Essay by kaaanch October 2010

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Phonics is a method of reading instruction that focuses on teaching students the sounds associated with letters and letter combinations. For example, when kindergartners are taught that the letter c says /c/ as in candy, a says /a/ as in apple, and t says /t/ as in tiger, and are later prompted to blend the sounds /c//a//t/ into "cat," they are learning to read with phonics. Because phonics unlocks word identification and a cascade of associated benefits, including fluency, spelling improvement, and comprehension, it has become, in recent years, the focus of important school improvement efforts in the United States and elsewhere.


Reading researchers have conducted countless studies to assess the usefulness of phonics and to identify teaching methods that are most efficient. Comprehensive meta-analyses have revealed that systematic, explicit phonics instruction produces the most significant benefits for students in kindergarten through sixth grade and for children having difficulty learning to read.

Here are several important findings about phonics, along with recommendations for instruction.

Phonemic Awareness Is Essential

Learners who have the ability to hear and understand that words are composed of discrete, separate sounds are said to be phonemically aware and are ready for phonics. Without phonemic awareness skills, students are likely to struggle with their phonics lessons. To identify those in need of remediation, primary teachers should carefully assess their students' phoneme awareness skills. Oral rhyming, syllable tapping, sound segmentation games, sound substitution, and sound blending serve to develop phoneme awareness. A learner who can listen to the word "hug" and segment the word orally into its component sounds, /h//u//g/, has mastered phoneme segmentation and is likely to benefit from phonics instruction and be successful in learning how to read.

Good Phonics Instruction Is Explicit

Phonics instruction must be explicit-taught directly, actively,