How to Teach Children Phonics

Reading is a central part of our daily lives. It is non-verbal communication used to share messages and information with others. Through print we are entertained, seek and provide information, gain knowledge, share experiences, and express emotions. Print is found everywhere: books, signs, recipes, menus, labels, advertisements, directions, contracts, internet, emails, texts, and more.

As children become readers, they need to understand and use the relationship between letters and sounds to read words. Letters are the symbols used in print to represent the sounds. Phonics requires knowledge of letter recognition, sound recognition and their associations. This means that children must recognize letters in words, and then produce their corresponding sounds to read words. Fortunately, there are fun activities that you can do with your child to promote phonics!


  1. Image titled Teach Reading to Children (for Teachers) Step 1
    Practice letter recognition and sound recognition using a set of alphabet cards.
    • Shuffle the cards in random order and have your child say the name of each letter. Next, have your child produce the sound of each letter.
    • As your child becomes more skilled as a reader, he/she will need to read words with letter patterns - two letters combined to represent one sound. Using flash cards have him/her practice letter patterns such as vowel pairs: /ea/, /ee/, /oa/, /ai/, and digraphs: /sh/, /ch/, /th/, and /wh/.
  2. Image titled Teach Reading to Children (for Teachers) Step 2
    Identify letter sound matches. To build sound letter matches, have your child sort pictures cards according to their beginning sounds.
    • Select picture cards that begin with the 3 initial consonant sounds that are very different such as: /b/, /s/, & /t/. Review the cards before you have your child sort them: bear, triangle, smile, spoon, sunflower, spinner, sign, train, tree
      • If your child needs support ask, “What is the first sound you hear in the word bear? What letter makes the /b/ sound? Is it the letter b, s, or t?
    • Then have your child sort the pictures according to their ending sounds.
    • Activities of increasing difficulty include sorting pictures according to their medial sound represented by their vowel pattern: /e/: seal, peas, read, team, wheel; /o/: boat, coat, toad, road OR according to their beginning digraphs: cards: chair, cherries, shoe, sheep, thread, three, wheat, whiskers.
  3. Image titled Teach Reading to Children (for Teachers) Step 7
    Build words.Create a set of boxes. Each box represents a sound in the word.
    • Place different magnetic letters below the set of boxes. Black letters represent consonants, and red letters represent vowels.
    • Dictate a CVC word - three letter word that consists of two consonants and a vowel. The vowel appears in the middle of the consonants and makes the short vowel sound. CVC words consist of the same number of sounds and letters. Examples include: cat, hat, sat, bat, pet, set, bet, tap, cap, cab
    • Next, have your child say the word slowly pronouncing each sound heard: /c/, /a/, /t/.
    • Ask your child to choose the correct letter for each sound heard. Have him/her begin building the word by placing the first letter in the first box moving from left to right. This will help to reinforce that the letters need to be placed in the correct order to build (make) the dictated word.
  4. Image titled Teach Reading to Children (for Teachers) Step 10
    Develop an understanding of letter patterns. Extend the activity by dictating words that include vowel pairs and/or digraphs. Words consisting of vowels pairs and digraphs (two letters combined to represent one sound) will always have a greater number of letters compared to sounds.
  5. Image titled Play Scrabble Slam Step 3
    Switch letters to change the word. Sounds said in the correct order produce desired words, therefore the positioning of letters is essential in building the corrects words. Switching letters/sounds will change a word. Begin by displaying the magnetic letters that are needed to build the dictated words. Next, draw three or four boxes depending on the number of sounds heard.
    • Dictate the word cat and have your child listen to the sounds and place their corresponding letters in the correct order from left to right..
    • Next, ask your child to switch the letter c with the letter that makes /h/ to build the word hat.
    • Continue by having your child replace the h with the letters that make the /ch/ sound. Ask your child to read the new word - chat.
    • Have your child change the word chat to chap.
    • Activities of increasing difficulty would include longer words with more patterns.
  6. Image titled Teach Children (Age 3 to 9) Step 9
    Continue on the road to reading success To reinforce these skills, select books for your child that highlight the phonics patterns practiced in these activities. This will help your child to strategically apply the skills learned to reading words in books.

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Improving Reading Skills | Teaching