How best to help students learn phonics? Now that’s a question that can get a lot of teachers going.
I personally can’t imagine teaching or learning phonics in the mind-numbing way I’ve sometimes seen it used in classrooms. I believe some explicit phonics instruction is useful, though I’ve only done so inductively. I’ve described how I do that in some detail in my book, English Language Learners: Teaching Strategies That Work.
Today, however, I thought I’d bring together a few limited resources, and hope that readers will make additional suggestions (I know that there are many articles out there). I’ve divided this list into two parts — the first section shares links to some useful articles for teachers to read, while the second section contains links to websites where students can practice phonics in an engaging way for a short time as practice.
Here are my choices for The Best Articles & Sites For Teachers & Students To Learn About Phonics:
Phonics Instruction Doesn’t Have to Be ‘Boring & Dull’ is one of my Ed Week columns.
Scott Thornbury has recently written a short post giving an overview of some of the issues involved in phonics instruction. In addition, if you scroll down in the comments section, Stephen Krashen provides what I consider to be exceptional commentary and includes some important links.
Professor Brian Cambourne has a good article in the Sydney Morning Herald headlined The sound and the fury about making sense of written words.
Professor Cambourne has also written another article titled See hear.
I really like Sounds Easy: Phonics, Spelling and Pronunciation Practice by Sharron Bassano. As the title suggests, it’s more than just phonics instruction. Also, even though it’s not included in the book, it’s easy to convert the exercises into more higher-order categorization activities, too. This is the resource I have adapted for teaching phonics inductively. It’s on The Best Books For Teaching & Learning ESL/EFL list.
The Backseat Linguist has a nice commentary on a recent study about phonics. It raises important questions, especially in light of some who claim the study prove phonics is the way to go.
The Backseat Linguist shares some intriguing points about phonics instruction.
Phonics for English Learners? What Do You Think? is a post by literacy expert Timothy Shanahan, and is the best piece I’ve ever read on phonics and ELLs. Unfortunately, he doesn’t actually recommend how best to teach phonics, but I guess you can’t have everything.
I thought this was interesting from literacy expert Timothy Shanahan – he says:
NRP [National Reading Panel] found it useful to have a [phonics teaching] sequence, but not any particular sequence.
Here’s a nice example of phonics instruction for high school ELLs. You can download materials here:
I teach phonics inductively, but I still many traditional follow-up activities to help students develop phonemic awareness.
Here are some good resources that secondary teachers can use to get them up to speed on what those activities might be to help with students who come with interrupted formal education:
The Florida Center For Reading Research seems like a “mother lode” of sorts for ideas and printable resources. They have a seven-part series of phonemic awareness activities, including a zillion printables:
The University of Pittsburgh has a nice summary of phonemic awareness activities – if a seven part series is too much for you 🙂
Phonics and Decoding is from ASCD.
How Now Brown Cow: Phoneme Awareness Activities is from Reading Rockets.
I have to admit I don’t do all of activities listed in the above resources, but one I definite do use a lot is onset-rime. Here are some other materials specifically on that topic:
Word families and Onset Rime: early literacy instruction with learners with CCN is from Jane Farrall.
Instructional Activities to Develop Phonological Awareness: Onset-rime and Phoneme is from Reading First in Virginia.
Phonics Faux Pas appeared in the American Educator.
Synthetic Phonics or Systematic Phonics? What Does Research Really Say? is from Timothy Shanahan.
Is Phonics Boring? These Teachers Say It Doesn’t Have to Be is from Ed Week.
The FLORIDA CENTER FOR READING RESEARCH has a lot of useful phonics materials (click “Student Center Activities’).
5 Ways Phonics Is Different for English Learners is from TESOL.
Why phonics instruction is not enough for English learners is from Ed Source.
Appropriate Beginning Reading Instruction for English Learners? is by Timothy Shanahan.
Focus on phonics to teach reading is ‘failing children’, says landmark study is from The Guardian.
What do you think of “phonics first” or “phonics only” in the primary grades? is from Timothy Shanahan.
Phonics and Flexibility – Can They Really Go Together? is from Timothy Shanahan.
— Timothy Shanahan (@ReadingShanahan) November 18, 2023
I’m especially impressed with ABC Fast Phonics.
Reading Bear is a new free interactive site for teaching beginning readers through the use of phonics in a relatively engaging way. It doesn’t appear that registration is necessary, and they say it will remain free. It’s from Watch Know Learn, the well-respected and well-known educational video site.
Of course, you’ll want to check out one of my most popular “The Best…” lists, The Best Websites To Help Beginning Readers.
Again, I know there are plenty of other resources out there — please leave suggestions in the comments section.
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You might also want to explore the over 600 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.