How to Teach Phonics to Your Child

By Kay Tang
To practice phonics, read with your child daily and sound out words.
To practice phonics, read with your child daily and sound out words.

Phonics is a teaching technique in which your child learns to recognize sounds and letters as well as how to blend them to make words. Once your child understands phonics, he can decode new words with greater ease. Phonics is taught in stages that progress in difficulty and take time to master.

Rhyme and Clap

The first step is to build your child’s phenomic awareness, helping him to recognize letters, sounds and syllables. Use activities, such as rhyming and clapping games, to make this process fun. For example, begin a rhyming game by saying a simple word, such as cat. Ask your child to respond with a word that rhymes with cat, such as hat, bat or fat. Clapping can help your child to recognize syllables. Show him how to clap to the syllables in his own name. If your child’s name is Edward, for instance, clap once for “Ed” and then a second time for “ward.”

Blend and Segment

Once your child becomes familiar with common letters and sounds, teach him the 44 phenome sounds by putting each sound on an index card. When you show the card to your child, utter the phenome and then have your child repeat the sound after you. This activity helps him to connect the printed letter with the sound. Then, teach him the skill of blending letters and sounds to make words. For example, say the letters “h,” “o” and “t” separately and then blend the sounds to say “hot.” Reverse the process -- called segmenting -- by having your child listen to a word and then figure what sounds are needed to make the word.

Cover the Alphabet and Letter Teams

Teach your child the alphabet so he also learns less common letters, such as "j", "v" and "w." Sing the “Alphabet Song” together and have him play with alphabet blocks or magnetic letters. Next, introduce him to letter teams -- digraphs – in which two letters form one sound. Among the many digraphs are: "sh," "ch," "th," "ow," "oi" and "ee." Also, teach your child consonant clusters in which two consonants blend to make one sound, such as "fr," "st" and "cl." Use a whiteboard and write words with diagraphs or consonant clusters, but leave out letters. Help your child fill in the blanks. Have your child identify objects in pictures, such as a drawing of a frog by a tree.

Teach Long Vowels and Tricky Words

The next leap for your child is to learn that there is more than one way to make long vowel sounds, according to the BBC. For example, you can make a long "e" sound with "ea" and "ee." Your child should also learn that long vowel sounds can be made when letter teams are split. The "a" and "e" in bake are no longer paired but separated to make the long vowel "a." Finally, gradually introduce your child to tricky words that don’t follow the phonics’ rules, such as "you," "my," "they" and "her."

About the Author

Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.