What is Phonics?

Phonics is a method of teaching English that focuses on the phonemes (or sounds) of the letters. The aim of phonics is to enable the student to decode words using their knowledge of the letter sounds and how they blend together.

By helping young learners practice blending, they will be able to recognize sound patterns and tackle unfamiliar words. This is an important pre-reading skill that can help students gain the confidence to start reading independently.

For learning materials, visit our Phonics store. To get further information, see our Phonics Information page.

How many sounds will my student need to learn?

This is a matter of contention, with some phonologists stating that there are 42 phonemes in English, while others cite there are 44 to learn.

Regardless of the total, it is quite incredible to consider that there are so many sounds given that the English alphabet has 26 letters (and two of them create the same /k/ sound). The phonemes are the single units of sound that form the ‘building blocks’ for all of our words.

Here is a phoneme chart which features the sound, example word and a picture:

How is phonics taught?

There are many different programs available, but essentially they all focus on the same sets of phonics skills: blending and stretching (also known as segmenting) the sounds. The sounds can be written (graphemes), or sounded out to the learner orally.

In order to do this, the young learner must first learn the letter names, their sounds, and recognize them written down. The next step is to start to join these sounds together to form words. The aim of this program is to get the learner blending four-sound words accurately.


How is this Phonics Program different to other available programs?

The main differences between how educators might approach phonics is mainly the order of the sounds presented or how the sounds are classified. For example, some programs might refer to the long vowel /a/ sound as a digraph as it is made using two letters, or as a diphthong as it is two vowel sounds next to each other. In this program, we simplify the terminology and remain consistent to avoid confusing your learner (or you)! 

In this Phonics Program, we introduce the highest-frequency sounds first to enable your student to start using English quickly and to build their confidence. The more obscure sounds such as /q/ and /x/ are introduced in later phases, along with the more complex sounds. For example, we teach the short vowel sounds in isolation before introducing the learners to long vowel sounds, and then focus on diphthong vowels after that.

We have structured our Phonics Program into five distinct phases to help your learner progress. Click the images to zoom in and read:

Is phonics a new method of teaching?

Although it may seem quite modern, phonics instruction has been around since 1850! However, in recent decades there has been a stronger push for young learners to grasp these skills early on. It is likely that you were instead taught the ‘whole word’ reading method at school, but don’t worry if you are not familiar with phonics. We are here to provide teaching strategies and learning materials to help you.

Many educators now encourage learning phonics in the early foundation stage as it can help learners to get reading faster than the traditional ‘look and say’ method, where they are presented with the written words and given the pronunciation to memorize. However, the sight words should be learnt in this way because they do not follow the same phonics rules, e.g. the and said.

As with all methods of teaching, your student will benefit most if they are given different ways to learn. Therefore, phonics instruction should be complemented by other strategies that focus on the meaning of the text, syntax, or simply the enjoyment of reading stories together.

We hope that you’ve found this post useful. If you have any questions about our Phonics Program, please contact us.

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