Phonics teaches children the link between letters and the sounds they make. It comes after phonological processing. Phonics makes up the 2nd stage of a structured literacy program.
Phonics instruction provides children with skills for blending individual sounds into words. It involves lightening fast connections between different parts of the brain, where a person must:
- Visually see printed text
- Identify individual letters within a word
- Associate the appropriate sound that goes with a certain letter or letter combination
- Remember each letter-sound unit while continuing to decode the remainder of a word
- Move the mouth muscles to correctly blend and pronounce the individual sounds into a recognizable word
It takes a lot of mental energy to learn and apply phonics.
The goal of phonics, however, is NOT to have children continue to sound out every word they come across.With consistent practice, children eventually learn to read words quickly and easily. They move from sounding out simple 3-, 4-, and 5-letter words to being able to read the word on sight. As your child grows older, they can rely on their basic phonics skills to break down larger, more complex words they come across.
Why Not Just Teach Sight Word Reading?
Educators have debated the benefits of phonics over whole language instruction (or just teaching children to read entire words instead of learning to sound them out) for well over 50 years. Decades of research show us that the brain
Just like a person learns to count on their fingers before memorizing their addition and multiplication table – or how a person learns to walk before they can run seamlessly across rocky terrains – phonics provides children with life-long decoding skills.
For example, a kindergartener will learn to sound out C-A-T as the word “cat”. By 5th grade, the student should be able to break down words such as “catapult” and “catalog” and read them without difficult. By the time they reach 8th grade, however, the student should be able to see words like “cataclysm” and “catheter” and recognize the first syllable will be pronounced differently because of the phonics rules they’ve learned.