Phonics teaches developing readers the relationship between phonemes (sounds of oral language) and graphemes (letters that represent sounds in print). Students who learn phonics master the sound/symbol code that enables them to read and spell. Mastering phonics, or the alphabetic principal, will help readers decode unfamiliar words and automatically recognize familiar words.
Findings and Recommendations
Contrary to conventional wisdom, research has found that phonics instruction can and should begin as early as kindergarten. Early instruction has a significant and substantial effect on later reading ability.
Not all phonics instruction is equally effective. Research findings show that a phonics program must contain two elements in order for instruction to lead to real reading results:
Direct and explicit teaching of the major sound/symbol relationships in a specific and clearly defined sequence, known as systematic phonics, is a more effective instruction strategy than teaching phonics without a systematic order or without direct and explicit instruction.
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 variant sound-symbol relationships. However, instruction of sound/symbol relationships is most effective when combined with plenty of practice and application through the reading and writing of words.
Systematic phonics instruction improves word recognition and spelling in kindergarten and first-grade students from a wide range of economic and social backgrounds. It also significantly improves students' reading comprehension. This systematic instruction is particularly beneficial to students who are having difficulty learning to read.
Phonics instruction is a component of reading instruction, but it should not constitute the entire reading program. It should be integrated with other reading instruction in phonemic awareness, fluency, and comprehension strategies in order to create a complete reading program. Phonics instruction is greatly enhanced when it provides ample opportunity for students to practice the sound/symbol relationships they have been taught.
Practice should include reading word lists and phrases, as well as continuous text in books and stories. Students also should have an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of sound/symbol relationships through writing.
- The greatest improvements in reading came from a systematic phonics program. (National Reading Panel, 2000)
- Systematic and explicit phonics instruction is more effective then non-systematic or no phonics instruction. (Armbruster and Osborne, 2002)
- Systematic and explicit phonics instruction significantly improves children’s reading comprehension. (Armbruster and Osborne, 2002) Systematic phonics instruction is a valuable and essential part of a successful classroom reading program. (National Reading Panel, 2000)
- Systematic phonics instruction should be integrated with other reading instruction in phonemic awareness, fluency, and comprehension strategies to create a complete reading program. (National Reading Panel, 2000)
- The most effective practice in enhancing phonics, reading, and spelling skills included explicitly and systematically teaching children manipulation of sounds with letters, focusing the instruction on one or two types of manipulation rather than multiple types. (National Reading Panel, 2000)
- Programs that focus too much on teaching letter-sound relations and not enough on putting them to use are unlikely to be very effective. (National Reading Panel, 2000)
- Fluent and automatic application of phonics skills to text is another critical skill that must be taught and learned to maximize oral reading and reading comprehension. (National Reading Panel, 2000)
- Effective phonics instruction helps students apply their knowledge of phonics as they read words, sentence, and text. (Armbruster and Osborne, 2002)
Reading A-Z Alignment with Research
Reading A-Z provides 58 lessons that cover all of the major sound/symbol relationships, including consonants, vowels, consonant blends, consonant digraphs, vowel digraphs and diphthongs, r-controlled vowels, irregular vowels, and silent consonants. These lessons include direct and explicit instructional guidelines. The Reading A-Z phonics program delivers this explicit set of sound/symbol lessons in a specific sequence. The sequence begins with single letter sound/symbol relationships (initial and final consonants and short vowels) and progresses toward more complex sound/symbol relationships.
Each lesson for Reading A-Z\'s Leveled Books from Level aa through Level P has a section devoted to phonics.
The phonics lessons and resources are only part of Reading A-Z\'s collection of reading resources and instructional strategies. They are part of a balanced approach to literacy that includes materials for phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.
Reading A-Z\'s sound/symbol cards and direct, explicit instructional strategies provide students with practice manipulating sounds and symbols to form new words and alter existing words.
Each Reading A-Z phonics lesson includes reproducible Phonics Practice Sheets of decodable words, phases, and sentences. The lists consist solely of words containing the target sound/symbol relationship, previously taught phonic elements, and high-utility words.
Decodable books accompany each new lesson. These books consist entirely of words formed with previously taught sound/symbol relationships and high-frequency words. They place the sound/symbol relationships in the context of continuous text in book format.
Reading A-Z Resources
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