9 Tips and Tricks for Using Phonics to Teach Reading: Why Phonics Worksheets?

Phonics worksheets give parents an approach and a structured method to teach reading. While phonics is the base for understanding the code or symbols for reading, phonics exercises should not comprise the entire reading program. But it is true that learning phonics is an essential skill for reading. Parents can successfully teach many of the skills successfully. There are a few tips and tricks to maximize the effectiveness of using the worksheets.

1 – Age or Interest of your Toddler:

Is Your Toddler Ready?

When do kids learn to read? Many children are interested in learning to read at a young age, but others resist parents’ efforts to teach reading skills. 

Toddler reading a book in his highchair.
Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay 

Some toddlers are not interested in paper activities. They may be too active, or they may prefer concrete items. You can use the worksheets for ideas but use toys and everyday household items for the exercises. So, if a worksheet is comparing the letter b sound to other letter sounds, take out 5 or 6 toys and household items to sort. Gather together a ball, spoon, keys, bag, blocks, car, and a brush. Sort the items into 2 piles, one with the b sound and ones without the b sound. Continue this activity until you are confident your child can identify the sound accurately. Do not confuse your child by using objects that start with “p” or “d” as these sounds are close to the “b” sound.

To avoid negativity about reading, you may need to wait until your toddler is ready to engage in the phonics lessons or you may need to resort to using another method of teaching these skills such as online games, that may be more engaging for your child.

2 – Focus on Sounds not the Names of the Letters

When reading, you need to understand the sounds of the letters, not their names. And for vowels, begin with the short letter sounds as in a for “cat,” not “cake.” The website http://www.starfall.com is very helpful in learning about letter sounds. See also the vowels at the bottom of the menu page for teaching the short vowel sounds.

3 –Order of Introducing Sounds

Maximize the effect of all your teaching by using an order of sounds that is researched based. Here is the order. There are several versions of this list, but the main concept is that the alphabetical order is not as conducive to learning.

  • s, a, t, i, p, n
  • c, k, e, h, r
  • m, d, g, o
  • l, f, b, q, u
  • j, z, w
  • v, y, x

4 –Sounding Out Words

After teaching the first row of sounds, you can sound out many 3 letter words: sat, pin, tip, nap, tap, and these are just a few words that can be sounded out. These type of words are called CVC words (consonant, vowel, consonant) 

5 –The Difference between Sounding Out and Sight Words

There are many books written to take advantage of words that you can sound out.

Girl reading Hop on Pop. This book has many words that can be sounded out.
Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

You can sound out many words using phonics, but not all words follow the phonics rules. These are called sight words. You need to memorize the words as well as practicing these words in the context of a story. Examples of sight words are:  the, who, these, said, orange,

6 –Moving Beyond the Initial Sounds

In many phonics programs, the initial sounds are taught, and then there is a focus on the ending sounds. If you follow even further in a phonics program, you will find letters that form a particular sound together. Some combinations are br, st, wh, sh, and many more. And then certainly the lessons will also include long vowels. Many parents have no idea about these different aspects of phonetics, but a phonics program will cover the essential basis for learning to read. 

7 –Phonics Worksheets and Spelling

Your child will inevitably want to write words, too, while learning about the sounds in the letters. Phonics worksheets have activities to practice this skill as well. 

Jolly Phonics and Hooked on Phonics are two well known programs that provide you with extensive practice with multimedia learning opportunities.

8 –Games

Often phonics programs do integrate the use of games into the instructional process. These could be games of matching, concentration, and other fun activities. It is widely known that games motivate practicing skills. BINGO is a popular format for games.

Part of a BINGO game that can be used for initial letter sounds.

Associated with many phonics programs are online learning games.

9 –Practice Printing

Often phonics worksheets include an opportunity to practice the fine-motor skills associated with printing. They also match the small letter to the capital, and while that is not the prime objective in teaching reading, it is helpful to incorporate this skill in learning about sounds. Just focus on recognizing the small letters first.

Child using a phonics worksheet to print words.
Image by free stock photos from www.picjumbo.com from Pixabay 

Phonics Worksheets: Only Part of the Process

While learning about phonics is essential for reading, it is only part of the process. The most important part of teaching reading is not phonics but in sharing excellent stories with your child.

Mom reading to 2 children at bedtime. Reading books to your child is the most important activity you can do to promote a love of reading.

If you want to delve into the full teaching process for reading, take a look at this blog by a national (Canadian) award-winning teacher.  Help for Parents (Reading Instruction):

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