Phonics refers to the sounds each of the letters individually [for example ‘a’] in the alphabet make, and the sounds letter combinations [for example the ‘tion’ in station, ‘ch’ in chair and ‘ai’ in rain] make. The process the students are taught to sound out the letters is called decoding. Being aware of the sounds and the process is key to students learning to read and sound out unfamiliar words when they come across them in written text. Phonics skills also help students pronounce (or at least attempt to produce) words, which means they are then able to attache meaning to them.
Phonics is one way of teaching students how to read. As part of Saturday Class at OYIS we focus on the combination of both Phonics and Sight Words as not all words in the English language are phonetic [for example ‘the’, ‘said’ and even the word Phonics]. In order to teach Phonics usually students are taught the name of the letter and the sound it makes. It is very important to differentiate between the two things as students often get confused when not enough attention is paid to differentiating between the two things. Once the name of the letter has been identified by the teachers, it is then followed by some words that start with that letter. For example ‘a-a-apple, a-a-ant, a-a-astronaut. In this case while the words are all different, through focussing on the starting sound (a in this case) the students can hear the similarities in the way the words sound at the beginning.
We also stress the importance of pronunciation of each of the sounds with the children. It is of particular importance that there are no additional sounds added to each of the individual letter sounds. For example the pronunciation of the letter ‘y’. It is a singular sound, but it is often pronounced ‘y-u’ just like ‘b’ is often pronounced ‘b-u’ instead of ‘b’. The more that students can practice the individual sounds the better they will become at sounding out and consequently spelling unfamiliar words they come across.
For this reason we tend to limit the amount of Phonics we want the students to do at home to limit incorrect input. For example the names of the letters ‘b’ and ‘d’ and the sounds for the letters ‘r’ and ‘l’ made by Japanese nationals are often incorrect as the Japanese language does not have these differentiations. An excellent video that can help you with the correct pronunciation is [here] from 1:47.