Understanding phonics for parents: Phonics help for parents : Children’s: Oxford University Press

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Letters and Sounds: Practical Ideas for Parents

By: Texas Education Agency

Provide your child with the opportunity to learn that written words are made up of letters that match the sounds in spoken words.

Children can be taught to match the sounds with letters in an orderly and direct way. For example, the letter n matches the /n/ sound in nurse).

Here are some activities to try:

  • Make letter-sounds and have your children write the letter or letters that match the sounds.
  • Play word games that connect sounds with syllables and words (for example, if the letters «p-e-n» spell pen, how do you spell hen?).
  • Write letters on cards. Hold up the cards one at a time and have your children say the sounds (for example, the /d/ sound for the letter d).
  • Teach your children to match the letters in their names with the sounds in their names.
  • Point out words that begin with the same letter as your children’s names (for example, John and jump). Talk about how the beginning sounds of the words are alike.
  • Use alphabet books and guessing games to give your children practice in matching letters and sounds. A good example is the game, «I am thinking of something that starts with /t/.»
  • Write letters on pieces of paper and put them in a paper bag. Let your children reach into the bag and take out letters. Have them say the sounds that match the letters.
  • Take a letter and hide it in your hand. Let your children guess in which hand is the letter. Then show the letter and have your children say the letter name and make the sound (for example, the letter m matches the /m/ sound as in man).
  • Make letter-sounds and ask your children to draw the matching letters in cornmeal or sand.
  • Take egg cartons and put a paper letter in each slot until you have all the letters of the alphabet in order. Say letter-sounds and ask your children to pick out the letters that match those sounds.

Adapted from: Beginning Reading Instruction: Practical Ideas for Parents. Texas Education Agency.


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The ultimate phonics guide for parents

Learning to read is one of the most important skills your child needs to learn to do, and quite often, it is down to the parent to support their child with this at home with absolutely no guidance what so ever – don’t worry, this is where ‘Phonics for Parents’ comes in!


If your child is in nursery, they will start to learn to read by experimenting with sounds and phonics and this is when they will start to ask you questions about what sounds different letters make.


When they start school, your child will start to be sent home books for you to read together. The will ask you about phonemes and digraphs, and you will be expected to know how to help them segment and blend words…You want to help your child in every way possible but are totally confused with what you actually have to do.


Actually it is all really simple with just a little guidance and if you continue to read this article, you will know everything you need to know about phonics and helping your child to read at home.  It’s the ultimate guide – ‘Phonics for Parents’!

Throughout this guide I hope to give you an overview of phonics teaching with your child, and some ideas for how you can support your child at home.

Table of Contents


Phonics for Parents – But What are Phonics?

The alphabet contains 26 letters and we need to learn about 44 sounds. Sounds are also called phonemes – a single sound is a phoneme.  Once children begin learning sounds, they will soon be able to read and spell words.


Letters are not usually taught in alphabetical order. The order sometimes varies from school to school but I have always taught them in this way. The first set of letters s, a, t, p, i, n. Instantly the children can start to play with words without needing to know the whole alphabet first. For example, small words can be made up just by using this first set of letters – sat, pin, mat, at.


This is the order in which they are often taught is…


The letter sound is the first thing that children need to recognise.

If you are writing simple words with children, encourage them to write letters in lower case.

Only use capital letters for names, countries etc and, when children are ready, at the beginning of sentences.

Letter shape= grapheme. Letter sound= phoneme.


So what do all the technical words mean?

Children are taught the technical words behind phonics from the beginning and this can often leave you feeling helpless. So I will go through some of their meanings now.


What is a phoneme?

It is the smallest unit of sound. At first it will equate with a letter sound but later on will include the digraphs.  For example ‘cat’ has 3 phonemes, ‘it” has 2 phonemes ‘rain’  also has three phonemes (three sounds), / r  / ai  / n.


What is a grapheme?

A grapheme is a letter or a number of letters that represent a sound (phoneme) in a word. Another way to explain it is to say that a grapheme is a letter or letters that spell a sound in a word. E.g. /ee/,/ ea/, /ey/ all make the same phoneme but are spelt differently.


What is a digraph/trigraph?

This is when two or three letters make one sound. For example /oa/ makes one sound in the word boat. The children often know that digraphs and trigraphs as learn as special friends, as they stick together.


It gets a little more confusing when you have a split digraph. This is when a letter is placed in the middle of a digraph, and it still makes one sound. For example ‘make’. the a-e is the split digraph, it only makes one sound.


What is blending?

Blending means to bring the word together. To turn it from letter sounds, into words.  It is how /c/ /a/ /t/  becomes cat.

To learn to read well children must be able to smoothly blend sounds together.  Showing your child how to blend is important.


What is segmenting?

Segmenting is a skill used in spelling. It is the opposite to blending. In order to spell the word cat, it is necessary to segment the word into its constituent sounds; c-a-t.

Before writing a word, children are often encouraged to segment it. We need to teach them to listen for each phoneme.

Children also need to think carefully about how to pronounce each individual sound and have to be careful not to add ‘uh’ to the sounds in order to keep them pure. For example to say ‘c’ and not ‘cuh’.


What are CVC words?

CVC stands for consonant- vowel- consonant. Examples of CVC words are map, cat, cap, tin, pot, rat, sat, tip etc.  We also talk about CCVC words such as clip, stop. 


What are tricky words?

Tricky words are words that cannot be ‘sounded-out’ but need to be learned by heart. Children can find these challenging to learn. You can do this by repeatedly reading them, or playing games with tricky words like tricky words bingo. Have a google, you will find lots of games online.

Examples of tricky words are; the, some, said, was.


What are High Frequency Words?

These are words that recur frequently in much of the written materials young children read and need to write.


Blending and Segmenting for Reading

To learn to read and spell children must be able to smoothly blend and segment sounds together. Model how to ‘sound talk’ sounds and blend them smoothly together without stopping at each individual sound. We use our fingers to support this.

Remember some sounds are represented by two and three letters (digraphs and trigraphs), such as ee, oi and igh. Children should sound out the digraph/trigraph not the individual letters (e.g. oi not o/i).  If we put these concepts into words, they look like this; s/n/ai/l and sh/ee/p .



Strategies for spelling

Encourage children to think the word, say it several times and then write it.

Games to Play at Home – Phonics for Parents

It is really important that we keep learning as fun as possible. This way they stay engaged for longer and learn more. There are some great games you can play at home and I have listed some below.

If you are looking for some phonics toys, I have another article on this so just click HERE – your children will love these and learn so much from them!

Hoop Game
Get 2 hoops, trays or plates and place a letter card on each of them e. g. s and a. Have a variety of objects beginning with these 2 sounds. Ask your child to select an object and say the name of it. Repeat it several times and then ask your child to place it on the correct tray.

Sound Hunt
Encourage children to hunt around the house or garden for objects beginning with a certain sound. This can also be done with words hidden around the house.

Rogue Sound Game
Show a variety of objects to your child. All of the objects have the same initial sound except one. Ask them to identify the rogue item.

Letters/graphemes in the mud
Encourage children to write letters/graphemes in different ways. Write them with a stick in the mud, with their finger in sand, a straw in paint. This is not only great for their sound/ letter correspondence but also for handwriting.

Make some word cards with real and non-sense words using a variety of graphemes. Decode the word together, blend and decide if it is a real ‘treasure’ word or a ‘trash’ non-sense word (which can go in the bin).


I hope you have found this guide ‘Phonics for Parents’ useful, you may also be interested to read why I have decided to delay the twins school entry so they stay home for another year. There is also information on how to do it if you too have summer born children.



Article | Developing the phonetic speech of a first grader

What is phonetic knowledge? What phonetic progress should a child have in first grade? What should parents do to help a preschooler, and then a schoolchild, learn to understand sounds and letters? The questions are answered by the primary school teacher of the highest qualification category Svetlana Nechepaeva.

At the beginning — a sound

The words of a first grader “I need to do phonetic analysis” often scare not only children, but also parents. Although at its core, the phonetic structure of a language is the natural state of a person. The world around is filled with sounds that everyone and everything makes.

Hearing these sounds, being able to distinguish them is the first preparatory action to begin to understand the phonetic structure of the native language.

The famous Soviet psychologist Daniil Elkonin said about the importance of phonetic knowledge that if a child is well versed in the sound structure of his native language, this will allow him to become a literate person. Not only to understand the sounds and letters that make up any word when we perceive it by ear, but also in the future will help the child master the grammatical and spelling skills of his native language. That is, phonetic knowledge and skills are one of the most basic for a future first grader.

Unfortunately, not much time is allotted for such phonetic development of knowledge in the first grade. Due attention is not always paid to the sound that the child must learn, because in the very first days the student has a lot of different tasks associated with the adaptation period. And when a first grader comes home, parents are not up to litigation with what was done in the lesson specifically for the academic part.

Adults are usually interested in the child’s relationship with other children and the teacher and how the day went. But just in the first days in the classroom, phonetic knowledge is being taught, and if it is missed, in the future it will be very difficult for the child to understand the work with the tape of letters that is located above the board.

It will be difficult for a child to understand why he needs phonetic analysis, why color the word structure in different colors. Such a lack of understanding — why I am doing this and why — creates a feeling of rejection in the child, and therefore it is very difficult for him to understand this difficult area of ​​\u200b\u200blanguage.

Meanwhile, the importance of this issue is great, because a child who does not hear the sounds of speech will find it difficult to read and write in the future.

An indicator of readiness for learning to read and write is the clear pronunciation of each individual sound by the child.

What a child should learn before school
  • Pronounce speech sounds clearly.
  • Extract the sound from the spoken word. For example, call the first sound [m] or the last [a] in the word “mother”. This will mean that the child clearly hears in which part of the word the sound is located.
  • Distinguish between vowels and consonants. However, it is not necessary to call them vowels and consonants. It is enough to distinguish the sounds that we stretch, sing, and pronounce the sounds that it is impossible to stretch. This will be the structure of the language, and as a result, the child will get acquainted with the so-called gradation: some sounds are like this, and others are like that. It is not necessary to delve deeply into the theory of the division of sounds into vowels and consonants, and consonants, in turn, into hard, soft, voiced and deaf ones. It is important to simply name all the sounds that the child hears.
  • If you still decide to teach your child to read, then you should start with the sounds of speech, and then move on to the letters so that the child does not create confusion in the head.
Getting Started

Start simple: If your child can reproduce the sounds that surround them, that’s great. Name words that associatively can help separate these sounding sounds.

It is a good idea to acquaint your child in advance with the fact that at school sounds will be indicated by different colors. Red — vowels, blue — hard consonants, green — soft consonants. If a child does not know this before school, it is not scary, although today the industry of acquaintance with such schemes begins at the stage of early preparation for education.

Pay special attention at the beginning of the first grade, or even before entering school, to the fact that we hear sounds and see and write letters. It is very difficult for a child to engage in analytical and synthetic activities. Analysis, synthesis, classification are weakly subject to him, therefore the rhyme “We hear sounds, and we write letters” should be learned like a poem, at first just by heart. In the future, the child will approach this information consciously and the letter icons will not be confused with the sounds that will be enclosed in square brackets in the letter.

If you do not pay due attention to phonetics in the first grade (the child must be able to separate sounds from each other and see them in a word), then spelling will suffer in the future — the student will make a large number of mistakes in writing: mixing paired and voiced consonants, incorrect designations of softness of consonants, etc.

On the tape of letters from the primer, the vowels of the upper row mean the hardness of consonants, and the lower row — the softness of consonants. It depends on the spelling of the words. When a child has a distorted perception of sounds, a large number of errors await him. If, starting from the alphabetical period, from the very first day, the child pronounces, hears, shares, selects the right words for the sounds that the teacher oriented him to and which you repeated at home, there will be no problems.

Ignorance of phonetics can lead to errors in reading. For example, the omission of adjacent consonants (instead of «mark» — «poppy», instead of «barrel» — «sides»). That is, while reading, the child sees the letter, perceives it, but reads it indistinctly.

Or, on the contrary, a child can insert vowels between consonants (instead of «pasla» — «pasala», instead of «girl» — «girl»), and indistinctly read words are obtained. If you do not pay attention to this, then the child will do the same in writing. Therefore, it is important to read aloud.

Try to develop the simultaneous work of visual and auditory perception. Name the word, ask the child to repeat and match the pronounced sound with the letter.

It is good if a child is able to carry out phonemic analysis, that is, to divide the heard word into its constituent sounds, to clearly imagine its sound structure. This is where age matters.

At the age of 4, a child can already differentiate all sounds, that is, he can already have a formed phonemic perception. At the age of 5–6 years, a high level of development of phonemic perception occurs. At the age of 7–8, a child develops phonemic analysis, that is, recognition of a sound against the background of a word, selection of the first and last sounds from a word, determination of the sequence of the number of sounds, their place in the word in relation to other sounds.

How do you know if there is a problem?

The child does not distinguish between individual sounds that you pronounce or ask to repeat, mixes them, cannot match the picture to the sound, confuses words. Such problems can be solved by a speech therapist.

Unfortunately, there are more difficult situations, violation of the organs of the articulatory apparatus, low cognitive activity of the child during the period of speech formation, weakened voluntary attention. But in each case, the specialist will determine the cause.

It is very important to remember that in the first grade a child has a lot of phonetic work to do. He must learn to determine the number of syllables in a word, highlight the stressed syllable, analyze the number of vowels and consonants, understand where — at the beginning, in the middle or at the end — there is a vowel or consonant sound that the teacher is interested in, count the number of vowels and consonants in a word.

It’s not scary if the child hears sounds. You can’t look at the word and name the sounds, you have to close your eyes and listen to the sounds. And if a child is taught to listen, he will definitely succeed.

Svetlana Nechepayeva’s webinar can be viewed at the link. 15 Learning Disorder Terms Parents Need to Know specialists.

Terms such as phonological awareness, auditory processing disorder, auditory accuracy, phonological memory…

Understanding these 15 terms will help you better organize the necessary assistance for your child:


Phonetics cha, yes) and the speech sounds they represent.

Phonetics is the foundation of reading and writing skills. Thanks to phonetics, the child decodes written words in the process of reading.

2. Phonemes

A phoneme is the sound of speech. When we speak Russian, we make 42 different speech sounds. But there are only 33 letters in the Russian alphabet. This is one of the reasons why Russian is difficult to learn.

3. Phonemic perception

Phonemic perception is the ability to perceive individual speech sounds (phonemes) in words and work with them.

Learn how to develop phonemic awareness from an early age.

4. Phonological awareness

Phonological awareness is the awareness that words are made up of smaller parts (such as syllables and sounds).

The term includes a range of sound-related skills that a student needs to develop reading skills. As the child develops phonological awareness, he/she not only comes to understand that words are made up of small sound units (phonemes), but also learns that words can be broken down into larger sound «chunks» known as syllables. .

5. Phonological accuracy

Phonological accuracy refers to the ability to correctly distinguish between individual phonemes (e.g., in similar-sounding words that begin with the same sound) or other aspects of phonology (e.g., rhyming, number of syllables).

Phonological accuracy is key to listening and reading skills. This allows the student to make a clear distinction between similar-sounding words (e.g. «heron» and «saber» or «picture» and «basket»), including morphological differences that can drastically change the word’s meaning and/or grammatical function (e.g. » known» and «unknown» or «inserted» and «exposed»).

The ability to quickly and accurately identify speech sounds is critical to learning the rules of phonetics and matching spoken language to text correctly.

A child with well-developed phonological accuracy will more easily develop decoding skills, understand word and sentence structure, develop vocabulary, follow instructions, and participate more actively in class work.

Well developed phonological accuracy helps in:

  • Understanding and following verbal instructions

  • Listening skills

  • Development of reading skills

  • Learning the rules of phonetics

6. Phonological fluency

Phonological fluency is the understanding that words are made up of different sounds and the ability to quickly and accurately identify and manipulate these sounds.

Phonological fluency is critical to learning to read. This allows the student to memorize sequences of sounds and manipulate them quickly and accurately. This makes it easier to both write words and decode them. The more effectively the reader is able to decode, the more of his cognitive resources (mental abilities) he can focus on understanding the text.

A student with good phonological fluency will also find it easier to learn new words while reading. When confronted with a new word, a student who can accurately pronounce the word is more likely to recognize and understand its meaning.

Well developed phonological fluency helps in:

  • Learning the rules of phonetics

  • Development of reading skills

  • Development of writing skills

7. Phonological memory

Phonological memory is the ability to retain speech sounds in memory. This is essential for spoken language and tasks such as comparing phonemes and making connections between phonemes and letters. It also helps with listening and reading understanding of sentences, as it allows you to remember the sequence of words in order.

Phonological memory plays a key role in the development of oral and written language skills. This allows the student to:

  • Memorize and manipulate sound sequences

  • Associate spoken words with written ones

  • Memorize new words by determining their meanings

  • Remember the beginning of a sentence by listening to it to the end.

The ability to remember speech sounds is important for the correct understanding of sentences when changing the order of words in a sentence changes its meaning (for example, «The monkey bites the boy» and «The boy bites the monkey»).

Accurate memorization of word order also contributes to the construction of accurate ideas about the structure of sentences and the acquisition of knowledge about syntax.

A student with a well-developed phonological memory develops phonemic perception and decoding skills more easily, knowledge of vocabulary and sentence structure is formed. Such a student follows instructions better and takes a more active part in class work with presentations, etc.

8. Auditory Processing / Auditory Perception

Auditory processing refers to what the brain does with the audio information it «hears». This includes various skills such as identifying and locating sounds, listening to background noise, and processing what is heard when the sound is fuzzy.

When a student manipulates the auditory information he has heard, but it doesn’t sound right, this is called an auditory processing disorder (or auditory perception disorder).

This can happen if the child has trouble understanding speech in background noise or has difficulty identifying where the sound is coming from. Or it could be a problem in distinguishing speech sounds that sound similar.

Learn 5 Common Hearing Loss (HAI) Myths!

9. Sequencing of audio information

Sequencing of audio information refers to the ability to identify and remember the order in which a series of sounds were presented. This is very important for matching sound sequences to letter sequences in decoding and writing.

Organizing audio information is critical to developing speaking and writing skills. The ability to identify and remember the order of sounds in words is important for recognizing subtle differences between words (such as «pot» and «top») and for developing phonemic perception and decoding skills.

A student who has a well-developed ordering of sound information understands and absorbs information better, develops better oral and written speech skills and concentrates attention. Such a student becomes an expert reader and a successful student.

See also: How do weak cognitive skills affect learning?

10. Listening word comprehension

Listening word comprehension refers to the ability to accurately identify words heard based on auditory cues alone, without the aid of visual or contextual cues.

Listening comprehension of words is crucial for the development of oral speech and vocabulary, and therefore important for the development of reading and writing. This skill allows the student to accurately and efficiently identify words in speech and helps him form a correct understanding of the information presented by ear.

A student with well developed listening comprehension will find it easier to follow instructions and participate in class discussions; it is easier to answer questions, complete tasks and remember information; and it’s much easier to become a proficient reader.

He will also find it easier to carry on a conversation in a noisy environment or when there are distractions.

11. Hearing accuracy

Hearing accuracy is the ability to accurately identify differences between sounds and correctly identify sound sequences.

Accuracy in listening is the foundation of speech and reading skills. This skill allows the student to quickly and accurately identify and distinguish between rapidly changing sounds, which is very important for distinguishing between phonemes (the smallest units of speech that distinguish one word from another).

A student with well-developed listening comprehension will find it much easier to follow instructions and participate in class work; it is easier to remember questions, tasks and information; and it’s much easier to become a proficient reader. He will also be able to:

  1. Read and write fast

  2. Focus on verbally presented information

  3. Maintain a conversation in a noisy environment or when there are distractions.

12. Listening comprehension

Listening comprehension is the ability to understand consecutive sentences and extract meaning from what is heard.

Listening comprehension is one of the foundations of oral and written speech.

By alexxlab

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