Phonics: Introduction

The goal of phonics instruction is to help children learn the alphabetic principle — the idea that letters represent the sounds of spoken language — and that there is an organized, logical, and predictable relationship between written letters and spoken sounds.

Phonics instruction helps children learn the relationships between the letters of written language and the sounds of spoken language. Children are taught, for example, that the letter n represents the sound /n/ and that it is the first letter in words such as nose, nice, and new.

Learning that there are predictable relationships between sounds and letters allows children to apply these relationships to both familiar and unfamiliar words and to begin to read with fluency.

Programs of phonics instruction should be:

  • Systematic: the letter-sound relationship is taught in an organized and logical sequence
  • Explicit: the instruction provides teachers with precise directions for teaching letter-sound relationships

Effective phonics programs provide:

  • Frequent opportunities for children to apply what they are learning about letters and sounds to the reading of words, sentences, and stories

Systematic and explicit phonics instruction:

  • Significantly improves children's word recognition, spelling, and reading comprehension
  • Is most effective when it begins in kindergarten or first grade but should be used as a part of a comprehensive reading program with students who do not have a firm understanding of the letter-sound relationship, regardless of grade level

 

National Institute for Literacy (2006)

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