Reading 101 is a collaboration with the Center for Effective Reading Instruction and The International Dyslexia Association.

Phonics: Introduction

Teacher and first grade students practicing phonics lesson

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, with many opportunities for cumulative practice. Regular progress monitoring helps ensure that word recognition is taught to mastery.
     
  • 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, fluency, spelling, and reading comprehension. (For more information about the connection between decoding and reading comprehension, see the article The Simple View of Reading and Scarborough's Rope model in the Comprehension module).
     
  • Is most effective when it begins in kindergarten 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. See the article When Older Students Can't Read.

Letter of completion

Reading Rockets does not offer CEUs for this self-study course. After completing this module and successfully answering the post-test questions, you'll be able to download a Letter of Completion.

Video: The Alphabetic Principle

In Houston, the teacher of an advanced kindergarten class connects letters and sounds in a systematic and explicit way.

Reading 101 is a collaboration with the Center for Effective Reading Instruction and The International Dyslexia Association.

"Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!" — A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1943