Phonics instruction teaches children the relationships between the letters (graphemes) of written language
and the individual sounds (phonemes) of spoken language. It teaches children to use these relationships to use
and write words. The goal of phonics instruction is to help children learn and use the alphabetic principle -
the understanding that there are systematic and predictable relationships between written letters and spoken
sounds. Knowing these relationships helps early readers recognize familiar words accurately and automatically
and "decode" new words.
In short, knowledge of the alphabetic principle contributes greatly to the ability to read words in isolation
and in connected text.
Here are some of the highlights from the evidence-based research on phonics instruction:
Systematic and explicit phonics instruction is more effective than non-systematic or no
phonics instruction. The hallmark of systematic phonics instruction is the direct teaching of a set of
letter-sound relationships in a clearly defined sequence. The set includes the major sound/spelling relationships
of both consonants and vowels.
- Systematic and explicit phonics instruction significantly improves kindergarten and first grade
children's word recognition and spelling.
- Systematic and explicit phonics instruction significantly improves children's reading
Systematic and explicit phonics instruction is effective for children from various social and economic
levels. It helps children from various backgrounds make greater gains in reading than non-systematic or
no phonics instruction.
- Systematic and explicit phonics instruction is particularly beneficial for children who are having
difficulty learning to read and who are at risk for developing future reading problems.
Systematic and explicit phonics instruction is most effective when introduced early. Instruction should
start in kindergarten and first grade.
Phonics instruction is not an entire reading program for beginning readers. Children should also
be solidifying their knowledge of the alphabet, engaging in phonemic awareness activities, and listening to
stories and informational texts read aloud to them. They should also be reading texts and writing letters,
words, messages, and stories.
- Phonics can be taught effectively to a whole class, small groups, or individual students.
Approximately two years of phonics instruction is sufficient for most students. If phonics
instruction begins in kindergarten, it should be completed by the end of first grade. If it begins in first
grade, it should be completed by the end of second grade.