Teaching young children a complicated foreign language such as English can be a demanding task.
Fortunately, the phonics method provides a relatively easy way for a child to master the complexity of the English sound system.
The effectiveness of the method is attested my millions of teachers who use this method in their classrooms on a daily basis.
However, even if you are not an English teacher, but just a caring parent who wants to help their children take their first steps towards mastering the English language, these methods are still the best routes to success.
1. Keep it short and sweet.
Children have a short attention span, so having an hour-long study session several times a week will be rather unproductive. Instead plan a short 15-minute lesson which you can conduct every day.
Think of studying a foreign language as you do of eating food: it is better to have smaller, balanced meals every day rather than eating big piles of food three times a week.
And make sure to pick the time of your lesson wisely. If a child is too tired then studying, no matter how brief, will only make them irritated.
2. One step at a time.
In the initial stages it is best if you devote each of your 15-minute lessons to several (three or four) phonic sounds at a time. In the long term it is better for a child to memorize three phonic sounds well, rather than fumble with eight.
3. Buy alphabet cards (or make them yourself).
There are a lot of flash cards on the market designed specifically for the purpose of teaching phonics. They may include colorful and relevant pictures which will make the job at hand even easier.
If you can’t find such cards in your local bookshop fear not!
Just take a stack of old playing cards, glue them down in several rows on sheets of paper (both plain white or colored paper will do) cut them out and write the letters on the cards. Voila! You have phonics flash cards!
If that is a tall order as well then simple sheets of paper cut into fairly even rectangles will do the trick.
4. Colorful letters are easier to memorize.
It is believed that reading something written in an unusual font with colorful letters helps children memorize whatever has been written better.
So, if you do end up making your own phonics cards make sure to use a vast array of colorful markers and whimsical letters.
5. Games make studying child’s play.
It is important that a child has fun while learning phonics.
If they start associating the lessons with the sense of boredom they will lose their motivation which will hinder their progress. Phonics games help your child learn without losing an ounce of the drive.
If you want to incorporate games into your study routine the internet is your best friend.
There are many useful websites filled to the brim with phonics games a mere click of the button away.
6. Sing the phonics songs.
Another great way to make sure your study session brings maximum results is listening to phonics songs. Phonic sounds set to a tune are much easier to memorize.
There are thousands of phonic sounds and songs in YouTube. So, even if you are unable to conduct a lesson one day because you are busy or feel exhausted worry not!
Just go to a reputable children’s channel, pull up one of their phonics videos and let the fun educational experience commence.
This way your child still gets their recommended daily dose of phonics while you catch a much-earned break.
7. C-V-C words and minimal pairs.
C-V-C words are simple three letter words that follow a consonant/vowel/consonant pattern (e.g. cat, hat, dad etc.)
Minimal pair is a pair of simple words that only differs by one letter (e.g. pen/hen, run/rug, bag/big etc.)
These words are essential for those who want to learn how to read in English.
They are a perfect learning tool for small children, as they illustrate how the difference in one single letter/phonic sound can cause the change in meaning.
8. Read aloud, don’t be shy.
Make sure your child pronounces the sounds as clearly as possible.
Many children feel shy to pronounce unfamiliar sounds so make sure to practice positive reinforcement and praise them every time they manage to complete the task successfully.
After they have advanced a bit in their studies and are able to read full sentences you can choose from a vast variety of children’s books available for purchase online.
Many of these books have been written specifically with the phonics teaching method in mind and will undoubtedly be beneficial for the development of your child’s literacy skills.
9. Repetition is the mother of all learning.
Repeating old material will not only reinforce your child’s knowledge but also boost their self-esteem.
It is impossible to remember everything on the first go, so never get annoyed with the child if they don’t remember some of the old material.
Instead praise them for the things they do remember and go over the forgotten points again. If they have a particular children’s book they enjoy, read it to them again and again.
After some time they may even be able to memorize the entire plot of the book by heart in which case you can encourage them to read the book by themselves (but make sure to monitor them the first time to make sure they are doing it correctly)
10. Customize your lesson.
Children have many different innate talents. Some have a stellar photographic memory, so they may find it easier to learn from the flash cards.
Some have a musical talent and benefit far more from a jolly singalong. Your lessons will be far more productive if the study method you chose complements your child’s talent, whatever it may be.
To conclude, the tips provided above will help you teach your child in a home setting.
However, if you feel unsure about your teaching ability, or whether you will be able to commit enough time to the process it is better to hire a professional English language tutor whose knowledgeable and nuanced approach will help your child achieve success in their studies.