Teaching Phonics Can Be Easy

Parents, grandparents, tutors, and teachers everywhere want to help beginning readers grow into people that can read anything.

One way to turn beginning readers into expert readers is by teaching phonics in a comprehensive way that covers:

  • How to write and sound out letters
  • How to write and sound out letter teams (also called digraphs, trigraphs or phonograms)
  • How syllable types and syllable divisions affect the way that words are written down and sounded out

Notice that I mention sounding things out and writing things down. These skills complement each other.

There are many wonderful reading and writing programs that cover letter sounds, letter teams, and syllable types. They include:

  • Logic of English
  • All About Reading
  • Wordy Worm Reading
  • The Spalding Method
  • The Writing Road to Reading
  • Spell to Write and Read

Each of these programs is great in a different way. However, each takes time on the part of the teacher or parent to use the program.

In the age of Khan Academy, where students all over the world can learn about math, science, engineering, computing, arts, humanities, economics, and finance online, I think we can also assume that a video-based curriculum can teach beginning reading.

Unfortunately, none of the programs listed above offer a video course. And, beginning reading isn’t one of the subjects available via Khan Academy, as you can see in the subject list here:

List of subjects offered by Khan Academy

Stanford’s online program for kids at GiftedandTalented.com doesn’t teach beginning reading either. Their math course begins in Kindergarten but their language arts course doesn’t begin until the 2nd grade, as you can see in the menu here:

Language Arts begins at Grade 2 at GiftedandTalented.com

Clearly, the field for a video-based beginning reading and writing curriculum is wide open.

Granted, there are some existing options that I’m aware of:

I’m building out a fourth option for beginning readers here at StoryHourAcademy.com. If you’ve tried any of the others above, give this a try, too. Or, if your beginning reader isn’t getting the results you were hoping for in the school classroom, give Story Hour Academy a try.

I have four goals for Story Hour Academy:

  1. Provide a free, video-based phonics program that any beginning reader with an internet connection and a willingness to learn can benefit from.
  2. Connect the video lessons to children’s literature that’s freely available online in the public domain. This way, even students who can’t visit a library or purchase books can complete the course.
  3. Get kids reading and writing during every lesson in order to build both of these critical literacy skills together.
  4. Provide an innovative sequence without any gotchas whereby students learn the full English code.

To the fourth goal, you may wonder what I mean by gotchas. Well, there were a lot of gotchas or gaps in the curriculum when I learned to read. And, I suspect that many of these deficiencies still exist in public and private schools today. For instance, in some programs, kids learn that the letter A makes the first sound in apple. Then, a couple months later, they learn that the letter A also makes the first sound in ape. Then, they eventually realize that the letter A can also make the vowel sound in mama. These are gotchas.

I don’t like pretending that the letter A makes just one sound when it actually makes 3 sounds. I think reading and writing programs should give beginning readers the full story about letter sounds and phonogram sounds from day 1.

The sequence of lessons at Story Hour Academy is designed to start with the least complex letter sounds and phonogram sounds, then add in syllable types, then finish up with the most complex letter sounds and phonogram sounds.

Here is the exact sequence that I’m working toward:

Section 1. Sixteen Single-Sound Consonants

The first section covers the consonant letters that make just one primary consonant sound. There are 16 of these letters. They are B, D, F, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Qu, R, T, V, W, and Z.

Section 2. Six Consonant Digraphs

The second section covers five common consonant digraphs and the sound or sounds that they make. These are CK, CH, NG, SH, TH, and WH.

Section 3. Eighteen Multi-Letter Vowel Phonograms

The third section covers 18 multi-letter vowel phonograms and the sound or sounds that they make. These are AI, AY, EIGH, EE, IGH, OA, AU, AW, OI, OY, UI, ER, UR, IR, AR, OR, EAR, and OUR. By the end of this section, kids can read and write words built with multi-letter vowel phonograms and single-sound consonant letters. This includes words like pail, boat, and fruit.

Section 4. Six Vowel Letters

The fourth section covers the vowel letters in the alphabet and all of the sounds that they make. This includes letter A and its 3 sounds, letter E and its 2 sounds, letter I and its 4 sounds, letter O and its 4 sounds, letter U and its 4 sounds, and finally letter Y and its 4 sounds. Beginning readers learn the patterns behind using one sound over another for these vowel letters.

Section 5. Multi-Sound Consonant Letters

In this section, beginning readers learn the letter C and its 2 sounds, the letter G and its 2 sounds, the letter S and its 2 sounds, and finally the letter X and its 2 sounds. They also learn the patterns behind using the first or second sounds of these letters. For example, the letter C softens to the first sound of S before E, I, and Y as in cent, city, and cycle.

Now, with a strong base in vowel letters, vowel teams, consonant letters, and consonant teams, as well as the sounds they make, beginning readers can tackle the six syllable types and the schwa sound.

Section 6. Six Syllable Types

In this section, kids learn about the closed syllable, the open syllable, the silent final e syllable, the r-controlled syllable, the vowel team syllable, and the consonant-le syllable. Do you remember learning these? If not, then you can feel confident that your beginning reader will have a better foundation to reading and writing than you did.

Section 7. Schwa

Kids learn about the unstressed schwa vowel sound and how it works in multi-syllable words. At this point in the course, students can practice reading nearly any book for beginning readers.

Section 8. More Phonograms

In this section, beginning readers learn the following additional phonograms: TCH, ED, PH, RH, GH, WOR, OU, OW, OE, OO, EW, GU, GN, KN, WR, DGE, EA, EI, EY, IE, EAU, EU, CI, TI, SI, AIGH, AUGH, and OUGH.

Section 9. Applying the Reading Code

In this final section, Story Hour Academy revisits some of the passages from past lessons to show beginning readers that they really do have the knowledge to read for themselves.

Once a student completes section 9 and therefore completes the course, they will have a rock solid foundation in reading and writing. In addition, they will have developed an appreciation of classic children’s literature because almost every lesson features a famous rhyme or poem. Also, throughout the course, students have adults read them classic stories from authors such as Beatrix Potter, L. Frank Baum, Aesop, Hans Christian Anderson, and many others.

As of today, March 25, 2017, there are 19 lessons ready for your beginning reader. These lessons are available on-demand from the phonics video lessons page.