Let’s back up and talk about terminology. A sight word actually refers to any word that can be read by sight. Differentiation is a sight word for us—we recognize it essentially instantly when we see it. What many teachers call sight words are actually high-frequency words. Because a small number of high-frequency words have less regular patterns (e.g., was, the), some people call all high-frequency words sight words and think that they must be learned visually and holistically by sight.

During the late 1990s the whole language approach gained popularity in Portugal, but in a non-explicit form. Emphasis was placed on meaning, reading for pleasure, and developing a critical approach to the texts. Explicit phonemic awareness and explicit training for reading fluency were considered outdated by some teachers' organizations[62]. Poor results in international comparisons led parents and schools to react to this approach and to insist on direct instruction methods. Later, during minister Nuno Crato’s tenure (2011-2015), who is known to be a vocal critic of constructivist approaches and a supporter of cognitive psychology findings, new standards ("metas") were put in place[63]. The ministry convened a team led by a well-known specialist in reading, José Morais[64]. This team introduced an explicit phonics teaching approach, put emphasis on decoding and reading fluency.

Phonics reading is also necessary for the improvement of a child's reading comprehension. It is impossible for somebody to understand a word that is not properly pronounced. When a child learns how to pronounce a word very well, the child will be able to comprehend what he or she reads. Reading comprehension is another benefit that can be derived from phonics reading. Phonics reading will also help a child in acquiring more vocabulary on daily basis. When a child is able to pronounce a word correctly, the child will be able to understand the word. Children normally use in their words that they understand in their daily speech.
Phonics instruction must be informed by our ongoing observation and assessment of children’s phonics knowledge and word-reading skills. We should respond when we notice that a child is confused, is insecure with a particular skill, or has had a major breakthrough. If we are not responsive to our students, some students are likely to be left behind in their word-reading development.
The executive summary states, "The evidence is clear ... that direct systematic instruction in phonics during the early years of schooling is an essential foundation for teaching children to read. Findings from the research evidence indicate that all students learn best when teachers adopt an integrated approach to reading that explicitly teaches phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary knowledge and comprehension." The Inquiry Committee also states that the apparent dichotomy between phonics and the whole-Language approach to teaching "is false". However, it goes on to say "It was clear, however, that systematic phonics instruction is critical if children are to be taught to read well, whether or not they experience reading difficulties."[44] 									

A common question with any instructional program is whether "one size fits all." Teachers may be able to use a particular program in the classroom but may find that it suits some students better than others. At all grade levels, but particularly in kindergarten and the early grades, children are known to vary greatly in the skills they bring to school. Some children will already know letter-sound correspondences, and some will even be able to decode words, while others will have little or no letter knowledge.
Teachers should use picture mnemonics (Drawings of letters that are embedded in a picture with the items in each picture beginning with the sound of the letter embedded within in. Example: Itchy’s Alphabet)  Students are trained to notice the initial sounds in words along with the embedded picture mnemonics. Using pictures in which the letter can be logically or meaningfully embedded appears to be more effective than learning letters by themselves or with non-embedded keyword pictures.

Although the patterns are inconsistent, when English spelling rules take into account syllable structure, phonetics, etymology and accents, there are dozens of rules that are 75% or more reliable.[9] It should be noted, however, that this level of reliability can only be achieved by extending the rules far outside the domain of phonics, which deals with letter-sound correspondences, and into the morphophonemic and morphological domains. For an estimate of the reliability of strictly phonic rules, we still cannot do much better than the 1963 study by Theodore Clymer.[10]


Imagine going to work for a shipbuilding company. You go to work the first day and are schooled in all the different types of bolts, screws, and nails. You learn their names, the different sizes, and the different types, but you never learn that their purpose is to join pieces of metal and that those pieces of metal are used to build ships! Although this situation is clearly ridiculous, it is actually analogous to what we see in some prekindergarten and kindergarten classrooms. Children are being taught to name letters or even identify the sounds that the letters represent, but they are unclear about why they are learning it. Letter-sound knowledge is being learned in a vacuum; the child has no context for how to use the information, no “big picture.”

Phonemic awareness involves the understanding of the relationship between sounds and words. It explains how words are made of sounds that can be used, like reusable building blocks, to construct words (h + at = hat, f + at = fat, etc). Phonics goes one step further by connecting those sounds to written symbols. It involves learning how letters or letter groups represent unique sounds, and how those sounds are blended to form a word.

Imagine going to work for a shipbuilding company. You go to work the first day and are schooled in all the different types of bolts, screws, and nails. You learn their names, the different sizes, and the different types, but you never learn that their purpose is to join pieces of metal and that those pieces of metal are used to build ships! Although this situation is clearly ridiculous, it is actually analogous to what we see in some prekindergarten and kindergarten classrooms. Children are being taught to name letters or even identify the sounds that the letters represent, but they are unclear about why they are learning it. Letter-sound knowledge is being learned in a vacuum; the child has no context for how to use the information, no “big picture.”
Phonics is one of the primary building blocks of reading. Without an understanding of the relationship between letters and sounds, reading cannot occur. This multifaceted connection between print and pronunciation is an important component of any instructional program in reading because it provides readers with tools for discovering new written words.

In the articles below, you will get answers to these questions and more. You will learn the facts about phonics, why learning phonics is important for your child, how to tell if your child’s teacher includes phonics in his beginning reading program and what the most recent research on phonics says. You can also test your own phonics knowledge with our phonics quiz and explore further resources on phonics.
Let’s back up and talk about terminology. A sight word actually refers to any word that can be read by sight. Differentiation is a sight word for us—we recognize it essentially instantly when we see it. What many teachers call sight words are actually high-frequency words. Because a small number of high-frequency words have less regular patterns (e.g., was, the), some people call all high-frequency words sight words and think that they must be learned visually and holistically by sight.
Once children can identify the names of each letter, they can begin learning the most common sounds represented by each of the 26 letters of the alphabet. ABCmouse.com’s collection of The Letter Songs A–Z will help children identify those sounds, as will the hundreds of other games and activities such as the Alphabet Bubble Burst game and the book Alphabet in the Park.
Phonics for Reading has three levels and contains placement tests that can be used for program entry or to measure growth at the end of the year.  Level I of Phonics for Reading contains 30 teacher directed lessons with a focus on short vowels, consonants, consonant blends, and digraphs.  Level II contains 32 teacher- directed lessons and progresses with vowel combinations, r-controlled vowel sounds, common endings, and CVCe words.  Level III contains 36 teacher directed lessons and expands concepts with vowel/letter combinations, common prefixes and suffixes, minor consonant sounds for c and g, and minor vowel sound combinations.  Levels II and III have fluency-building activities and directions for assessing fluency.  Each level of Phonics for Reading has ten activities that can be used to formally measure growth through the program.
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