How to get Started with Phonics for Preschoolers

Do you want raise an early reader?

Phonics makes learning and reading simpler. By knowing the sounds of each Alphabet children can decode the words written from a very early age.

Most of us adults aren’t familiar with phonics learning as it wasn’t taught to us in our schools.

So in order to teach our children we parents need to learn Phonics as well.

What is Phonics?

Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write. It helps children hear, identify and use different sounds that distinguish one word from another in the English language.

For Example the sound of A as in Apple is different from B as in Baby

Of course talking about sounds there aren’t just 26 sounds as the number of letters.

In fact there are 44 sounds in total.

Some of these sounds are made up of 2 or 3 letters known as Diagraphs or Triagraphs. Plus there are some complex sounds as well.

Phonics Terminology

Before we start teaching phonics to our kids. Here are certain terms that we need to know.

Phoneme: it’s a single sound that can be made by one or more letters – e.g. s, k, z, oo, ph, igh.

There are approximately 44 phonemes in English Vocabulary.

Grapheme: it’s a written letter or a group of letters which represent one single sound (phoneme) e.g. a, l, sh, air, ck.

Digraph – A grapheme containing two letters that makes just one sound (phoneme).

It is a two-letter combination that represents a single sound (phoneme).

There are Consonant Diagraphs and Vowel Diagraphs

Consonant Diagraphs Example: Ph, Wh, Ch, Sh

Vowel Diagraphs Example: ea, oa, oe, ie, ue, ar, er, ir, or, ur

Trigraph – A grapheme containing three letters that makes just one sound (phoneme).

Example: Match

Blend: This is when you say the individual sounds that make up a word and then merge or blend them together to say the word as used when reading.

CVC Words: This is an abbreviation used for consonant-vowel-consonant words. It describes the order of sounds. Some examples of CVC words are: cat, pen, top

VC (Vowel Consonant) words e.g. on, is, it.

CCVC (Consonant, Consonant, Vowel, Consonant) words e.g. trap and black.

CVCC (Consonant, Vowel, Consonant, Consonant) words e.g. milk and fast

Site Words: These are words that can not be sounded out or learned through the use of pictures and have to be learned by sight.

Example it, be ,the, you etc.

How to start Phonics?


Step 1: Letter Recognition and Sounds

The first step is to know the phonic sounds of letters from A to Z.

The sounds are best memorised with the action for each letter.

For Example:

/a/- /a/ Ants on my arm

/a/- /a/ Ants on my arm

/a/- /a/ Ants on my arm

They are causing me alarm.

Action: Wiggle your fingers above the elbow as if Ants are crawling on you abd say a a a

Watch this Jolly phonics video for all the actions and sounds.

Step 2: Blending Sounds

Children are taught how to blend individual sounds together to say a whole word.

This can be tricky for some children. Here is a tip.

Start with two letter words like a+t= at, i+t=it then move on to 3 letter CVC words like C+at = Cat

You may use letter cutouts or magnetic letters and move the finger from left to right so that children can easily blend it.

Step 3: Diagraphs

Once children are thorough with individual sounds of each letter.

Next they can learn Diagraphs.

Starting with consonant diagraphs.

We have created our own action for each diagraph.

Sh- finger on your lip and say the sound

Th- thumbs up and say the sound.

Ph- hold a telephone and say the sound

Ch- touch your chin and say the sound.

Wh- blow air on your palm and say the sound.

Next vowel Diagraphs like oo, ai etc. can be started

Step 4: Alternative Grapheme

Once children are confident with the above, they will start learning more graphemes. They will learn that one sound can be represented by different graphemes. For example, the ‘ai’ sound (rain) can be represented as ‘ay’ (day)

Step 5: Fluency and Accuracy

By this point, children should be able to read many familiar words automatically and sound out unfamiliar words. They should be able to spell words phonetically, but not necessarily correctly.

The aim now is to support children to become more fluent readers and accurate spellers. Children will begin to learn more complex spelling rules such as prefixes, suffixes and silent letters.

Some things to remember

  • Read as much as you can to your child.
  • Repetition is the key.
  • A thorough knowledge of the sounds is required.
  • Blending is crucial.
  • Try many hands on play based activities to learn phonics.
  • Make it fun.
  • Make sure to Positively praise children for their efforts.

Are you excited to start the phonics journey with your child?