Children need to see that individual sounds (phonemes) make up the words we speak. The different shapes the letters form are called (graphemes). They are taught to understand that the letters they see correspond to the sounds they represent. It’s not easy though, because the grapheme/phoneme correspondence can be irregular. For example the ‘C’ and ‘K’ can have the same sound, yet they look different when written down.
Children begin to learn the sounds of the alphabet first rather than the names. Rather than saying the letter ‘Bee’ for the letter ‘B’, they are taught to pronounce the sound first. This approach makes learning to read easier. Once some individual sounds are learned, the child can start blending them together ”sss” ”a” and ”mmm”, making the word ”Sam”.
The graphemes are introduced in a logical sequence gradually, using the ones that represent the same sounds, and then they move towards ones with irregular spellings. This system of learning is usually split into phonics phases.
Phase 1/Skill Development
Phonological awareness is the ability to discriminate between different sounds, such as different endings to words like ”cat” and ”cup”. As children listen to songs, music and everyday language and interactions, they slowly begin to develop this skill and become aware of shapes and being able to see the difference between objects. This is usually taught early on, with parents and teachers making the contributions.
Phase 2/The first letters
Children will now be introduced to the first graphemes and the sounds they represent. These may be single letters like ”p” or ”a”, or ‘two-letters-one-sound’, like ”ck”. Children are taught to blend these sounds together as soon as they have learned them. For example, ”p” ”a” ”nnn”, making the word ”pan”. The Department of Education recommends that 19 graphemes are introduced in Reception (ages 4/5).
Another 25 graphemes are introduced, which include single letters and digraphs (groups of letters) which represent a single sound. Consonant digraphs like ”sh” and ”th” come first, and then digraphs containing vowels only, like ”oo” and ”oa”. Children then learn sight words, or ‘tricky words’. These cannot be sounded out phonetically and include words such as ‘the’, ‘you’, ‘one’, and so on.
Children continue to learn more sight words and practice their new skills, blending groups of consonants, such as ‘ng’, ‘tr’ and ‘str’.
Once children can read words without sounding them out, they will learn more vowel digraphs and different ways to write the same sound, and different ways to pronounce them. Examples are the ”ea’ in head, bleak and meat. They will also learn split digraphs in this phase, such as ‘a-e’ with the consonant missing such as ‘k’. I’ll provide a link with more information on split digraphs.
Children are now able to read words automatically and decode them without sounding out. They will now improve their reading skills and fluency by reading a wide variety of material. This develops their writing and spelling accuracy.
Take a look at this YouTube video that is used to teach children sight words or tricky words. Children love it, because the song is incredibly catchy. You’ll be humming it all day, I’m sure. I do!!
Take a look at Alphablocks..
And Jolly phonics. There are resources you can find for this system of learning.