Teaching Phonics to Young Children

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:

Cognitive Clarity

Concepts of Print


Teaching Phonics to Young Children

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.

Learn more about the importance of Early Literacy from our other resources on the subject.

Teaching Phonics to Young Children

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.

P honics instruction appears to be most effective when delivered using a multisensory approach, particularly one based on the Orton-Gillingham method.

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).

Phonics Activities

Games are one of the most effective ways to introduce and support phonics instruction. Free and easy-to-implement phonics activities are available on the Internet and some excellent examples are:

The Phonics Relay Race
Pass the Sound
Toss and Blend

Download our free Phonics Resource Teaching Kit

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