What is Phonics?

CCSS ELA Literacy K-2, Foolproof Phonics App, ELA K-2, ELA Kindergarten, ELA 1st Grade, ELA 2nd Grade



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Phonics in English is a coding system for language that goes beyond the 26 letters of the alphabet. It teaches children 44 phonemes (sounds such as the /f/ in funny) and more than 200 graphemes (letter combinations such as f, ff or ph). The 44 phonemes (sounds) and 200+ graphemes (letters or groups of letters) make up all the words in the English language.

In phonics instruction, children learn how letters correspond to sounds and sounds correspond. The more fluent children become at knowing letter-sound combinations, the better they are at reading, spelling, and writing.

In recent years, science-based approaches to reading instruction have been widely adopted in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia. In the last decade, the governments of all three countries have published major studies defining science-based reading instruction (National Reading Panel US, Letters and Sounds UK, National Inquiry in the Teaching of Literacy AU).[1], [2], [3] The reports conducted by independent panels of reading experts all reached a common conclusion – that early reading instruction must teach systematic synthetic phonics.

Teaching systematic synthetic phonics has a better impact on children’s reading ability than any other type of reading program. Systematic phonics has also been shown to improve spelling, particularly among Kindergarteners and First Graders.

All Mrs Wordsmith phonics programs are based on systematic synthetic phonics and are compliant with US Common Core State Standards, UK National Curriculum, and Australian ACARA.

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Foolproof Phonics Part 1

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We’re making it easy to find, integrate, and share character-rich, curriculum-aligned resources for Kindergarten to Grade 2. It’s time to streamline virtual learning and make it fun.

Here’s our quick-start guide to using Mrs Wordsmith’s resources with Google Classroom, Seesaw, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams.

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Deep Dive

Learning the alphabet is the first step on every child’s reading journey. Research shows that children with prior knowledge of the alphabet learn to read more easily and more fluently, so it’s vitally important that the alphabet is taught in a playful and engaging way.

When learning their ABCs, children have to understand that each letter has a different shape and name, and that letters combine to form words. By making it clear that the letter A is not just for apple but also for avocado, children learn that A makes a constant sound across different words. Learning the most common sound that each letter makes is an essential, foundational skill that will be built on later when children encounter phonics.

Read our report, A Deep Dive Into Phonics, for more!

Sources for further reading:

[1] National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Reports of the subgroups. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

[2] Letters and Sounds. Principles and Practice of High Quality Phonics. Primary National Strategy. Department for Education and Skills (2007).

[3] National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy. Report and Recommendations. Commonwealth of Australia (2005).


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