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Twenty-six letters and perhaps 50 major 'written sounds' make up the Phonics code.

For children with a solid foundation in Phonemic Awareness, learning letter-sounds is very much like learning the names of other objects.

The child sees a tree and says, "Tree."
The child sees letter M and says "m-m-m."

There are strategies to help the learning process go smoothly.

Stay at the level of the child’s success by adjusting the task so that the student is generally about 85% successful--or better.

When students practice getting the ‘right answer’--with whatever help--they develop independence in knowing the ‘right answer.’

When students practice struggling in any way, struggle is what they are learning! So keep with success.

Matching is the easist task.

In matching, you give the child a sample letter, and let her pick out another one just like it from a small group of letters.

You can use the opportunity to ‘feed in’ the sound of the letter she is looking for: “Here’s a ‘s-s-s’ . . . Let’s see . . . where’s that other ‘s-s-s’?”

(Use this strategy for combinations, too: with ‘oa’ you can say “Here’s ‘Oh’ . . . Hmmm . . . Do you see the other ‘Oh’?”)

If the child makes a mistake, just say “Look again.”

Pointing is the next-easiest task.

In pointing, you show a small group of letters and say the sound of one of them. “Show me ‘s-s-s.’” The child points to the one you say.

By pointing, he is demonstrating that he knows which letter goes with the sound, even if he could not think of the sound quickly on his own.

This is like being able to point to a slightly familiar person named at a party, even if you could not think of their name quickly on your own.

Pointing is a great warm-up for the next task . . .

Naming is the hardest task, and the reason for practicing the others.

In naming, the child sees a letter and says its sound.

Naming can be aloud, or in the ‘Mind’s Ear’ when the child is reading silently.

The critical aspect of Phonics for reading, is Rapid-Accurate Naming of the letter-sounds.

Rapid-Accurate Naming means thinking of the names of things, quickly and correctly.

chair   table   window   tree

Letters are objects, too; and they have letter-names like Em, Jay, Ess; and sound-names like m-m-m, j-j-j and s-s-s.

Children learn Rapid-Accurate Naming of letter-sounds by plenty of accurate practice.

The ‘rapid’ part develops with experience--as long as the ‘accurate’ part is there.

Children need to practice at about 85% accuracy--better than 8 out of 10 correct responses.

Stay with the easier ‘pointing’ task until your student is ready to ‘name’ new sounds accurately.

Once your student is naming a set of sounds, do not hesitate to warm up with the pointing task before having her name the sounds--to be sure that she practices accurately.

Children eventually learn Rapid-Accurate Naming of common syllables, too.

They may or may not need to drill these. Successful reading is a drill in itself.

Turn a task inside-out for best learning.

For maximum power, it is always a good idea to learn something forwards, backwards, and inside-out!

The child sees a tree and says, "Tree."
The child sees letter M and says "m-m-m."

The child hears the name 'tree' and thinks of a tree.
The child hears 'm-m-m' and thinks of letter M.

Students should practice writing the sounds and words they are reading.

Say a sound and the student writes it (opposite of Naming).
Say a short word and the student writes each sound (opposite of Blending).

You can give a small choice of letters at the top of the page if you need to simplify this task for accurate practice.

A good way to practice from all angles is ‘You Be The Teacher.’

After a round of ‘pointing’ practice, say “You be the teacher.” The child names a sound, and you point to it.
(If you make a mistake, he has to ‘catch’ you.)

Keep practicing Blending and Segmenting.

Your student is already skilled in blending separate sounds into words, and familiar with pulling apart or segmenting words into pieces, from his Phonemic Awareness training.

Continue blending and segmenting games as you practice with phonetic words he is reading.

Remember that blending is for reading, and segmenting is for writing.

Use Phonic readers that follow along with your Phonics program.

Children need an opportunity to practice each new letter-sound they are learning, in some actual reading.

Phonics readers are not particularly ‘natural’ sounding, because the author is so limited in the words she can use; but research shows that this kind of reading is vital to a good Phonics program.

Demonstrate that some words are not completely Phonics-friendly.

If you write Natural Language Stories with your student (see Connect to the Tree section of The Reading Treehouse), you will find examples of words that follow the common Phonics rules, and those that do not.


bone, cone, lone, tone, zone . . . done, gone.

You might say, “‘I come home’ . . . That looks like it should be ‘I c-ohhhm home.’ ‘Come’ doesn’t follow the rules very well.”

Students should not attempt to ‘sound out’ every new word exactly.

Consonants are fairly reliable.
Vowels are often tricky.

Students can gain ‘vowel flexibility’ by using Phonics clues plus sentence clues together, to come up with a new word.

When students think of sentence meaning along with Phonics, they are plugging in the language system.

This is a good thing, necessary for comprehending what they are reading.

Remember: All of the skills of reading work together as a system.

Do all readers need Phonics?

YES! All readers need all the tools, if at all possible.

If we had to recognize all whole words by sight alone with no sound clues, it would be overwhelming.

Should all readers begin with phonics?


'Phonemic Awareness' games prepare beginners for phonics by strengthening the 'Mind's Ear.'

Well-prepared children with strong Phonemic Awareness can generally breeze through phonics, compared with children who are not prepared.

Well-prepared children gain fluency (and comprehension) more easily than others.

Once children are on the right track, Phonemic Awareness continues to grow as they learn phonics.

Some students need a lot of practice to build the strong auditory skills that make Phonics really work.

Meanwhile they can practice reading fluently, and applying any simple Phonics they may already know, via the Natural Language technique (see Connect to the Tree section of The Reading Treehouse).

Students should begin in a way that is easy for them.

They can learn to use all the parts of reading more easily, once they have a successful start.




Online Printouts
ABC Printouts (Level-K)
Phonics Puzzles Activities
Seasonal Books
Learn to Read (Level-A)
It's Fun to Read (Level-B)
I'm Reading (Level-C)

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