Phonics Knowledge

By the End of Kindergarten:

  • Children have an understanding of how our alphabetic language works. They are learning that sounds and letters are related.
  • Children may be able to locate and begin to use some high-frequency words from shared reading and writing books that have been added to a class word wall.

By the End of First Grade:

Phonics skills are taken from words that children encounter in their reading and words they commonly use in their writing.

They include:

  • High-frequency sight words, many of which do not follow spelling patterns, are often learned through the use of a word wall. For more information see Sight Word section of this web site.
  • Words with consonant digraphs and have a known word for each digraph (sh, ch, th).
    For more information see Letter Sound Correspondences Model 1 and Model 2.
  • Words with the most common word families. For more information see High Utility Word Families.

By the End of Second/Third Grade:

Phonics skills are predominately taken from children’s writing and running record observations in reading. Many of the skills are selected because second and third-grade children can read these words but cannot spell them in first draft writing.

They include:

  • High-frequency sight words, but hard to spell words. Words selected are those that are irregular.
  • Words with letter combinations that include silent letters, such as qu, ph, wr, kn.
    For more information see Letter Sound Correspondences Model 1 and Model 2
  • Words that include the less common c and g sounds.
    For more information see Letter Sound Correspondences Model 1 and Model 2.
  • Words with common spelling patterns that help children spell lots of rhyming words, some of which are a review from first grade.
  • Words with rhymes and chunks that have the same sound but several spellings, such as ea, ee or oa, o-e, o. For more information see Letter Sound Correspondences Model 1 and Model 2
  • Words with the most common vowel patterns, such as oa, oy, ow, why/very. For more information see Letter Sound Correspondences Model 1 and Model 2
  • Common contractions.
  • Commonly confused homophones, such as to, two, too.

By the End of Fourth/Fifth Grade:

Phonics skills are predominately taken from children’s writing and running record observations in reading.

They include:

  • Hard to spell, high-frequency sight. Selected words are those that are irregularly spelled.
  • Letter combinations that include silent letters that still confuse, such as qu, ph, wr, kn.
    For more information see Letter Sound Correspondences Model 1 and Model 2
  • Words that include the less common c and g sounds, such as city and giant.
    For more information see Letter Sound Correspondences Model 1 and Model 2
  • Words with complex rhymes and chunks that have the same sound but different spellings, such as -ite, -ight or -sure, -ture.
  • Common contractions.
  • Commonly confused homophones.
  • Examples for common endings and suffixes, such as -s, -es, -ed, -ing, -ly, -er, or, -ful, –less, -ness, -en, -able, -ible, -tion, -sion with common spelling changes (drop e, y changes to i, consonant doubling). For more information see Phonics with Intermediate Readers.
  • Examples for the most common prefixes un-, re-, dis-, im-, in-. Phonics with Intermediate Readers.

Read also our article about expected teacher qualities 

How Early Writing Supports Phonics Knowledge

Writing is an important learning activity for children. It slows down the reading process and focuses children’s attention on print. “Writing is the principal vehicle for developing word analysis skills.” (Adams, 1990)
For more information see Reading and Writing.

Encourage Children to Write by:

  • Let children see you do lots of writing.
  • Write letters, shopping lists, “Things to Do Today” lists.
  • Write messages on the refrigerator.
  • Encourage children to write on their own.
  • Praise early writing attempts; focus on the content, not the spelling.

How to Coach Children in Their Early Writing Attempts:

  • Talk about what to write.
  • Take each word and say it slowly. Teach them to “Stretch the sounds out.”
  • Ask, “What do you hear?” If children don’t hear any sounds, pronounce the word, accenting some sounds.
  • Ask, “How do you write that sound?”
  • Then start over, “Say it slowly. What else do you hear?”
  • Ask children to write only the sounds they hear. This developmental spelling will soon become conventional spelling as they develop more phonics and sight words.