How to teach phonics

Most teachers and schools do teach phonics, but did you know there are several different approaches to teaching phonics and they’re not all equal?

This article will explain incidental and synthetic phonics and the ways you should and shouldn’t teach phonics.


Incidental phonics

Incidental phonics is an approach where we read a text with a child and as they come across phonic patterns that they don’t know,  we teach them incidentally in the context of reading.

Now incidental phonics is okay as an additional measure but what students really need to be able to master the code is an approach called synthetic phonics.


Synthetic phonicsHow to teach phonics

Synthetic phonics is where we carefully work through a sequence of sounds starting with the easier patterns and moving through to the more difficult phonic patterns teaching lists of words that contain those patterns systematically. This allows the student to see that there is a logic to the code.

They can explore words that have similar phonic patterns inside them and learn to read and spell knowing which words use which phonic pattern.

It really helps students when we teach one pattern and one list of words at a time and introduce each pattern explicitly. If we teach phonics incidentally, we won’t show the whole code to the child and might leave gaps.

The child might not get it just from that one introduction or those few incidental introductions. We need to ensure that our phonics teaching is synthetic.



The next thing you need to do is make sure that your phonics teaching is diagnostic.

Now that means that you have assessed the student’s current levels, you’re making sure that you’re addressing any gaps that they might have in your program of teaching and you’re also meeting them at their current level.

We do this so that we don’t waste instructional time and we also don’t miss anything out. So we’re not leaving anything to chance. We’re making sure we introduce each phonic pattern in a sequence, in order and making sure that there are no gaps left.

Now how do you make sure that your program is following a sequence and is diagnostic?


Free Phonics Assessment

The tool that I’m giving to you today is the phonics assessment. It contacts a list of phonics patterns and an assessment. You can use the assessment to test the students current level. It takes about four to five minutes to administer and you can get a whole terms worth of teaching.

After using it, you’ll know which phonic patterns you have to teach and when and in which order.

Download the phonics assessment here.

This will be perfect for people who are teaching phonics at home or one-to-one with students who struggle with reading or just need that bit of extra support.


Online Courses

Inspired Education Services has developed a number of online courses that bring you the most relevant, research-based teaching practices. Some of our courses include:

Synthetic Phonics Course. 

Vocabulary Course.

Phonics Word Lists.

Click the link above to visit the specific course page or click here to go to the online course page.

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