The term phonics refers to teaching students about the relationship between spoken sounds (phonemes) and written units of language (graphemes).  The mission of phonics instruction is to help children master the alphabetic principle, or the structured, systematic connection between written and spoken language units.


Phonics Instruction

According to dominant research, systematic and explicit phonics insruction is beneficial for a variety of learning goals and a diversity of learners. Done properly, phonics instruction greatly improves emerging readers' word recognition and spelling skills. It also supports reading comprehension, especially when introduced early in a child's education. Explicit and systematic phonics instruction is effective for virtually every learner. It is especially helpful for students who are struggling to read, regardless of social or economic backgrounds. 

What does explicit, systematic phonics instruction look like in the classroom? According to the National Institute for Literacy, this type of instruction "provides practice with letter-sound relationships in a predtermined sequence. Children learn to use these relationships to decode words that contain them." (Put Reading First, 14) 

Here are some examples and non-examples of effective programs for phonics:

Examples Non-Examples
  • Synthetic Phonics
  • Literature-based Programs
  • Analytic Phonics
  • Basal-reading Programs
  • Analogy-based Phonics
  • Sight-word Programs


Still wondering what good phonics instruction looks like in the classroom? Check out this video below by Susan Jones to see some best practices at work: