Phonics instruction uses sound-symbol relationships to help a child identify unknown words. The English language uses 26 letters to represent approximately forty-four sounds with over one hundred letter arrangements – ways to spell these sounds. It’s quite easy to see how a child could quickly become overwhelmed with learning to read and spell our language. That’s why a methodical and explicit approach is important when teaching a child both reading and spelling.
While the order may differ among phonics programs, the following is an ideal sequence for introducing letter-sound relationships:
Easy Consonants and Short Vowels
Start with the basics. Consider introducing some of the easy consonants and a short vowel at the same time. This approach permits a child to form many words with minimal instruction (i.e you get more “bang for your buck”). For example, teach the following letters and their sounds: m, n, s, t & a. This combination will allow a child to form words such as an, at, man & sat.
Easy Consonant Sounds
Letter Example Letter Example t tiger l lion n nail c cat r rabbit p pig m mom b book d dog f fish s sun v van
Five Short Vowel Sounds
Letter Example a apple e egg i igloo o ocotpus u up
Every word needs a vowel – a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y,
e.g., by and my.
Other Single Consonants
Once your child has a good grasp of the basic consonant and short vowel sounds, introduce the following more difficult consonants.
Letter Example Letter Example g goat x fox h hat q queen k kite z zebra w win y yarn j jump
The common sound for the letter “q” and “x” are /kw/ and /ks/, respectively. It is also important to note the common sound of the letter “c” is the same as the letter “k.” The “c” sounds like a “k” when it precedes an “a”, “o” or “u”, e.g., cat, cop and cut. Whereas a “c” sounds like an “s” when it precedes an “e”, “i” or “y”, e.g., cell, city, cycle and juicy. To make matters worse, the letter “g” makes the /g/ sound as in goat when followed by an “a”, “o” or “u.” However, if the letter “g” precedes an “i”, “e” or “y” it typically makes the /j/ sound as in giant, gentle, gym. Of course, there are exceptions such as get, gift, girl and give but that’s another lesson.
The initial focus is to master these basic consonant and short vowel sounds. Leap Frog: Letter Factory is a great video that can assist a child in retaining the above information in a fun and entertaining way.
Many children gradually learn each letter’s name, form and sometimes sound in preschool; they typically master the alphabetic principle in kindergarten. If a child begins first grade without this knowledge, work on learning both the names and sounds simultaneously. A child must grasp this principle before proceeding to the other letter-sound relationships.
Vowel-Consonant (VC) and Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC)
Introduce both VC and CVC words. Work with word families such as -at, -in. Obtain pictures or items laying around your home and have your child perform word family sorts by categorizing pictures and words with the /ed/ sound, e.g. bed and red, from pictures and words that have the /ot/ sound, e.g., hot and pot .
Use our kindergarten word families to create word family cards and perform the following:
- Show your child the word card.
- Sound out each letter and then read the word quickly while pointing to each letter.
- When your child is ready, let them sound out each word. If he mispronounces a word, kindly correct him by sounding out each sound and then do it again.
Learning to read requires a child to know the relationship between letters and sounds as well as patterns, e.g., VC and CVC. Be on the lookout for additional posts in this series.