Phonics is the 2nd step in the reading process. After children have developed Phonological Awareness, they are ready to connect that oral language skill to the written symbols – our alphabet – that make up words.

Look at any number of phonics programs and you will see there is no official order in which children are taught to read.

Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading, a popular phonics program written by The Well Trained Mind folks, begin kids with -at, -am, and -an words all in the same first lesson.

Phonics Pathways, on the other hand, jumps right in with transitioning from 2-letter sound combinations to reading lists of words, such as sat, set, sip, sob, and sun.

For yet another approach, Hooked on Phonics, introduces word families by immediately comparing and contrasting short-a and short-i words, such as -at, -ag, and -ig.

While there is no single agreed upon approach to what words you should teach a new reader first, we do know some basic ideas about the reading process.

  • Continuous sounds, like the ones listed here, are easier to learn as initial consonants:

    /f/ – fat
    /l/ – let
    /m/ – mutt
    /n/ – not
    /r/ – rat
    /s/ – sad
    /z/ – zoo
    /sh/ – ship






  • Avoid introducing auditorily confusing sounds in the same lesson, like B and V or short-e and short-i


  • Avoid introducing visually confusing letters at the same time, like b and d or p and q


  • It’s good to add extra reinforcement of high utility letters such as F, M, N, R, and S

Last modified on September 28, 2019

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