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Contents
How To Teach Phonics to Children ..................................................................... 4
Phonemic Awareness Research .................................................... 8
Teaching Letter Names and Sounds ................................................................. 12

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How To Teach Phonics to Children


Phonics is a necessary part of any good method of teaching children
to read. Teaching Children phonics and helping them develop
phonemic awareness is the key to mastering words, which is the first
key step toward successful reading. Children need to develop a
knowledge of the letters, the sounds represented by the letters, and
the connection between sounds created by combining the letters
where words are formed. This is an essential part of mastering
reading, and enabling children to become independent readers. By
learning phonics and phonemic awareness, children gain the ability
to pronounce new words, develop clear articulation, improve
spelling, and develop self confidence.
When it comes to teaching your children to read, it must include
three basic principles:
1) Reading for the child, whether it's a word, sentence, or story, must
appeal to your child's interests.
2) Never pressure or force your child into reading, turning it into a
negative "event" in their life. It should be a fun, enjoyable, and
rewarding experience. This will take ample amounts of patience on
the part of the parents, and some creativity.
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3) Teaching your child to read must begin with the mastery of the
phonemes - the individual sounds which makeup the words.
The basic process of teaching phonics and phonemic awareness to
children includes teaching them the letters and letter sounds; then
you teach the child to combine (or blend) various letter sounds
together to form words; which is then followed by reading sentences
and simple stories. This is a logical progression for children to learn
reading, where they develop accuracy in decoding words and
pronouncing words. This method of teaching also helps the child to
spell correctly. Gradually, the different elements of phonics are
combined to produce new words, and leads to the discovery of new
words by the child using this process which becomes an "automatic
reflex".
Teaching phonics to children should take 10 to 15 minutes each day,
and these "lessons" should take place in several small sessions each
day - such as 4 or 5 session lasting 3 to 5 minutes each. For older preschool children, lessons can be slightly longer; however, several
minutes each session is all that's needed.
One way to start teaching phonics to children with ear training - by
helping them develop the understanding that words are made up of
smaller units of sounds, or known as phonemes, and when you
combine these sounds, a word is formed. You can start this with very
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short sessions, as already mentioned. A few minutes a day is all that


you need. The key, however, is consistency and patience.
During these short sessions, sound out words slowly and distinctly.
You can do this without even making the child aware that you are
trying to teach them. Simply take words from your everyday
speaking to your child and include oral blending sounds into your
sentences. For example, if you wanted to ask your child to drink his
milk, you could say: "Joe, d-r-i-n-k your m-ilk." The words drink and
milk are sounded out slowly and distinctly. The level of sound
separation can be set by you to increase or lower the difficulty. Thus,
if Joe has a tough time figuring out that d-r-i-n-k means drink, you
can lower the difficulty by blending the word as dr-ink instead.
Alternatively, you could simply pick different words and play
blending sounds games with your child. You simply say the sounds of
the word slowly, and ask the child try to guess what you are saying.
This concept of individual sounds forming words may take some time
for your child to grasp. Some children will pick it up quickly, while
other children may take longer, but one thing that's certain is that if
you keep it up, your child will catch on. Below are some sample
words which you can use to play blending sounds activities with your
child.

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J-u-m-p J-ump
R-u-n R-un
S-i-t S-it
S-t-a-n-d St-and
M-i-l-k M-ilk
S-t-o-p St-op
The first word is more segmented than the second word, and will be
more difficult to sound out. Please note that hyphens are used to
indicate the letter sounds instead of slashes.
ie: J-u-m-p /J/ /u/ /m/ /p/
This is done to make things easier to read; however, when you read
it, you should not read the names of the letters, but instead say the
sounds of the letters. This type of ear training for phonics and
phonemic awareness should continue throughout the teaching
process, even well after your child have grasped this concept. It can
be applied to words with increasing difficulty. Again, please always
keep in mind that not all children can readily blend the sounds to
hear the word, so you must be patient, and drill this for days, weeks,
or even months if needed. Consistency and frequency is the key to
success here, and not sporadic binge sessions.
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Phonemic Awareness Research


Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate
the individual sounds which make up words. In the past few decades,
large amounts of research have improved our understanding of
phonemic awareness and its importance in helping children learn to
read. There are hundreds of research studies conducted on all
aspects of phonemic awareness, and how it affects and benefits
reading and spelling abilities of young children. The National Reading
Panel of the US have stated that phonemic awareness improves
children's reading and reading comprehension, and that it also helps
children to learn to spell. Based on the research and reviews done by
the National Reading Panel, they have concluded that teaching
phonics and phonemic awareness produces better reading results
than whole language programs.
When teaching phonemic awareness, children are taught the
smallest units of sound, or phonemes. During the teaching process,
children are taught to focus on the phonemes, and learn to
manipulate the phonemes in words. Studies have identified
phonemic awareness and letter knowledge as the two best schoolentry predictors of how well children will learn to read during the
first 2 years of instruction. In a review of phonemic awareness
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research, the National Reading Panel (NRP) identified 1,962 citations,


and the results of their meta-analysis were impressive as stated in
the NRP publication:
Overall, the findings showed that teaching children to manipulate
phonemes in words was highly effective under a variety of teaching
conditions with a variety of learners across a range of grade and age
levels and that teaching phonemic awareness to children significantly
improves their reading more than instruction that lacks any attention
to phonemic awareness (PA).
Specifically, the results of the experimental studies led the Panel to
conclude that PA training was the cause of improvement in students
phonemic awareness, reading, and spelling following training. The
findings were replicated repeatedly across multiple experiments and
thus provide converging evidence for causal claims. [1]
As can be clearly seen, teaching children phonemic awareness early
on significantly improves their reading and spelling abilities.
Furthermore, the NRP research stated that these beneficial effects of
phonemic awareness teaching goes well beyond the end of training
period. The NRP phonemic awareness research also found that the
most effective teaching method was to systematically teach children
to manipulate phonemes with letters, and teaching children in small
groups.
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Phonemic awareness (PA) teaching provides children with an


essential foundation of the alphabet system, and a foundation in
reading and spelling. The NRP has stated that PA instructions is a
necessary instructional component within a complete reading
program.
Below are two other studies done on phonemic awareness, and its
effects on reading abilities. In a study involving children aged 6 to 7
years old, researchers found that the few readers at the beginning of
grade one exhibited high phonemic awareness scored at least close
to perfect in the vowel substitution task, compared to none in
children of the same age group who could not read when they
entered school. The research also stated that phonemic awareness
differences before instruction predicted the accuracy of alphabetic
reading and spelling at the end of grade one independent from IQ.
Children with high phonemic awareness at the start of grade one had
high reading and spelling achievements at the end of grade one;
however, some of the children with low phonemic awareness had
difficulties learning to read and spell. The study suggested that
phonemic awareness is the critical variable for the progress in
learning to read. [2]
Another study looked at phonemic awareness and emergent literacy
skills of 42 children with an average age of 5 years and 7 months. The
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researchers indicated that relations between phonemic awareness


and spelling skills are bidirectional where phonemic awareness
improved spelling skills, and spelling influenced the growth in
phonemic skills. [3]
It is clear that with the conclusions made by the National Reading
Panel and other research studies on the benefits of phonemic
awareness, children should be taught PA at a young age before
entering school. This helps them build a strong foundation for
learning to read and spell.

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teach your child to read today
Notes:
1. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the
National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the
scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH
Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
2. Cognition. 1991 Sep;40(3):219-49.
The relationship of phonemic awareness to reading acquisition: more consequence than
precondition but still important. Wimmer H, Landerl K, Linortner R, Hummer P. University of
Salzburg, Austria.
3. Exp Child Psychol. 2002 Jun;82(2):93-115.
Emergent literacy skills and training time uniquely predict variability in responses to
phonemic awareness training in disadvantaged kindergartners. Hecht SA, Close L.

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Teaching Letter Names and Sounds


So, you want to teach your child to read, but before a child can learn
to read, he or she must first learn at least some of the letters in the
alphabet, their names, and the sounds that they represent. To be
able to read, a child must be able to recognize the letters, know the
sound of the letters, and be able to recognize the letters quickly and
say the sound without hesitation. There is plenty of discussion and
disagreement on whether it's better to teach children using whole
language programs or using methods which incorporate phonics and
phonemic awareness instructions. I think the debate on this is settled
when the National Reading Panel stated from their findings of
reviewing over 1,900 studies that phonics and phonemic awareness
produces superior reading results than whole language programs.
There is also some debate on whether to teach your child only letter
names, or only the sounds which the letters represent. However,
studies have also settled this debate by finding that teaching a child
alphabet names and sounds together produces the best results. In
fact, studies have found that there is little value in teaching
preschoolers letter forms or letter sounds separately. This was
indicated by an Australian study involving 76 preschool children. The
children received 6 weeks of training in either letter awareness,
phonemic awareness, or control tasks, and then received another 6
weeks of training in either letter-sound correspondence or control
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tasks. The study found that training in either phoneme or letter


awareness assisted with learning of letter-sound correspondences,
and that the phonemically trained children group had an advantage
on recognition tasks. The study found that there is little value in
training in letter form or letter sounds separately. [1]
As you can see, there is basically no point in only teaching either the
names of the alphabet letters, or the sounds the letters make. A child
must learn the name and the sound of the alphabet letter. When
teaching your child the alphabet, instead of simply teaching them the
name of the alphabet such as "this is the letter A", teach them like
so:
"This is the letter A, and the letter A makes the /A/ sound." (note:
the /A/ denote the sound "A" makes, and not its name). Similarly,
you can teach your child the other alphabet letters in this way
including both name and sound of the letter. This is the way I teach
my children the alphabet letters. Other studies have also determined
that teaching the letter names and sounds together helped children
learn.
58 preschool children were randomly assigned to receive instructions
in letter names and sounds, letter sound only, or numbers (control
group). The results of this study are consistent with past research
results in that it found children receiving letter name and sound
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instruction were most likely to learn the sounds of letters whose


names included cues to their sounds. [2]
To be able to effectively teach your children the sounds of letters,
you must first master the proper pronunciation of the letters
yourself. It is critical for you as a parent to be able to first say the
sounds of the letters correctly before teaching your children, and this
is much tougher than it may seem.
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Notes:
1. J Exp Child Psychol. 2009 Sep;104(1):68-88. Epub 2009 Mar 5.
The genesis of reading ability: what helps children learn letter-sound
correspondences? Castles A, Coltheart M, Wilson K, Valpied J, Wedgwood J.
Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW
2109, Australia.
2. J Exp Child Psychol. 2010 Apr;105(4):324-44. Epub 2010 Jan 25.
Learning letter names and sounds: effects of instruction, letter type, and
phonological processing skill. Piasta SB, Wagner RK. Preschool Language and
Literacy Lab, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.

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