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Teaching Phonics Step by Step! Phonics Steps to Reading Success!

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What Steps do you Follow to Teach your Child Systematic, Explicit Phonics Instruction?

The majority of American school children are not taught to read with systematic, explicit phonics instruction.  Little Billy was a typical example of a little boy with all the talent and brains in the world, but he was never taught systematic phonics.  By the time Billy reached the 4th grade, his self image was in the mud and so were his grades.   Moreover, Billy was fully aware that he couldn’t read.  In fact, he hated reading!  


Billy’s mother was concerned, very concerned.  She had watched her son anxiously for three years as he failed one school subject after another, turning more and more inward, avoiding eye contact with his teacher and with his friends, dreading school, choosing the wrong friends, and falling farther and farther behind in his studies.  Billy’s mother strongly suspected that the real reason for Billy’s low math scores, history scores and grammar scores was because of his inability to read and understand the words in his textbooks.


When Billy’s mother first contacted me, Billy had just begun the 4th grade.  Her question to me was direct and simple, and I’m so glad she asked it with such a determined resolve to obtain a workable solution. I was only too delighted to inform her that in order for Billy to gain good, strong reading skills, skills that would enable him to read every word on every page, he would need to start over again in his reading education and follow the natural progression of a COMPLETE phonics education. 


I shared with Billy’s mother these four steps of action that  any child must take in order to gain good, strong phonics skills.  Those steps are:  

1) Moms and Dads reading books to their children 

Reading books to your little one WILL NOT teach him how to read.  However, reading stories to young children does increase their hearing vocabulary and it does encourage them to, someday, desire to read those stories for themselves.  That motivation should be followed up by giving a child “phonemic awareness.”


2) Phonemic Awareness  

Phonemic awareness is a systematically-learned group of skills children learn that give them the ability to manipulate the sounds that make up our spoken language through the use of rhymes, multisensory helps, fun with rhyming syllables and words, and beginning word sounds.


For example, when a child learns that the beginning sound of the word “sand” is the letter s, and that the letter s sounds like the hissing of a leaky flat tire or an angry snake, that child can then determine in his mind that the written letter s, when spoken, is associated with a particular sound. 


Children who learn to read quickly have built up that “sound association” with every letter in the alphabet at an early age.  However, learning the letter sounds is just the beginning.  Children must now learn to “blend” those sounds together from left to right, blending all the way through a word; and that’s where “phonics skills” enter the picture.


3) Phonics skills  

Phonics skills are gained when children learn the relationships between letters and sounds, how to recognize those relationships in print, how to blend together phonograms, and how to spell words when they are audibly heard by using the knowledge of phonograms, spelling rules, and syllables. 


All of these skills are gained through the use of a systematic (linguistic) phonics program that uses a step-by-step progression of teaching. A systematic phonics program should cover all the major sound/symbol relationships, including consonants, blends, short and long vowels, consonant and vowel digraphs, diphthongs,  and the most common but tricky sound-symbol relationships.


A systematic phonics program should include spelling rules along the way, plenty of practice for each lesson’s topic through phonics review and phonics drill, various types of written poems, written dialogue, written story openers and story readers to expose children to a wide variety of written expression.


An example of the order of a systematic phonics presentation such as Candy 4WAY Phonics is as follows:


a)   Children learn the short vowel sounds and all the letter sounds.   

b)   Children learn to blend a consonant with a short vowel and then tack on a third letter to form CVC (consonant-short vowel-consonant) words. 

c)    Children learn to blend consonant digraphs with a short vowel in the same way.  

d)   Children learn the long vowel sounds to form CVC(e) (consonant-long vowel-consonant-silent e) words  

e)    Children learn blend all the rest of the phonograms into words working with one phonogram at a time, mastering one lesson before proceeding to the next. 

d) A complete phonics program should contain no more than 60 sight words.  Daily phonics lessons should be sprinkled in the correct doses at the correct times with  left-right reading practice, spelling rules, prefixes, suffixes, syllabication, compound words, rhyming, and alliteration, and varied types of excerpts including poetry, story openers and dialogue.  It should also include daily lessons that contain daily phonics drill, phonics charts, and daily phonics review.


Only after adequate phonics skills are gained (including a measure of fluency) should a child be expected to read for meaning.  To expect a child who cannot read every word on every page to read for meaning will most likely frustrate him beyond belief and quite possibly bring him to tears. 


4) Reading for meaning 

Reading for meaning includes more than just being able to answer Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?  Reading for meaning involves learning to make inferences


When a child learns to make inferences, it means that he can read a page and draw a particular conclusion of his own, not from information stated directly in the text, but from information he has gathered from clues or hints in-between the lines of the text.


Click here to read more about how children learn to make inferences.   


In summary, systematic, explicit phonics carries with it certain sequential steps.   The above 4 steps of natural progression for a COMPLETE phonics education should be, of course, offered to every child in America.  Sadly, this progression is missing from most American schools. 


I’m thrilled to tell you, though, that little Billy (mentioned above) was taught to read using this phonics progression, that same progression offered throughout the Candy 4WAY Phonics Program.  As a result, by the end of his 5th grade year, Billy was able to sound out over 40,000 words


Each year Billy’s reading vocabulary grew as did his reading comprehension, and Billy grew up to be a responsible citizen of the United States, loving his family, his country, and his God.


It just doesn’t get any better than that!




Carol Kay, President

Candy 4WAY Phonics  

P.S. If you are an adult who missed out on “phonics,” follow the same steps given to Billy (above).  Skipping steps will only cause you to “miss out” again.  You’ll be surprised how fast adults speed through a good 4WAY Phonics program