Because literacy is so important to a child’s educational and intellectual life, it’s no wonder that there’s more emphasis than ever on kids learning phonics. While phonics once used to be a popular means of instruction, it fell out of favour for a while in education circles because of a tendency to focus on phonics instruction instead of reading real texts. In some cases, kids seemed to spend more time memorising words and spellings than they did on actually reading real texts.
After spending a few years kicked out of the classroom and wandering the proverbial halls, phonics is back. Teachers are now more certain than ever that reading success largely depends on kids learning phonics. But it’s easy to say that phonics is important, without paying much attention to just what exactly phonics is and where it fits within literacy education.
Phonics instruction is just one element of the five most important areas of literacy instruction. In order to be able to read fluently, readers need instruction in all five literacy areas:
- Phonemic awareness
- Reading comprehension.
Equal attention should be paid to each of the five elements.
Although the name sounds complex, the idea of phonics is very simple. The main focus of phonics instruction is to help young readers understand how letters relate to small units of sound, called phonemes, in order to form letter-sound correspondences and spelling patterns. These letter-sound correspondences are also known as the alphabetic principle. The letters of the English alphabet directly relate to particular sounds, and phonics instruction helps young readers apply their understanding of the alphabetic principle in their reading.
Phonics is important, but is it important how kids receive phonics instruction? Teachers would say an emphatic ‘yes’ to that question, regardless on what side of the phonics fence they stand. The main divide in phonics instruction is between analytic phonics and synthetic phonics. Analytic phonics instruction teaches kids to approach whole words, and pick-up an understanding of phonics from comparing and contrasting the sounds that make up the whole word. This type of instruction is rather implicit in its nature. Instruction in the individual sounds that letters and letter combinations make is inferred, rather than overtly stated.
Synthetic phonics, on the other hand, introduces young readers to all of the letters of the alphabet and the sounds that they make before they learn to read. In this way, readers learn to put together, or synthesise sounds in order to read words (hence the term, synthetic). Using synthetic phonics, readers approach words bit-by-bit, or bite-by-bite, rather than attempt to swallow words whole.
There is wide-spread consensus that the synthetic phonics approach is the most effective approach to phonics. This approach helps kids learn the skills to tackle the tough words they encounter in their reading by sounding them out without being daunted or overwhelmed by them. Also, a really strong knowledge of the alphabetic principle, the knowledge of the 44 different sounds that directly correspond to the individual letters and specific letter combinations of the English alphabet, means that when kids do sound out the words, they will more easily pronounce them correctly. They are more likely to quickly make the link between the words they see on the page and the words that are stored in their aural vocabulary.
There are plenty of phonic activities that young children can engage in as long as the goal of the activity is reading. However, the best phonics activities are found within a comprehensive reading program. This is where all phonics and phonemic activities are supported and reinforced by the reading of real books; ideally books that allow kids to put into practice the sounds just learned.
ABC Reading Eggs is a comprehensive reading program that instructs kids in all five of the literacy areas. The Reading Eggs lessons help kids develop a thorough understanding of the alphabetic principle through a systematic and synthetic phonics approach. As well as the alphabet, Reading Eggs also offers phonics activities such as working with the beginning and end blends of words, the variety of vowel sounds, diphthongs, consonant letter sounds such as soft c, g, y, silent letters, double letter sounds, word families and the ability to fearlessly approach multi-syllabic words.
Reading Eggs lessons are strategically planned so that subsequent lessons reinforce earlier ones, enabling young readers to gain momentum in their literacy skills. Learning phonics in a systematic way enables skills to build on one another, so that young readers are able to read their first book by lesson 9. On the completion of every lesson and after reading the e-book, students are rewarded for their achievements. This increases their motivation to learn to read.
Hi there, I’m a Learning Support teacher and I think this program is the best computer program I have seen for teaching phonics. Thanks for such a great resource! Natalie
My son is four. I really didn’t think he was old enough to start a phonics program but I figured it was fun and engaging for him it couldn’t hurt. I didn’t have very high expectations. He went from having no phonics knowledge to reading in about a month! The ‘game’ is so fun for him, he asks to do it nearly every day. He loves the egg reward system too; when he completes enough lessons he gets to go ‘shopping’ in the ‘store’ for game items…I highly recommend this program to all my friends with young children. This is the best online program we have found for phonics! J. Thornburg
Deep sea phonics with the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/ks1/literacy/phonics/play/
Starfall phonics activities http://www.starfall.com/
Phonics worksheets for kids http://www.kidslearningstation.com/phonics/