Teaching phonics to young children begins the transition from verbal language to print.
B y the time they are preparing to enter kindergarten, most children have the vocabulary to communicate fairly effectively using complete sentences.
Moving from spoken language to written language, however, presents new challenges for young children that must be addressed before reading can occur.
An introduction to reading should include three areas:
Concepts of Print
A lthough there is no research that indicates a specific order in which letters of the alphabet should be taught, there is general support for the alphabetic principle. Some recommendations for effective instruction include:
Letters and sounds should be taught in an organized sequence and introduced in small groups to allow practice and mastery.
Common consonants and short vowels should be taught early because they are necessary for simple words.
Letters that look or sound similar should be separated to reduce confusion.
F or grades 1 - 3, the Reading Horizons method incorporates these practices by teaching the letters of the alphabet in five letter groups, each with one vowel and four or five consonants.
For Kindergarten, the letters are taught one letter at a time in the same sequence. Each lesson teaches the name, sound, and letter formation of the vowel and the small number of consonants in the group.
R ight from the beginning, the lessons introduce and practice the slide, a technique used to teach students to join consonant and vowel sounds. This essential preliminary step prepares them to build and spell words and to develop pronunciation fluency.
In a one-year study of first graders, researchers found that multisensory teaching techniques that combined all three learning modalities—auditory, visual, and kinesthetic, resulted in significant gains in phonological awareness, decoding, and reading comprehension (Joshi, Dahlgren, and Boulware-Gooden, 2002).
Early Reading Activities: Teaching Phonics to Young Children
Games are one of the most effective ways to introduce and support phonics instruction. Free and easy-to-implement activities are available on the Internet and some excellent examples are:
For the first years of language development, the focus is on spoken language and meaning is expressed and received through speech. In order to assist children in preparing to read, children need an understanding of the importance of print and the purposes of reading and writing.
Concepts of Print
To get started, children need an explanation of how reading works in English. Concepts of print include the understanding that reading moves from left to right and top to bottom with a “return sweep” from one line to the next. Words convey the information and illustrations correspond to the print. Books have a front, back, and an author.
Prior to reading, children will need to be able to recognize and name the 26 letters of the alphabet and connect the letters (graphemes) to the sounds made by these letters and letter combinations (phonemes). Teaching phonics to young children is the instructional method for preparing beginning readers to apply this alphabetic principle.