Phonics is a FOUNDATIONAL LITERACY SKILL that focuses on the correspondence between letters (graphemes) and their sounds (phonemes). Through phonics instruction, students learn letter-sound relationships in order to successfully decode (read) and encode (spell) words.
Fundamental reading skills, like PHONICS, PHONEMIC AWARENESS and FLUENCY, are typically taught in grades K-2. Phonics instruction ranges from teaching letter identification, letter-sound relationships, spelling patterns, and high frequency words to complicated vowel patterns, and multisyllabic words.
Everything on Phonics
|Vowels||are letters (graphemes) that are not consonants|
|Diphthongs||are sounds formed by combining two vowels in a single syllable|
|Digraphs||are formed when two letters come together to create one sound|
|Consonant Blends||are a set of two or three consonant letters that when pronounced, retain their sound|
|Syllables||are phonological building blocks of words|
Although phonics plays a major role in the primary grades, increasingly complex phonetic patterns keep phonics instruction relevant throughout elementary school and even into middle school. Students with strong phonological awareness are better able to understand words and their patterns, and how to apply this knowledge of letters and sounds to decode and encode increasingly complicated words.
Students learn how to read and spell words through repeated instruction in phonics and spelling patterns.
Vowels are letters (graphemes) that are not consonants. Vowel sounds (phonemes) are produced when there is no closing of any part of the mouth or throat. Although there are five letters that represent vowels, there are 12 pure vowel sound and a total of 20 vowel sounds when factoring in diphthongs. One set of vowel sounds are short vowels. Short vowel sounds do not sound like their corresponding letter names, such as the “a” in “cat”. Another set of vowel sounds are long vowels, which are pronounced the same as their letter name. A vowel pattern that produces a long vowel is the silent “e” at an end of a word. For example the “a” in “tale” sounds like its letter name because of the silent “e” in the word.
Below are other short and long vowel patterns and examples.
Vowel Patterns Examples
|Vowel Pattern||Word Examples|
|Short “a”||fan, pan, man, mat, cat, rat|
|Short “e”||pen, ten, when, bet, let, jet|
|Short “i”||bit, pit, fit, fin, win, pin|
|Short “o”||pot, lot, dot, hop, shop, drop|
|Short “u”||fun, run, sun, bun, up, cup|
|Long “a”||fail, rain, pail, tale, whale, male|
|Long “e”||feet, sheep, keep, heat, meat, beat|
|Long “i”||cried, pie, flies, file, mile, pile|
|Long “o”||boat, coat, float, bone, cone, note|
|Long “u”||blue, clue, true, cute, cube, tube|
A diphthong, also known as a gliding vowel, is when one phoneme forms by combining two vowels in a single syllable. The sound begins as one vowel sound and moves towards another.
The most common diphthong spelling patterns in the English language are:
|“oy”/ “oi”||boy, toy, joy, coin, joint, noise|
|“ow”/ “ou”||howl, plow, now, cloud, round, mouse|
Digraphs are two letters that form a single phoneme (sound). Digraphs can be categorized as consonant digraphs or vowel digraphs. In a consonant digraph, a joint set of consonants form one sound, like “sh” in shark. Consonant digraphs can appear at the beginning of a word (initial consonant digraphs) or the end of a word (final consonant digraphs). A vowel digraph is when two vowels generate one sound, such as “ay” in away. Vowel digraphs can appear at the beginning, middle, or end of a word.
The following table features other consonant and vowel digraphs:
|Digraph||Consonant Digraph or Vowel Digraph||Word Examples|
|“ch”||Consonant Digraph||chose, chair, ouch, much|
|“sh”||Consonant Digraph||shout, she, wash, rash|
|“th”||Consonant Digraph||thing, thank, teeth, math|
|“ay”||Vowel Digraph||say, stay, play, pay|
|“ea”||Vowel Digraph||each, cheat, wheat, neat|
|“oa”||Vowel Digraph||oat, float, goat, cloak|
Consonant blends are a set of two or three consonant letters that when pronounced retain their sound. Consonant blends, also known as consonant clusters, can be found at the beginning of a word (initial blends) or the end a word (final blends). An example of an initial consonant blend is “br” in the work “break.” An example of a final consonant blend is “st” in the word “list.”
Other initial and final consonant blends include:
Consonant Blends Examples
|Blend||Initial or Final Consonant Blend||Word Examples|
|“bl-”||Initial Blend||blend, blind, blue|
|“cl-”||Initial Blend||climb, cloud, clue|
|“dr-”||Initial Blend||drama, drink, drive|
|“pl-”||Initial Blend||place, plan, play|
|“sm-”||Initial Blend||small, smell, smile|
|“-ct”||Final Blend||act, fact, project|
|“-lp”||Final Blend||gulp, help, scalp|
|“-mp”||Final Blend||camp, jump, stamp|
|“-nd”||Final Blend||and, band, land|
|“-rk”||Final Blend||bark, dark, park|
Syllables are single units of speech and always include a vowel (or vowel-like) sound. A syllable that ends in a vowel is an open syllable. In an open syllable, a long vowel sound is produced, like the first syllable in the word “paper” (pa-per). A syllable that ends in a consonant is a closed syllable. Closed syllables contain a short vowel sound, such as the first syllable in the word “idol” (i-dol).
Open and Closed Syllables Examples
|Open First Syllable||apron (a-pron); bacon (ba-con); pilot (pi-lot); detail (de-tail)|
|Closed First Syllable||seven (sev-en); doctor (doc-tor); locket (lock-et); thunder (thun-der)|
Words can be monosyllabic (containing one syllable) or multisyllabic (containing more than one syllable). Disyllabic words are made up of two syllables and trisyllabic words are made up of three syllables. Below are examples of monosyllabic, disyllabic, and trisyllabic words.
Monosyllabic, Disyllabic, and Trisyllabic Examples
|Monosyllabic Words||cat; sun; act; bus; red; few; moon; week|
|Disyllabic Words||issue (is-sue); party (par-ty); tiger (ti-ger); women (wo-men); police (po-lice)|
|Trisyllabic Words||magical (ma-gi-cal); energy (e-ner-gy); visitor (vi-si-tor); popular (po-pu-lar)|
Building solid phonics skills is essential for students’ future literacy success. Phonics instruction must start in kindergarten, progressing from simple to more complex phonetic patterns. Learners should be taught several strategies to decode words, such as using pictures; sounding the word out; looking for word chunks; and making connections to words they know. Students should be instructed to tune into word parts and patterns while simultaneously thinking about the meaning of the words.
English Language Learners (ELLs) and emergent readers benefit from the support of seeing, hearing, and playing with letters and word segments as they learn to speak and read English. This Reading Skills Pyramid helps teachers and parents understand the developmental stages of phonics skills that impact reading and spelling.
The Pre-K through second grade developmental stages of phonics skills are detailed below.
Developmental Stages of Phonics Skills
Systematic instruction provided by the teacher and VocabularySpellingCity’s phonics and spelling learning activities are a winning combination for all readers. Giving students more opportunities to play with and manipulate words in a fun and engaging way will deepen their knowledge of how letters and sounds make words.