Phonics is the true gateway to reading. It helps students become smooth, confident and comprehending readers. At ECA, we use the Abeka curriculum, which has equipped us with an intensive phonics method that helps students develop the necessary tools to decode and analyze words.
Opposed to intensive phonics method is the “Whole word” and “site reading” methods. The use of these methods require students to look at the shape and outline of a word, cram and memorize it. Their reading fluency is tied to memorization rather than analyzation and comprehension, which limits their reading fluency over time. Intensive phonics helps students look at individual letters and combinations in order to analyze a new word.
Six basic steps of intensive phonics approach used by our nursery.
1. Learn to recognize the short vowels and their sounds.
That means A, E, I, O, and U; and work with students’ short sounds.
2. Learn to recognize the consonants and their sounds.
We use pictures to connect familiar objects and animals to relate the letter at the beginning of each word to those objects.
3. Learn to blend the vowels and consonants.
Put the two previous steps together by combining the vowel sounds and consonants sounds they’ve already learned. Abeka emphasizes the blend at the beginning of the word, not the end like other programs. They do this because we read left to right.
4. Learn to sound one-vowel words.
Using the consonant sounds and vowel sounds, students can now learn to combine the two in simple one-vowel words. For instance, m-a says “ma”, add the t, and the sounded out word is“mat”. Students will identify within these words that there is only one vowel, so they’re able to emphasize the short vowel sound, and then, identify two-vowel words in the future.
5. Learn the sounds of the long vowels + Learn to sound two-vowel words.
When there are two vowels in a word, the first one is a long sound, and the second one is silent. For example, “rain”. The “a” is a long vowel, and the “i” is silent. So, once a student is able to identify and mark those, they will be ready to sound the two-vowel word out.
6. Learn and apply special phonics sounds.
This step is typically not addressed until Kindergarten. Special sounds represent 132 common letter combinations in the English language. Some can be sounded out, but by learning to identify these sounds instantly, the student will be able to move more fluidly and quickly through words on a page. In turn, their reading comprehension will be much easier to develop and work on.