The stages of phonics learning

Published: 15th October 2010
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To learn to read with phonics and provide good reading help for kids a phonics program will progress as the child moves up through the school system. In Kindergarten the emphasis will be on how to recognise the letters of the alphabet. Beginning to make the connection between some letters and the sounds they make. The target is to learn about twenty letter to sound pairings by the end of the year. The fact that words consist of groups of distinct sounds. The child might be asked to develop sound sensitivity by listening out for rhymes in verses or poems and maybe drumming their name out on the table for example. First attempt to read and write simple three letter words, and to be able to recognise some words by sight.

In first grade the teaching moves on to tackle short and long vowels. Now children learn to combine for example the 'p' and the 'l' sounds to create 'pl', where you can still hear both of the constituent consonants, also 'c' with 'h' makes the new 'ch' sound. Now we can start to attempt to read simple sentences and stories. Then also common word endings such as 'ed' and '-ing' in addition to increasing the number of sight words like if, his, her and have.

The focus in second grade shifts to combining vowels together. Children will learn the sounds of 'ea' or 'ou' for example, and then also start to be taught slightly more difficult spelling patterns. Next its words of more than one syllable and constructing words from parts, such as 'mon' and 'key' making the word monkey. Effort is also directed to help children increase their vocabulary and the number of words that they can recognise by sight.

What should parents do to help with phonics learning at home? The idea is to build on the themes from the school lessons with easy activities at home. Parents should join up with the teacher to approach it as a team. Ask the teacher's advice on what activities would be suitable home activities to support the phonics school work. If you have any concerns you should discuss them, so that children that are having trouble can be offered additional more intensive teaching both in school in class or ideally in small groups outside the classroom with a specialist reading instructor. Children who are behind need to get extra help early to give them a chance to catch up.

Parents need to listen to their child read every day, and if they stumble on a word they should be encouraged to 'sound it out' from the sounds they have learnt in phonics lessons at school. However, if they then don't get the word just tell them so they don't get discouraged. Maybe take it in turns to read paragraphs to keep up the momentum of the story.

To facilitate comprehension of the reading material parents should ask questions like 'what's going to happen next do you think?' or 'what do you think that means?'. Go back to books that are familiar, because this helps encourage and to develop more fluent reading skills, also if your child enjoys a particular book and they find it relatively easy, this will help instill a feeling of success and encourage the child in their reading. As a rule of thumb, in order to effectively learn to read with phonics, if there are more than about 5 words on a page that the child does not know then it might be too difficult. Get them to read out loud and try to find books that they find interesting, and try to make it as much fun as possible by for example having different voices for each character and by reading in an enthusiastic way. Show by example how much you enjoy reading and always make sure there are plenty of books and magazines around the house. Reading help for kids is not just about reading, take them to the library regularly and also to book shops and try to instil a love of reading that will last for their whole lives.

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