Phonetic Instruction In order to learn to read either a


In order to learn to read either a native or foreign language, the reader must be able to identify words quickly and accurately. This process is known as decoding. Decoding words involves changing what the reader sees printed on a page into spoken language. The reader then decodes the word by sounding it out, using the context around the word for clues about it's meaning. In order to sound out words, a reader must be able to relate specific spellings with specific sounds. Phonics is the process of relating the sounds of the words to their spellings.

There are many ways to teach phonics awareness and use. However, most types of phonics instruction focus on the sound- spelling relationships so that the new reader can come up with an approximate pronunciation of the word and then check it against their own oral vocabulary in order to attempt to try to determine the meaning of the word. Research has shown that phonics instruction increases reading and spelling abilities in new readers. Most phonics activities are oral and usually offer an engaging way for new readers to differentiate the sounds that make up the new words they are being exposed to. The two primary types of activities are oral blending and oral segmentation.

Oral blending activities help new readers hear how sounds are put together to make words. They prepare the student to decode, sound out, or blend words independently. Oral blending activities begin with blending larger word parts, like syllables, and progress to whole words sound by sound. Beginning oral activities should use those that begin with continuous consonants like s, m, l, f, r, and z. This makes it easier for the student to hear the distinct sounds and to more efficiently model the principal of oral blending. For example, you can stretch out the word sat to be sssssssssaaaaaaaaatttttttttt. It is often helpful to add visual cue when there is a move from one sound to the next within a word. Oral segmentation activities held new readers to separate words into sounds. These exercises should begin with a focus on syllables because they are easier to distinguish than individual sounds. Segmentation activities prepare the student for spelling, and then writing. A student is developing segmentation skills when he/she begins asking questions like 'What makes the sh sound in shop'' or 'What makes the xt sound in next''

There are a few things to keep in mind when providing phonics instruction to new readers. Don't stress written words or letters. Over using printed materials before the student is familiar with the alphabet can confuse a new reader. Keep the atmosphere of the class relaxed and informal. This increases STT and the confidence of the students. Monitor each student's progress through out the term- addressing individual weakness as needs. And continue to offer ongoing praise and encouragement. Keep assessing the phonemic awareness and use by the students. Most importantly, the instructor must provide large amounts of language experiences. Nothing takes the place of reading, writing, and listening to stories or dialogues when learning a new language.

Phonics training can have a significant impact on learning a new language. By integrating phonemic awareness and practice into their lesson plans, an ESL instructor is providing the student with a powerful tool that will continue to serve them as they develop their new language skills and abilities. Resources

Hiskes, Delores G., Phonics Pathways. Livermore: Dorbooks, 2000

Blevins, Wiley, Phonics from A to Z. New York: Scholastic, 1998