ might be misread as ‘god’ and ‘tap’ respectively.
As mentioned earlier, phonics instruction should be integrated with vocabulary instruction, because the ultimate goal is to help children make sense of what they have ‘sounded out’ from a text. This can be done by first introducing words (e.g., cat, hat, rat, fat) using multi-sensory activities and stories.
The vocabulary provides the context for highlighting the target letter-sound relationships (the words in the above example all contain the rhyme family ‘at’), whereas the stories help children understand how the words are used.
Next, teachers should encourage the children to say the target words aloud. This can be done by embedding the words in chants, nursery rhymes or games.
For four-year-old children, teachers can focus on the rhyme families and onsets within words. For example, teachers can say ‘cat, c-at, cat’ to highlight the onset c and the rhyme ‘at’ for the word ‘cat’, and then encourage children to blend the onset c and rhyme ‘at’ to form the word ‘cat’.
For five-year-old children, teachers can add in visual cues to show how to break a word down into its onset and rhyme (e.g., cat = c + at).
With this foundation of phonological awareness, associating sounds with letters will be much easier for children.
Samples from the Worksheet
Teachers can do this by encouraging children to apply the phonics skills they have learned to words they encounter in stories and nursery rhymes. For example, in a story session, teachers can count with the children the number of syllables in target words, and also encourage the children to think whether the key words contain onsets, rhyme families and letters that they have learnt previously.
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