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Phonics for Kids - Guide to English Phonics Teaching and Learning

Ms. Jaya Ramesh
Sep 7, 2022
Kids, Learning

Reading, writing, speaking and listening! These are the four important words that play a pivotal role in our lives and language development. Thus, starting to learn these skills at the early stages of childhood is crucial.

Phonics is one of the most effective methods of teaching these skills. They have been used in international schools such as Dubai Indian School for more than a decade and have been proven as a very successful method for teaching early reading in children. 

What is Phonics?

Phonics is a method of teaching kids how to read and write by relating different sounds of spoken English to different letters. It’s about learning the relation between letters and the way they sound. For example, the sound k can be written as c, k, ch, or ck.

There are 4 different types of phonics for kids to learn.

Types of English Phonics

1. Synthetic Phonics

It is the most widely used method of phonics for kindergarten. Synthetic phonics is a method of teaching where phonemes (sounds) associated with particular graphemes (letters) are pronounced in isolation and then blended together (synthesized). 

For example, the children are taught to take a single-syllable word like cat apart into its three letters, pronounce a phoneme for each letter /k, æ, t/, and then blend all the phonemes together to form a word.

2. Analytical Phonics

This method of phonics for kids is associated with the teaching of reading in which the phonemes that are associated with particular graphemes are not pronounced in isolation. The kids identify (analyze) the common phoneme in a set of words in which each word contains the phoneme they are studying. For example, teachers and children discuss how the following words are alike: park, pat,  push, and pen.

3. Analogy Phonics

In this method, the children are taught to look initially at the whole word, and then split them into onset (beginning) and rime. 

The decoding enables the child to make a comparison with other words they have already learned. For example, if a child knows ‘boat’, ‘goat’, and ‘float’, then the word ‘moat’ will be easy to read, even if the child has come across it for the first time.

4. Embedded Phonics

The Embedded method of phonics for kids teaches them to learn reading when the need arises. Children and the teacher read books and the teacher demonstrates decoding words when the teachable moments arise. It focuses on real-world reading experiences.

Importance of Learning Phonics

Most words in the English language are unfamiliar to early readers in print, even if they have spoken knowledge of the same. The phonics for kindergarten teaches them to decode letters into their respective sounds. Having letter-sound knowledge will allow kids to make the link between unfamiliar print words to their spoken knowledge.

The letter-sound decoding process in the phonics method of teaching itself is a learning mechanism. Thus, with a good foundation of phonics knowledge, kids can quickly become confident readers and solid independent writers.

How to Teach Phonics Step by step?

The Montessori curriculum is one of the most effective ways to teach phonics to preschoolers. However, the order in which the phonics letters and sounds are taught is important and is laid out into six distinct phonics phases.

Order of Teaching Phonics Letters and Sounds

Phonics Teaching: Phase 1

The children are taught to recognise certain sounds and some simple words which help to improve their awareness of the sounds around them. It also lays an important foundation for the phonics work that will follow in later phases of phonics.

Phase 1 involves teaching children about

● Instrumental Sounds

● Environmental Sounds

● Rhythm and Rhyme

● Voice Sounds

● Oral Blending and Segmenting

Phonics Teaching: Phase 2

In Phase 2, children learn 23 phonic sounds of letters, which are arranged into five separate sets. These sounds are

● Set 1 - s, a, t, p

● Set 2 - i, n, m, d

● Set 3 - g, o, c, k,

● Set 4 - ck, e, u, r,

● Set 5 - b, h, f, ff, l, ll, ss

As they’re learning phonics sounds, kids will also learn and spell some simple VC (vowel-consonant) and CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. 

Phonics Teaching: Phase 3

In this phase the children are taught about the rest of the phonemes and phonic sounds of letters that weren’t covered in Phase 2 - including two-letter sounds and complex phonemes such as digraphs and trigraphs.

By the end of Phase 3, children will be able to recognise all 26 letters of the alphabet and recall them by their names. 

Phonics Teaching: Phase 4

In this phase, the main focus is for children to become more confident at using the phonemes that they have already learned. In this phase, children will learn to recognise a set of adjacent consonants called consonant clusters. 

They should also be able to write out words and say them without sounding out each phoneme individually.

Phonics Teaching: Phase 5

In this phase of teaching, children are introduced to a new selection of graphemes and phonemes. This new set of phonemes includes alternate spellings and vowel combinations that create different sounds to what the children have already learned.

Alongside these new phonemes and graphemes, children will also become quicker at recognizing and blending graphemes. 

Phonics Teaching: Phase 6

This phase is focused on becoming more confident in reading and spelling. The activities that encourage these skills are very important at this stage. By the end of this phase, children should feel confident in their reading abilities.

Stages of Phonics Teaching

The method of phonics for kids employs the following stages:

Stage 1: Grapheme Phoneme Correspondences

In this stage of phonics teaching, kids are taught the 44 phonemes that make up the English language. The first sounds that are taught in this stage are s, a, t, p and then all other sounds are also taught. 

Stage 2: Blending sounds

Once the children understand the 44 phonemes(sound) of English and how they interact with graphemes, they step-up to the blending stage. As an important reading skill, children must learn how to blend individual sounds or phonemes together to create different words.

This usually starts with simple three-letter words with a CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) structure – think cat, bin, buy. As they develop their understanding, more consonants are added to create CVCC words such as bark, cass, and born.

Stage 3: Segmenting Words

The segmenting stage of phonics is the opposite of the blending stage. Essentially during this stage, the children say entire words and then break(segment) them down into the individual phonemes that make them up.

This is the basic process that children will go through when learning to spell a new or complicated word at whatever stage of language development they are at.

Benefits of Learning Phonics

The benefits of learning phonics for kindergarten are:

1. Improves Early Literacy Skills

Teaching to read and write by employing phonics makes a real difference to the way children learn literacy which helps them master their reading and writing skills much faster and more effectively.

2. Helps With Speech and Language Development

By breaking down words into their individual sounds, and slowing down to look at the way each sound has been formed, and how our lips and mouths work to make each sound, helps children who struggle with speech and language development.

3. Gives a Head Start At School

Phonics is a fundamental part of learning to read and write. With phonics, the pre-school children are introduced to letters in a fun, play-based way that helps them get a head start when they start school which makes the transition less daunting both for children and their parents.

4. Helps Remove Barriers of Learning  

Phonics also helps children remove barriers to learning, especially those suffering with dyslexia.

Tips for Parents: How To Teach Phonics at Home?  

Phonics is knowing that sounds and letters have a relation and as children advance as readers, they must be able to blend letter sounds. There are plenty of simple, fun, and effective activities that parents can do with their child to help them learn phonics sounds at home:

1. Try to make phonetic exercises fun, and engage with activities like singing the alphabet song which can be used to teach them the 42 phonics sounds-

● s, a, t, i, p, n

● ck, e, h, r, m, d

● g, o, u, l, f, d

● ai, j, oa, ie, ee, or

● z, w, ng, v, oo, oo

● y, x, ch, sh, th, th

● qu, ou, oi, ue, er, ar 

2. Encourage your child to listen to regular sounds like animal sounds and familiarize them with simple words like ‘hello’, ‘dog’, and family names.

● Let your child read daily and help them with the pronunciation of difficult words.

● Tell them stories they love. Put on character voices as you read, and pronounce the words with joy and enthusiasm. 

Phonics Games and Activities

1. I spy

This classic game can be used to get some phonics practice. You can choose objects around the room featuring the phonemes and graphemes that you want to teach. This can help students to form connections between the objects and their meanings.

2. Reading With a Partner

Organize students into pairs and provide each one with a copy of the same text. One partner reads the text and the other one follows closely with their own copy and helps the reader with difficult words and then after some time, the partners switch roles. It is a great way to practice listening and reading skills.

3. Blends and Digraphs Bingo

Every child loves a fun game of bingo! Snag some printable bingo cards and use them to practice blends and digraphs.

4. Picture Matching

In this, the children are given a series of short words and pictures to match up.  This will test their word recognition, spelling, and reading comprehension skills which is a  great way to improve children's recognition of common words and build their vocabularies.


1. How Do you Teach Phonics for Beginners?

Introduce the beginner with simple alphabetical codes such as Aa, Bb, Cc, Dd, etc. Then familiarize them with the sounds of each letter. Once the child learns to recognise the sounds of letters, teach them to blend the sounds of each letter and then pronounce the whole word.

2. What are the 42 Phonics Sounds?

1. s, a, t, i, p, n

2. ck, e, h, r, m, d

3. g, o, u, l, f, d

4. ai, j, oa, ie, ee, or

5. z, w, ng, v, oo, oo

6. y, x, ch, sh, th, th

7. qu, ou, oi, ue, er, ar

3. What are Examples of Phonics?

ar- bar, car, jar ; or- corn, horn, sword ; er- her, flower, tiger; ir- stir, bird, third; ur- fur, curl, nurse ; oy- boy, joy, toy ; oi- oink, boil, soil ; au- author, auto, launch ; aw- jaw, saw, draw ; ow- owl, frown, crown ; ou- couch, cloud, found ; ew- grew, flew, chew ; igh- high, sight, right.

4. In What Order Should Phonics Skills be Taught?

Teach in the following order-

● Consonants & short vowel sounds

● Consonant digraphs and blends

● Long vowel/final e

● Long vowel digraphs

● Other vowel patterns

● Syllable patterns

● Affixes

5. What age should a child be taught phonics?

 Between three to four years of age.

6. Phonics and phonetics - What is the difference?

Phonics: It is a system for teaching people how to read languages using letters, and focuses on the sounds associated with each group of letters.

Phonetics: It is the science of describing linguistic sounds accurately by using special symbols and terminology.

7. What is a Phoneme?

Phoneme is the smallest unit of sound. Example: s, t , p, n ,oo, ee, ai, etc.

8. What is Phonics Sound?

It is the sound of spoken English that is matched to individual alphabets (letters) or groups of alphabets to help children decode unknown or unfamiliar words by sounding them out.

Ms. Jaya Ramesh

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