Phonics Lesson

Phonics teaches students the systematic and predictable relationships between the letters (graphemes) of written language and the individual sounds (phonemes) of spoken language.
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Updated on: February 15, 2007
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Sequencing Exercise

To practice using the progression of word difficulty, sequence the words in these lists in order of difficulty.


Guidelines for Effective Phonics Lessons:

The teacher assesses students prior to the lesson and places students in groups according to their instructional needs.

  1. Purpose—The teacher clearly articulates the purpose of the lesson and what students are supposed to learn from it.

  2. Warm-up—The lesson includes a phonemic awareness warm-up activity and a review of previously taught sound spellings.

  3. Modeling—The teacher explains and models new sound-spelling relationships in an explicit, fun, and engaging manner.

  4. Guided Practice—

    • Students receive coaching and feedback while practicing phonics skills. Practice activities may include word building, word study, reading decodable text, and dictation.

    • Manipulatives, such as letter cards, magnetic letters, sorting mats, decodable text, games, and so on, are easily accessible to students.

  5. Differentiation—

    • The teacher adapts instructional methods, strategies, and materials to meet the needs of individual students.

    • The teacher honors students' attempts and provides positive feedback.

  6. Application—The phonics skills are applied to text that is wholly decodable.

  7. Dictation and Spelling—Activities allow students to make the sound/spelling connection by using their skills in reading and in writing.

  8. Assessment—An assessment is given to determine whether or not students mastered the focus skill. Instructional and grouping decisions for the next lesson are made based on this information.

  9. Follow-up—Students not working with an adult are engaged in meaningful follow-up work or learning at literacy centers.

How Can You Stretch Students' Thinking?

Along with phonics instruction, young children should be solidifying their knowledge of the alphabet, engaging in phonemic-awareness activities, and listening to stories and informational texts read aloud to them. They also should be reading texts (both out loud and silently) and writing letters, words, messages, and stories (Put Reading First, 2001). Focus on students' metacognition as they practice phonics skills by asking them to explain what they are doing and how these skills relate to reading and writing. For example, ask students questions such as, "Does that make sense to you?" "What surprised you about this story?" "Did you understand what happened?" or "Is there anything that confused you in that paragraph?" This will help them focus on finding meaning in the texts they are reading.

When Can You Use It?

Phonics instruction is most effective when it begins in kindergarten or first grade. Approximately two years of phonics instruction is sufficient for most students. If students begin phonics instruction early in kindergarten, they should learn most necessary sound spellings by the end of first grade. If students begin phonics instruction early in first grade, they should learn most necessary sound spellings by the end of second grade (National Reading Panel, 2000).

Phonics instruction should occur as a regular part of the literacy block in the early grades. However, sound spellings that are explicitly taught during this time can be reinforced in other content areas.

  • Reading: Sound-spelling relationships are taught systematically and explicitly during the literacy block. Students have ample opportunities to apply newly learned sound spellings to reading through the use of decodable text.

  • Writing: Students apply newly learned phonics patterns to their spelling during dictation, journal writing, and process writing.

  • Math: When learning about patterns, students can hunt through text to identify words that follow a previously learned phonics pattern. For example, students search for consonant-vowel-consonant words in newspaper headlines or magazines. They circle consonants with a blue crayon and underline vowels with a red crayon. If a word follows a blue-red-blue (consonant-vowel-consonant) pattern, the student highlights the word and writes it their word study notebook. As more complex phonics patterns are mastered, students can repeat the procedure and compare patterns.

  • Social Studies: During the literacy block, students learn that the letters "er" make the /er/ sound. As they read (or listen to) text related to a social studies unit on families, they make a list of words ending in "er", such as mother, father, sister, brother, grandfather, grandmother, and so forth. The students write sentences describing their own families using the word wall words. Afterwards, they underline all of the words that have the "er" ending in their sentences and read the sentences aloud to a partner.

  • Science: During the literacy block, students have been studying consonant blends. As they read (or listen to) a text related to a science unit on insects, they hunt for and circle blends in the names of insects (e.g., fly, slug, snail, bumble bee, wasp). The class then displays the names of the insects with the blends circled on a science word wall for future reference. The students write a descriptive paragraph about the insects using the word wall words. They swap paragraphs with a partner, who circles all of the blends used in the paragraph.

Lesson Plans

Spelling Multiple Syllable Words: The purpose of this lesson is to provide upper grade students with a systematic approach to spelling multiple syllable words.