As a parent, these days we get to hear a lot about phonics as a new concept in language learning, but probably very few of us know or understand the nitty gritty of phonics. In very simple words, phonics define the relationship between the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they make. It's a link between what we say, what we read and what we write. But the question is, does just knowing sounds of all alphabets make us a champion in reading and spelling. Sadly, the answer is NO. Phonics is just one part of a broader concept of "Reading Frequency." Apart from Phonics, reading and spelling skills requires knowledge of Phoneme, Phonetics, Phonemic awareness and Print awareness. Confusing? Let's try to Understand. We already saw what phonics mean.
A Phoneme is the smallest unit of sound that can differentiate the meaning of two words. For example, in the word BAT, we hear 3 sounds - B / A / T. If we change B /A/ T to B / U / T, the meaning of the word will completely change. Therefore, it is very important to be able to distinguish between different sounds or Phonemes.
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Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and use different phonemes. It is the realization that a word is made up of different sounds.
Print awareness is knowing that a book or any text needs to be read top to bottom, left to right, with pauses between words etc. On advanced levels, it is also awareness about what's a cover page, title or, author in a book. To be able to read any text, basic print awareness is necessary.
Now, does a reader or a child need to know all these technical details? Of course, not! But while playing the role of a teacher, parents need to know this to be able to teach sounds in a correct progression.
Why is Phonics Important?
It is estimated that there are at least half a million words in English language. And there are only two methods of being able to read and write these words - Either learning by rote or learning Phonics. Yes, memorizing is important in some cases, because some words, known as Sight words, or Dolce words can't be correctly read using phonics and this needs to be memorized by seeing and practicing. But half a million - NOT POSSIBLE
For early Learners, words are like codes which are alien to them. Phonics teaches them how to crack this code.
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When to begin?
The ideal age to begin introducing phonics to kids is between the age of 3 to 8.
How to begin?
The first and most basic step to introduce phonics is to introduce letter sounds. There are ample of videos available online to teach letter sounds, but not all are authentic. Some will say that sound of S is / sa/ while some will tell you to / sss/. Sme will teach sound of F as /fa/ while some will teach is as /fff/.
The video linked here is one of the most accurate videos showing phonics-based letter sounds.
Some Tips which I thought might be helpful:
- While introducing phonics, connect sounds to real life objects they know the names of, rather than alphabets. For example - instead of just saying - A for Apple, tell them - Apple/a/Plate/p/ etc. (lower case alphabets written between / / indicates sounds).
- Repetition is key. Keep practising to master the sounds.
- To ensure they understand the phonemes, ask them the first sound and last sound in a word.
- Begin with consonants as they are easy to understand.
- Practice 3 letter CVC (Consonant Vowel Consonant) words.
- Take maximum 3 consonant sounds per week to practice. Practice with all objects available around you.
Please remember, learning letter sounds is just the beginning. Knowledge of letter sounds alone will not equip your child to be able to read. In the articles to follow, we will discuss next steps and methods for Reading Frequency.
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