The best ways primary teachers can teach phonics


There are many different ways for teaching phonics in the classroom, and primary teachers will often rely on several tried and tested methods for getting their message across.

Phonics teaching helps to bridge the gap between reading and writing while helping to develop an understanding among children of how sounds and letters can be interlinked.

Essentially, a primary teacher will guide children through a process of decoding words by sounding out the different letters they see, before combining those sounds to form the word – a process known as segmenting and blending.

Understanding the basics of phonics

Research suggests there are in the region of 44 different sounds, although the exact number differs with regional accents, alongside more than 175 ways of writing those sounds out using letters.

When creating lesson plans, a primary teacher will want to consider which resources to use and which sounds and letters to introduce first, so children can then use those to build words.

You don’t necessarily need to use the entire alphabet to get started – for instance, using the sounds s, a, t, i and m is a good starting point, as pupils can then build words using only a limited number of options.

Look to use consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words initially – such as ‘sat’ and ‘mat’ – before moving on to those which start with two consonants (CCVC), such as ‘stop’ or ‘that’.

This should ensure that children understand the sounds they are presented with, and with practice they should get quicker at looking at a word, breaking down its sounds, and then blending those sounds.

Phonics games and resources

You can rely on an extensive set of resources to aid your phonics teaching, including Jolly Phonics and Teach Your Monster To Read, a literacy game where pupils create a monster and take it on a magical adventure.

Oxford University Press also has a wide range of phonics resources for primary teachers to use in the classroom, including Floppy’s Phonics Teaching Programme.

These resources can help to shape lesson planning, as you may wish to include cards with high frequency words on, or ones featuring the many different sounds.

Visual aids can help to keep younger pupils engaged, while also helping them to associate certain sounds and images with certain words, fuelling their imagination in the process.

Key tips for phonics teaching

Every primary teacher will have their own tried and tested methods for teaching phonics, but there is plenty of room to be creative when planning lessons.

Ideally, sessions on phonics should be fairly short, so as not to pack in too much information in one go, and to keep them enjoyable.

Each phonics session should look to develop from the last in some way, as this can help to reinforce understanding over the course of many lessons.

Ultimately, phonics is designed to create an understanding of words and a love of reading, so primary teachers should look to incorporate an abundance of fun activities into lesson planning so that children can truly grasp the joys of reading at a young age.