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Teaching Phonics - Step by Step

Teaching phonics is not dissimilar to learning mathematics. In maths you learn step by step. You learn to count before you add, add before you subtract, subtract before multiplication. It doesn't make sense to learn how to multiply before you understand the concept of counting. You learn in small incremental steps and it is the same when you are teaching reading.

There is an unspoken order in teaching phonics just as there is an unspoken order in how to teach mathematics.

However, if I may jump back to mathematics (sorry - this site really is about reading!), there can sometimes be hazy areas about what to teach and when.

For example, how about 'place-value' - or when exactly do you teach counting in multiples of 5 or 2? When do you teach the 'silent /e/' rule? The point I am trying to get across is, that you do need to be somewhat flexible and be open to go back or forward a few steps if it helps your child.

Sometimes you hit that 'teaching moment' when everything has somehow aligned up and your child has that beautiful 'light bulb' experience! You would be very unwise to ignore such a moment, pressing on with your 'schedule'. No, instead you would use that teaching moment to praise/encourage your child's observations so next time you re-visited that phonics rule, your child would be more likely to remember it.

I like how Jolly Phonics teaches the order of letter sounds, introducing a couple of consonant digraphs early on - see below:

  • 1. s, a, t, i, p, n
  • 2. ck, e, h, r, m, d
  • 3. g, o, u, l, f, b
  • 4. ai, j, oa, ie, ee, or
  • 5. z, w, ng, v, short oo, long oo
  • 6. y, x, ch, sh, voiced th, unvoiced th
  • 7. qu, ou, oi, ue, er, ar

To help you, I have listed some phonics basics to help you see the big picture. If you decide to teach consonant digraphs before blends or mix the two up a bit - it doesn't really matter. So long as you see the big picture of what you are trying to achieve, review lessons frequently and remain willing to go at your child's pace of learning. Remember to look out for those magical 'teaching moments'. But above all, make it fun and not a chore!

Learning to read - The Basics:

Go to 'How to choose Reading Software' for teaching phonics

Teaching Reading

Teaching Phonics Quick Checklist:

Pre-Reading Skills


Short Vowels


Long Vowels


Consonant Digraphs

Vowel Digraphs


R-Controlled Vowels

Complex Vowel Sounds

Teaching Phonics Tips

Online Phonics Magazine for Early Reading Success

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