Phonics Instruction: The Basics

Find out what the scientific research says about effective phonics instruction. It begins with instruction that is systematic and explicit.

Key findings from the scientific research on phonics instruction include the following conclusions of particular interest and value to classroom teachers.

Systematic and explicit phonics instruction is more effective than non-systematic or no phonics instruction

Systematic and explicit phonics instruction makes a bigger contribution to children’s growth in reading than instruction that provides non-systematic or no phonics instruction.

How do systematic programs of phonics instruction differ from non-systematic programs? The hallmark of programs of systematic phonics instruction is the direct teaching of a set of letter-sound relationships in a clearly defined sequence. The set includes the major sound/spelling relationships of both consonants and vowels.

The programs also provide materials that give children substantial practice in applying knowledge of these relationships as they read and write. These materials include books or stories that contain a large number of words that children can decode by using the letter-sound relationships they have learned and are learning. The programs also might provide children with opportunities to spell words and to write their own stories with the letter-sound relationships they are learning.

Systematic and explicit phonics instruction significantly improves kindergarten and first-grade children’s word recognition and spelling

Systematic phonics instruction produces the greatest impact on children’s reading achievement when it begins in kindergarten or first grade.

Both kindergarten and first-grade children who receive systematic phonics instruction are better at reading and spelling words than kindergarten and first-grade children who do not receive systematic instruction.

Systematic and explicit phonics instruction significantly improves children’s reading comprehension

Systematic phonics instruction results in better growth in children’s ability to comprehend what they read than non-systematic or no phonics instruction. This is not surprising because the ability to read the words in a text accurately and quickly is highly related to successful reading comprehension.

Systematic and explicit phonics instruction is effective for children from various social and economic levels

Systematic phonics instruction is beneficial to children regardless of their socioeconomic status. It helps children from various backgrounds make greater gains in reading than non- systematic instruction or no phonics instruction.

Systematic and explicit phonics instruction is particularly beneficial for children who are having difficulty learning to read and who are at risk for developing future reading problems

Systematic phonics instruction is significantly more effective than non-systematic or no phonics instruction in helping to prevent reading difficulties among at-risk students and in helping children overcome reading difficulties.

Systematic and explicit phonics instruction is most effective when introduced early

Phonics instruction is most effective when it begins in kindergarten or first grade. To be effective with young learners, systematic instruction must be designed appropriately and taught carefully. It should include teaching letter shapes and names, phonemic awareness, and all major letter-sound relationships. It should ensure that all children learn these skills.

As instruction proceeds, children should be taught to use this knowledge to read and  write words.

Phonics instruction is not an entire reading program for beginning readers

Along with phonics instruction, young children should be solidifying their knowledge of the alphabet, engaging in phonemic awareness activities, and listening to stories and informational texts read aloud to them. They also should be reading texts (both out loud and silently), and writing letters, words, messages, and stories.

 

National Institute for Literacy (2006)

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