What does systematic phonics instruction look like?
First, a child might learn short a. He’ll read sentences like:
Matt had a cat.
Then, a child might learn short i. He’ll read sentences like:
The rat hid from the cat.
If he learns short o next, he’ll read:
Tom the frog can hop to the mat.
This method of incrementally introducing new material continues until the child can read almost the entirety of the English language.
Systematic Phonics Instruction and Phonics Books
Initial phonics books use short sentences that don’t model speech. This is because beginning readers work hard to visually recognize each unit. Since they can recognize every unit, they can only read books that contain the material they know.
Beginning readers also laboriously work to develop phonemic awareness—a skill most literates take for granted to such a degree, we might mistakenly believe it comes naturally at birth or is “developmental.” Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, blend and segment sounds. Illiterate societies do not develop phonemic awareness, and many adults in these societies would not be able to segment cat into /c/ /a/ /t/. Children require phonemic awareness training. Once a child is somewhat phonemically aware and knows some phonics units, he can read phonics books.
Systematic Phonics Instruction and Sight Words
Kids also learn a handful of sight words a few at a time. They are given the chance to master some before learning more. Kids constantly review old sight words. This ensures that kids maintain a high morale and become confident readers.
Why is Systematic Phonics Instruction important?
Since systematic phonics instruction introduces phonics units and sight words a few at a time, kids develop mastery. They can read phonics books with high accuracy. Reading is not approached as a learn-everything-at-once funnel towards failure. Kids learn to analyze words and they can transfer their skills to any text. If they know short a, they can read an uncommon word like “yap” in a book they’ve never seen before—that’s true reading independence. They never memorize books. They don’t need to. With great delight, kids see that they can transfer their reading skills to the real world.