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A Parents’ Guide to Phonics

There is a never-ending war going on between teachers about the use of “whole word” and “phonics” method in teaching kids to read and write. More and more of them are opting for the phonics method, as kids become able to decipher unknown words due to a phonics code they’re taught. In the following paragraphs, you can find out what this method actually is and how you as parents can help your children practice and improve at home.

How it works

There are only 26 letters in English and some might think that it’s easy to learn to read due to that. However, those letters can form 44 different sounds, which are called phonemes. When kids learn to read with phonics, they are taught how to break down words into their individual phonemes. In other words, in everyday phonics for kids, they are taught a code which helps them read unknown words. Contrary to this, the whole-word method teaches them to remember words as whole units, without analyzing the letters and sounds they’re made of. 

This means that they probably won’t be able to read words they’ve never seen before. Of course, there are some words that don’t follow the rules of phonics and those have to be memorized as exceptions. Even so, it’s easier to memorize 100 words and learn others through the code than to memorize them all.

All those technical terms

Children love to use this terminology, they have fun learning it and they should learn it, as well as you. We’ve already mentioned phonemes, which are the smallest units of sound. First, they are represented with a letter sound, but later on, kids are introduced to digraphs, trigraphs and split digraphs. Digraphs are two letters that are combined to make a phoneme and trigraphs are phonemes made up of three letters. Split digraphs are something that children struggle with the most. 

They represent two letters that make one sound, but there is a letter between them that separates them. Digraphs, trigraphs and split digraphs are called graphemes, which represent any letter or a number of letters that represent a sound. Learning about these will help kids in their process of learning how to read and write, along with some other skills such as blending and segmenting. 

Blending is a process through which they learn to bring the sounds together to make a word or syllable, which is really important for them to learn to read and write. Also, it helps improve their fluency while reading. Segmenting is a skill used in spelling, as they learn to segment words into the sounds they’re made of. This helps them a lot when they are learning to write and they think it’s fun.

When they start learning it

Most kids start reading at the age of 5, but there are some who start even earlier. In those early stages of learning, they are taught to recognize and differentiate between sounds. They get attuned to them, which lays a foundation for oral blending and segmenting skills. Next, they learn single letter sounds from the alphabet before moving on to digraphs, trigraphs and split digraphs. 

Then they learn about the special sounds and how they’re used in words and sentences. As a result, they become able to represent all the phonemes with a grapheme and they become able to read, write and spell ordinary and tricky words they’ve learned up to that point.

How to practice at home

Kids who practice at home will improve much faster than those who don’t, but you have to make it fun for them. You can play some games with them and challenge them to break their records every time you play. Buy some flashcards with the sounds written on them, place them in a pile, set the timer and ask your child to say the sound clearly. 

Keep a track of their achievements for the next time when they can try to beat the previous score. You should also read with them a lot, but try to pick books they’re interested in. Exposing them to words will make the whole process much easier and faster and they’ll get to broaden their vocabulary. It can also serve as a quality time you get to spend with them.

This method isn’t only effective but also interesting and fun for kids. They can learn how to read through some multi-sensory activities and not just reading. If they have fun doing it, they’ll remember it faster and easier and you can help them in the process as well.

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