Hooked on Phonics: Strategies for Teaching Phonics to Young Learners



Phonics, the sounds and letters that make up language, is one of the main methods of developing children’s reading skills.  Phonics uses a “part-whole” concept to teach the pronunciation of words, as opposed to the “whole language” method of recognizing entire words. For example, a child will learn the “-at” sound, and then add consonants to it to form words like “cat, bat, hat, rat, fat”.

Phonics helps learners of a new language break words down into individual syllables, improving accuracy in pronunciation. Teaching phonics shows the relationship between letters and sounds, and helps children develop pronunciation skills.

Strategies for teaching phonics930

Phonics can be a fun subject to teach for young learners! There are all kinds of games, songs, videos, and other activities to help children develop their phonemic awareness skills. One way is to use visual representations of letters (the alphabet). Young learners need to first learn the corresponding sounds to each letter.

Use an alphabet chart:

AlphaChart 11x9 1319170

Not only is it colorful (children love colorful things), it has pictures with an example of phoneme it represents. Children should listen to their teacher say each letter sound, and then repeat afterward. Adults working with young readers on developing their phonemic awareness should make explicit connections between sounds and letters by not only including print words in instruction but also drawing the children’s attention to sounds by saying and pointing to letters simultaneously.

Another strategy is by clapping and tapping to separate words into individual syllables. You can perform with fingers, hands or an object such as a stick. When first introducing this concept, you should model clapping or tapping. For example, you can show a child that the word “balloon” has two syllables by clapping twice while reciting the word (/ba/ -clap- /loon/ -clap-). Once children understand the activity they should be encouraged to perform it independently. This movement in connection with sounds allows children to become actively engaged with words. Using TPR (Total Physical Response) with phonics instruction is an excellent strategy

Screen shot 2011-05-08 at 10.17.24 PMA third strategy is by substituting keywords in show how phonics plays a role in the meaning of words. When a sound is changed in a word, more often than not, the meaning changes. Keyword substitution activities use familiar songs as a basis for “playing” with words. Adults can take the lyrics of a familiar song and create new lyrics that substitute words with small phonemic variations. For instance, the chorus of “Pop Goes the Weasel” could be changed to “Hop Goes the Weasel”. After singing the song with the new lyrics adults should discuss how changing a sound shifted the meaning of the song. Children love to sing, and songs help them familiarize with patterns. They also help with memorization skills (think of the jingles you have heard for commercial products).


A fourth strategy is to use flash cards. Picture flashcards are excellent tools for helping children who do not have strong phonics skills work on their phonemic awareness. You should create a series of flashcards featuring pictures that are familiar to the child. When using the flashcards you should ask the child to name the picture featured on each card. After saying the word the child should be asked to identify the first and second sounds in the word. This activity helps children realize that words are made up of a series of independent sounds.

These are very common, but if you have your own ways that are more effective, then please share them!


*Fixed the broken video link. 


Filed under Education, English, ESL, Kids, learning, Literacy Skills, Phonics, Teaching, Young Learners

5 responses to “Hooked on Phonics: Strategies for Teaching Phonics to Young Learners

  1. Patricia Dorsey

    Reblogged this on How can I control my class? and commented:
    During my 40 years in education, I have taught Reading using both Phonics and Whole Language approaches. Our sons learned how to read using the Whole Language approach. But, one of our sons absolutely needed help by adding Phonics rules because learning how to read then made sense to him. Here’s a wonderful blog from someone who teaches ESL classes that shows how important Phonics strategies are for both English speaking beginning readers and new speakers of our language.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on TESL bug and commented:
    Phonics are a HUGE part of TESL but unfortunately, it often gets sidelined in favor of “more important” skills like conversation or grammar. Teaching children how to read properly at a young age gives them a head-start towards being able to read English.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Using the Whole-Language Approach to Teach Reading | So, You Think You Can Teach ESL?

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