When I first started teaching, I knew nothing about phonics because I wasn’t taught phonics at school. Initially, the training I received made it seem really simple. Having begun a deep dive into literacy and phonics, I’m not so sure I feel that way anymore. That said, I suspect on my own personal exploration, I started with simplicity, moved through enormous complexity, and might return to simplicity on the other side. Part of what makes me feel that is having talked with who are considered literacy experts that still have so many unanswered questions about the topic.

That said, over time, I’ve found a few useful resources that would support a new teacher in understanding and applying phonics in their teaching. Here are some video resources that provide a good overview to get you started.

Here’s an explanation of what phonics is:

And the key terms explained:

Elsewhere, on this website, I discussed the mistake most teachers (and songs you find on YouTube) make with teaching phonics. Teaching the letter sounds this way will make it more difficult for your students. This problem is explained well in this video below:

Here’s all the sounds, pronounced correctly:

Having looked at many of the major commercial phonics programs that English language schools tend to adopt (often because its the easiest method), I can see how they are very similarly designed. Its kind of like people looked at what was available and copied that, with some slight adaptations. That is, most of the major contemporary (synthetic) phonics programs were modelled on Jolly Phonics and Letter Land. Here’s a good explanation of the format they mostly take.

One thing that’s worth keeping in mind, is that there is big money in phonics. Students typically move through several levels of a given program and there are text books, workbooks, graded readers, songs and videos, and a whole host of other products and services that come as a part of the package. The commercial interests, I think, can taint some of the discussions you might read about the effectiveness of phonics programs.

If you’re interested in learning more about literacy, of which phonics is just a small part, I would recommend this course.