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How to teach phonics to your child, the right way [EXPLAINED]

What happens when your kid starts asking you questions like “Why don’t we call it w-a-s instead of was?”, “Why does a cat start with C and not K?”, “Why doesn't the word Zebra end with a T?” How does this happen... what is that thing… and it goes for long...
Trust me, the answers to these aren’t that simple as it seems to be (I know you are nodding Yesss within). Building an understanding about letters, sounds, and words at the right age is not less than a ‘super power’ that allows children to read with speed, accuracy and expression. 
This blog aims to explain the right time, the correct strategies and the benefits to teach phonics to your child. But, first let’s briefly understand this...

What and why of phonics?

As parents, it is a joy to see our children doing well in school and life, and one important stepping stone is to become a good and independent reader.  Research has shown that teaching phonics the correct way ensures brilliant reading skills and lays the foundation for future success. 
Phonics is a way of teaching kids the sound associated with letters and how to put them together to make a word and read. The basic is the individual sounds, then comes the digraphs which is nothing but a pair of letters making a single sound e.g. ‘ai’ in the word train. 
In case you didn’t know, there are 42 individual sounds, not just the alphabets in English language.

When is the right time to start teaching phonics?

Children’s reading and writing development begins in their first 3 years and is closely linked to the earliest experiences they have with books and stories. Children learn to talk, read and write through social literacy experiences they get from parents interacting with them using books and other literacy materials, including puppets, crayon, marker, paper, etc.  So, before teaching phonics to children, it is very important to provide early literacy experiences to children from the very first year of their life.

The right time to start teaching phonics is 3-4years, when children are able to identify and recognise the letters.  But pre-reading skills can be nurtured and developed in children from their birth through rhymes, songs, reading books to children, reading with them, exposing them to books and other literacy materials.
In case you’re looking for phonics program for your child, here you go

5 steps to teach phonics to your child

Phonics should be taught in the right order with the correct sound associated with the respective letters. Let’s see how!

1st step: Letter sounds

Teach the basic individual sound of the letters, followed by the digraphs. Involve and encourage them to think about what sound a word starts with. Ask them to say the sound out loud and recognize how that sound associates with letters.

2nd step: Formation of letters

It is important that children hold pencils the correct way, in the tripod grip between the thumb and first two fingers because it becomes very difficult to correct later on once they form a habit. Make them learn to form the letters the correct way. 

3rd step: Decoding and Blending

Decoding is a way for children to be able to see a letter and then say the sound it associates with. Blending, on the other hand, is a way of saying individual sounds in a word and putting it together to make the word, e.g., c-a-t and making cat. These techniques improve with practice.

4th step: Identifying the sounds in words

Children tend to listen to the initial sounds in words first, then try listening to the end sounds. Identifying the sounds can begin with three simple words, such as tap, nap, cap.  Introduce games such as say each sound as you clap, rhyming games, I spy games, add a sound, etc. to identify sounds of words

5th step: Tricky words

As children learn to decode, they will also need to start forming letters to move into encoding (a process of writing the spoken word, also known as spelling). And there are different ways to learn these tricky words. One of the best is to say the word so that they can hear it and let the child write it down in air.

5 ways to gain confidence in reading and writing

At wonderLearn, we teach phonics in a fun and child-centered approach through songs, actions, word cards, letter and object wheels, worksheets and formation of letters. It starts with the 1st group of letters s,a,t,p,i,n, for these groups of letters make the most words in English language. Once they know each of these letter sounds, they can then start building words e.g., sat, pat, nap, sap, sit, pit, etc. as soon as possible. 

Here are the 5 major things that our programs focus on-

  1. Improve early reading- Children see the written letters, associate them with sound and learn the skill to put it together to make words that enhance early reading.
  2. Develop thinking skills- Not only reading and writing, we help children develop thinking skills by visualizing what they are reading, manipulating the letter sounds around.
  3. Recognise letter symbols faster- Children start to recognize the letter symbol faster as each letter sound is associated with action.
  4. Broaden children’s vocabulary- As children practice, it broadens their vocabulary that eventually becomes automatic.
  5. Develops listening skills- developed through different games such as clapping games, rhyming games, find the odd one out, phonemes, broad games, etc.

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