Teaching Reading

Phonics for Lower Elementary

According to the National Reading Panel, “The primary focus of phonics instruction is to help beginning readers understand how letters are linked to sounds to form letter-sound correspondences and spelling patterns and to help them learn how to apply this knowledge in their reading.” Now that you know what the focus of phonics instruction is, I want to center this blog post around how phonics instruction can help (or hurt) upper elementary students.

Before getting into the students specifically, it is important to understand that there are two different ways instruction may be provided, systematically or incidentally. For this post, I will be focused more on the systematic approach. In this approach, there are a couple different concepts that can be presented to students.

Image from Megan

The first I want to talk about is analogy phonics. This is when students are taught unfamiliar words by analogy to know words. An example of this is recognizing rime segments such as brick and kick are recognized by the -ick.

The second I want to talk about is synthetic phonics. This is when students are taught to convert letters into sounds and then blend the sounds to form words. When using the systematic synthetic phonics instruction in the classroom, it had a positive effect on disabled readers’ reading skills. This type of instruction benefits students will learning disabilities and low-achieving students.

The systematic phonics instruction approached the ability of good readers spelling. This was across all grade levels however, the impact was the strongest for kindergarten. For poor readers, the impact on spelling was very small.

There is speculation that kindergarten students may not be ready for phonics instruction. However, the data given does not support this. The effects of early phonics instruction were significant with kindergarten and first grade students. This suggests that systematic phonics should be implemented during this time.

Including phonics instruction can be a difficult process for any teacher. The National Reading Panel says, “educators must keep the end in mind and ensure that children understand the purpose of learning letter sounds and that they are able to apply these skills accurately and fluently in their daily reading and writing activities.” When a teacher is shown the importance of phonics reading, it become more motivational because they are giving their students and education that will help them in the long run. However, it can be hard to keep this motivation throughout the lessons. Some phonic programs have teachers follow specific instructions. This can become boring and tiring for the students and the teacher.

There is something that is still being researched with phonics instruction in the lower elementary and that is how long should it continue? If starting in kindergarten and first grade, should it continue into second and third grade? This is something that is still yet to be answered. There is no set number of how much phonics instruction should get because there is no way of knowing a specific answer. Every student is different and their skills will be different.


Phonics Instruction. (2017, August 12). Retrieved from http://www.readingrockets.org/article/phonics-instruction



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