To be able to read and write properly you need to be able to understand phonics rules. Without this knowledge then failure is a certainty.
Phonics rules are probably the trickiest part of reading and writing but they're nothing to be afraid of. If you take them in bite-sizes pieces you will find them perfectly manageable
Here's a true account of someone who had no idea about them. This man made a genuine call to emergency services and this is what happened. He told the operator his wife had been attacked by a warthog and needed an ambulance urgently.
"What address sir?" asked the operator.
"1825 Eucalyptus St," replied the man.
"Could you spell that?" requested the operator.
(There was a long pause.)
"I'll just drag her to Oak St and you can pick her up there," replied the stressed man.
It's hard to believe isn't it, but that really did happen! The man simply couldn't spell Eucalyptus St and was prepared to drag the injured woman to another street rather than admit he couldn't spell.
The man calling emergency services, must have seen his own street sign a million times... yet he couldn't remember it... not even enough to attempt to spell it.
The other problem was he didn't know the different phonics rules which would have helped him to learn and remember his street name.
He needed to know that in some words, like the Greek word Eucalyptus:
· the u sound can sometimes be spelled eu,
· that sometimes the i sound you can hear in a word can be the letter y (as it often behaves like the vowels a e i o and u.)
There are adults with major literacy problems everywhere. The reason we rarely see them is that they are always in hiding. Look at the lengths the man above went to, to disguise his literacy problem.
Sadly, there are plenty of adults out there who are unable to spell their children's names!
They have not learned the rules or patterns which make it all so much easier.
The students I've taught have told me how they've been tortured by feelings of inadequacy and have resorted to lies and deception to stop anyone from finding out.
Their jobs often involve working long hours for very little pay and with no hope of promotion.
And to think that each of these adults started out as a child with endless possibilities.
You probably think that the people I am talking about here are incapable of learning these skills but you'd be wrong. Many, if taught correctly, can learn to read, write, spell and function again in society. Their joy, when they master these skills, is phenomenal.
It is impossible to memorise every word you come across when learning to read and spell. You need to know how to spell about 20,000 words to be able to spell adequately.
Research has shown that you can memorise many words until the age of seven but by then your brain's visual memory is so full it goes into overload.
That's the point at which children who aren't taught phonics rules get into trouble.
Teachers with a classroom full of children, all at different stages of literacy, have a huge job on their hands. They do a sterling job but it is an enormous challenge for them to try and get all children to the same level.
Children can't learn phonics rules automatically. They need to be taught in stages, just as a child needs to learn to swim.
Most wouldn't survive if you threw them in as babies and expected them to stay afloat. The same thing applies here.
You can't expect them to pick up all of these reading patterns by themselves. They need to be taught in a careful and structured way.
Phonics rules help readers to learn these different patterns and reapply them so they don't have to memorise every word they come across.
As the rules are taught children must be closely monitored to ensure they are retaining them. This means the rules should be practised and continue to be reviewed while new rules are learned.
Like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing, if this doesn't happen your child can end up with gaping holes in their reading and spelling.
This affects their writing and comprehension then they struggle to learn other subjects.
If you can't learn to read... you can't read to learn.
To master subjects like science and math, for example, your child needs to be a capable reader.
Fluency in reading generally starts to develop as early as first grade using simple books. The skill of reading is then transferred to the learning of other subjects.
Games and other hands-on activities ensure this is fun-filled and at the same time reinforces the learning that is taking place.
You can find some great fun ideas and games for first grade learners of reading, including math and science at Smart First Graders.
These activities advance learning.
The progress of many early readers, however, comes to a grinding halt. In a nutshell they simply can't absorb any additional words visually. This is accompanied by an enormous sense of failure.
Children begin to display signs of stress which can affect their behaviour, both at home and at school. The result is that their learning stops.
This might explain how the man from Eucalyptus St ended up.
By learning phonics rules your child will receive systematic training in how combinations of letters sound and how letters in words affect one another.
Here's an example of one phonics rule..
Take the word mat. In this word the a says a as in apple.
If we add an e to the word mat it becomes mate.
The rule is that the e after the vowel a, forces the a to say its alphabet name.
So the a then says a as in May.
The two words, mat and mate have only one letter that makes them different but they mean completely different things.
Imagine reading a sentence like this.
My mate and I love to play on the swings at the park.
If your child doesn't understand this rule they could easily read it as
My mat and I love to play on the swings at the park.
Can you see how one misplaced letter changes the
It is crucial that your child learns this rule, as well as many others. The great thing is that they can use the same pattern over and over again.
If they know the phonics rule about how to read and spell mat and mate they'll know how to distinguish between words like cut and cute, fat and fate, twin and twine, dam and dame, fin and fine, man and mane, pin and pine, rid and ride,tap and tape, hug and huge...and there are more words with this pattern.
You can see how learning one rule saves huge amounts of energy. time and stress.
By learning one pattern they can learn 20-30 other words with virtually no extra effort. Your child's brain doesn't get overwhelmed.
Reading for your child just gets easier and more
exciting. More importantly it sets them up for life. Unlike the unfortunate adults I have worked with, they have choices.
To Phonic Alphabet
Critical for anyone learning to read. Master this and you've made a promising start to reading.
To Phonics Sounds
Unlock Mystery to Reading Success. As a teacher, I can tell you that once your child understands these sounds they will learn to read.
To Basic Phonics Rules
Experienced literacy teacher guides you through some basic phonics rules and just how they work.
To Phonics Blends
Reading teacher gives you step-by-step instructions on how to get early readers blending words.
To Phonics Word Families
Teacher explains how word families speed up the process of reading and reduce learner stress.
To Consonant Blends
Teacher explains novel way to learn these so that your child can quickly read many more words.