While most teachers and educational decision-makers recognize this, there may be a tendency in some classrooms, particularly in 1st grade, to allow phonics to become the dominant component, not only in the time devoted to it, but also in the significance attached. It is important not to judge children's reading competence solely on the basis of their phonics skills and not to devalue their interest in books because they cannot decode with complete accuracy. It is also critical for teachers to understand that systematic phonics instruction can be provided in an entertaining, vibrant, and creative manner.
Ask lots of questions while reading. Questions help keep your child actively engaged, and can help support learning phonics as well. For instance, while reading, point to the word “dog.” Ask “Do you know what word this is?” If they need a bit of help, say “Well, let’s start reading the sentence — “Joe walked his …” — Now what do you think the word might be?”
In the reading skills pyramid, a visual illustration of the process kids go through when learning to read, phonics follows closely behind phonemic awareness. Once children understand that letters have associated sounds, they begin to make relationships between those sounds and spelling. This is the skill that helps beginning readers decode — or sound out — new words. The key elements of reading are:
Teachers should be able to assess the needs of the individual students and tailor instruction to meet specific needs. However, it is more common for phonics programs to present a fixed sequence of lessons scheduled from the beginning to the end of the school year. In light of this, teachers need to be flexible in their phonics instruction in order to adapt it to individual student needs.
Phonics reading helps also to increase a child's fluency in reading. Fluency in this context is not limited to reading fast. It also means reading text accurately. When a child is taught phonics properly, the child will find reading easy. The child will not only read accurately but also quickly. Reading quick and correctly is another benefits of phonics reading.
There has been much research all over the world on Jolly Phonics, which can be viewed here. The research shows that the progress made by children using Jolly Phonics far exceeds that of children not taught using a synthetic phonics approach. It is effective across the ability range, with boys doing just as well as girls, while those with English as their second language can do as well as children who have it as their first.
In addition, it is not clear how many months or years a phonics program should continue. If phonics has been systematically taught in kindergarten and 1st grade, should it continue to be emphasized in 2nd grade and beyond? How long should single instruction sessions last? How much ground should be covered in a program? Specifically, how many letter-sound relations should be taught, and how many different ways of using these relations to read and write words should be practiced for the benefits of phonics to be maximized? These questions remain for future research.
For key words to do their job, children must be able to separate the first sound in the word from the rest of the word (e.g., to separate the /b/ from the /all/ in ball). Ideally, children develop this skill, called initial phoneme segmentation, during or before the prekindergarten year. However, not all children meet this expectation. Fortunately, you can work on this skill while teaching the alphabet, including alphabet key words. Research strongly suggests that phonemic awareness (conscious awareness of the individual sounds in spoken words—for example, recognizing that sheep has three sounds: /sh/, /ee/, and /p/), although an entirely oral skill, is actually best developed with accompanying letters. This initial phoneme segmentation issue is also why you should be judicious about using alphabet key words that begin with blends (two consonant letters pronounced in succession in a syllable, such as dr in drum); it is especially difficult for young children to separate the initial phoneme in a blend.
Nell K. Duke is a professor of language, literacy, and culture, and a professor in the combined program in education and psychology, at the University of Michigan. Her work focuses on early literacy development, particularly among children living in poverty. Heidi Anne E. Mesmer is a professor of literacy in the School of Education at Virginia Tech. A former third-grade teacher, her work focuses on beginning reading materials and text difficulty.
The result is that English spelling patterns vary considerably in the degree to which they follow rules. For example, the letters ee almost always represent /iː/, but the sound can also be represented by the letters i and y. Similarly, the letter cluster ough represents /ʌf/ as in enough, /oʊ/ as in though, /uː/ as in through, /ɒf/ as in cough, /aʊ/ as in bough, /ɔː/ as in bought, and /ʌp/ as in hiccough, while in slough and lough, the pronunciation varies.