The Project Gutenberg EBook of How to Teach Phonics, by Lida M. Williams

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Title: How to Teach Phonics

Author: Lida M. Williams

Release Date: April 4, 2006 [EBook #18119]

Language: English

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[Pg 1]

How to Teach




Primary Supervisor and Instructor of Methods,
Northern Normal and Industrial School,


Hall & McCreary Company

Copyright 1916, Hall & McCreary Company
P 2143
Printed in the U.S.A.

[Pg 2]


Phonics is not a method of teaching reading, but it is a necessary part of every good, modern method. It is the key to word mastery, and word mastery is one of the first essentials in learning to read. A knowledge of the sounds of letters, and of the effect of the position of the letter upon its sound, is an essential means of mastering the mechanics of reading, and of enabling children to become independent readers.

A knowledge of phonics not only gives power to pronounce new words, but it trains the ear, develops clear articulation and correct enunciation, and aids in spelling. Later, when diacritical marks are introduced, it aids in the use of the dictionary. The habit of attacking and pronouncing words of entirely new form, develops self-confidence in the child, and the pleasure he experiences in mastering difficulties without help, constantly leads to new effort.

The little foreigner, greatly handicapped where reading is taught by the word and sentence methods only, begins on an equal basis with his American neighbor, when the "Alphabet by sound" is taught.

In recent years only has the subject of phonics found a place on the daily school program; and there is perhaps, no other subject on the primary program so vaguely outlined in the average teacher's mind and therefore taught with so little system and definite purpose.

The present need is a systematic and comprehensive but simple method of phonics teaching thruout the primary grades, that will enable any teacher, using any good text in reading, to successfully teach the phonetic facts, carefully grading the difficulties by easy and consecutive steps thus preparing the pupils for independent effort in thot getting, and opening for him the door to the literary treasures of the ages.

It is with the hope of aiding the earnest teacher in the accomplishment of this purpose that "How To Teach Phonics" is published.


[Pg 3]


Every sound and pedagogical method of teaching reading must include two basic principles.

1. Reading must begin in the life of the child, with real thought content. Whether the thought unit be a word, a sentence, or a story, it must represent some idea or image that appeals to the child's interests and adjusts itself to his experience.

2. It must proceed with a mastery of not only words, but of the sound symbols of which words are composed.

The child's love for the story, his desire to satisfy a conscious need, gives him an immediate and compelling motive for mastering the symbols, which in themselves are of incidental and subordinate interest. While he is learning to read, he feels that he is reading to learn and "symbols are turned into habit."

If the child is to understand from the beginning that reading is thot getting, we must begin with the sentence, rhyme or other language unit. If a story is the initial step, a few well chosen sentences that tell the heart of the story will constitute the first black board reading lesson.

The next step is the analysis of the sentence, or the study and recognition of the individual words therein.

Finally the word is separated into its elementary sounds, the study of the sound symbols growing out of the stock of words learned first as purely sight words.

Following this phonic analysis comes the final step, the blending of these phonic elements to produce new words. Thus gradually increasing prominence is given to the discovery of new words by this analytic-synthetic process, and less time to sight word drills, until they are entirely omitted, except for the teaching of unphonetic words.

There should be at least two ten-minute lessons in phonics each day. These lessons are not reading lessons and should not trespass on the regular reading period, when thot getting and thot giving are uppermost.

While greater prominence is given to the thot phase in reading, the technical drill and active effort in mastering the mechanical phase is of equal importance as necessary preparation for good reading.

[Pg 4]


1. Ear Training:

From the first day a definite place on the program should be given to phonics. This period, at first very short, will gradually increase to ten, fifteen or twenty minutes.

To enable pupils to recognize words when separated into their elementary sounds, exercises in "listening and doing," will constitute the first step in phonics teaching. Words are sounded slowly and distinctly by the teacher and pronounced or acted out by the pupils.


(First Day.)


If at first children are not able to distinguish the words when separated thus; s-t-a-n-d, d-r-i-n-k, blend the sound less slowly thus: st-and, dr-ink, gradually increasing the difficulty to st-an-d, d-r-ink, and finally to the complete analysis.

These ear training exercises should continue until a "phonetic sense" is established. Not all children can readily blend sounds and "hear the word." Patient drill for weeks, even months, may be necessary before a sense of phonetic values is attained. Haphazard and spasmodic work is fatal to progress; but a few minutes of brisk, lively drill, given regularly each day will accomplish wonders.

The exercises should be varied from day to day to insure active interest and effort.

Second Day:

Touch your n-o-se; your ch-ee-k; your ch-i-n; l-i-p-s; k-n-ee; f-oo-t; b-oo-k; p-e-n-c-i-l; d-e-s-k; sh-o-e; d-r-e-ss, etc.

[Pg 5]

Third Day:

Place a number of toys in a basket. Pupils find as the teacher sounds the name of each, saying: "Find the t-o-p"; "the s-p-oo-l;" "the d-o-ll"; "the h-o-r-n"; etc.

Fourth Day:

Sound the names of pupils in class; or names of animals; colors, fruits, places, etc.

Fifth Day:

R-u-n  to  m-e.
C-l-a-p  your  h-a-n-d-s.
W-a-v-e  the  f-l-a-g.
Cl-o-se  the  d-oo-r.
F-o-l-d  your  a-r-m-s.
B-r-i-n-g  m-e   a   r-e-d  b-a-ll.
B-ou-n-ce  the  b-a-ll.
Th-r-ow  the  b-a-ll  to  Fr-e-d.
R-i-n-g  the  b-e-ll.
H-o-p  to  m-e.
S-i-t  in   m-y  ch-air.
R-u-n to  the  ch-ar-t.
S-i-n-g  a  s-o-n-g.
B-r-i-n-g  me   the  p-oin-t-er.
B-o-w  to  m-e.
F-l-y  a  k-i-t-e.
S-w-ee-p  the  fl-oo-r.
R-o-c-k  the  b-a-b-y.
W-a-sh  your  f-a-ce.
D-u-s-t  the  ch-air-s.
Sh-a-k-e  the  r-u-g.
F-ee-d  the  h-e-n-s.
C-a-ll  the  ch-i-ck-s.
M-i-l-k  the  c-ow.
Ch-o-p  w-oo-d.
R-ow  a  b-oa-t.
B-l-ow  the  h-o-r-n.

The pupil should now begin sounding words for himself, at first, if need be, repeating the sounds after the teacher, then being encouraged to attempt them alone. He will soon be able to "spell by sound" names of common objects [Pg 6] in the room, as well as easy and familiar words dictated by the teacher.

II. Teach the Single Consonant Sounds.

b, d, f, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s (as in see), v, w, g (hard), c (hard), and qu as in queer.

Teach but one sound for each letter at first. Nothing need be said at this time about the fact that some letters have more than one sound. When words like "city" or "gem" occur simply explain that sometimes "c" or "g" has this sound, (giving the soft sound), but continue in the phonic drill to teach the sounds that will be needed first—those most often met in the early reading. The sounds of initial s and y are taught first, rather than final y and s; q is taught with the u—qu (as in quiet, queer, quick) not q alone.

The sounds must be given distinctly and correctly by the teacher, and she should insist on perfect responses. Good reading is impossible without clear and distinct articulation.

1. Analyze Known Words in Teaching the Consonant Sounds.

For the first lesson teach perhaps two consonant sounds. Suppose the words "ball" and "red" are chosen to be analyzed as words familiar to the class. (Selected from the reading lessons as the ones best known and most easily remembered.)

Write "b all" on the board, and pointing to the separated parts, sound slowly several times. Pupils repeat. Teacher say, "Show the letter that says 'b.' The part that says 'all.' Write "b" under "ball" thus:

b all

Pupil sound "b" several times, as it is written elsewhere on the black board.

Proceed with "red" in the same way. Keep these two forms,

b allr ed

[Pg 7] before the class, asking frequently for the sounds until thoroly fixed in mind.

For the second lesson, review "b" and "r" and teach one or two new consonants. It is better to have short and frequent lessons at first, than to present too many sounds at once, resulting in confusion.

Suppose "c" is to be taught next and the type word chosen is "cup." It is not necessary to teach the consonants in the order in which they occur in the alphabet,—it will depend rather upon the occurrence in the primer of the words chosen for type words. Write the word "cup." Pupils recognize it at once as a sight word, and pronounce. Rewrite it, separating it thus, c up, and let the pupils make an effort to sound the parts alone. If they fail, sound it for them asking them to repeat it after you. Proceed as with "ball" and "red," being sure that each one gives the sound correctly.

(1.) After teaching "c" say, "Who can find a word on the chart beginning with this sound?" "In your books?" "on the blackboard?" the pupil sounding the letter as he points to it.

(2) Say, "I'm thinking of another word beginning with "c." "It is something Grandpa uses in walking." (Cane.) "I'm thinking of something sweet that you like to eat." (Cake) (Candy) "Of the name of someone in this class." (Clara) (Carl) "A little yellow bird." (Canary) "You think of a word beginning with that sound." "Another." "Another."

2. Begin At Once Applying Knowledge of the Sounds Learned.

As new words are met containing known sounds, the pupils should apply their knowledge of phonics. For example, if the word "catch" appears, the pupils sound "c," the teacher pronouncing "atch" underlining that part of the word as she tells it,—the pupil puts these sounds together and discovers the new word for himself. If the new word is "cab," the only help from the teacher is the short sound of "a". This given the pupil sounds "a" and "b" slowly; then faster, until the result of the blended sounds is [Pg 8] "ab." Combine "c" with "ab" in the same manner until by the blending of the sounds the word is recognized. Only such help should be given, as will enable the pupil to help himself.

"Ball," "red" and "cup" now become type words with which "b" "r" and "c" are associated respectively, and from which the pupil gets his "cue" if he fails to give the sound of the letter at sight. Thus all the consonants are taught, from suitable sight words which the child has already learned. They need not however, be the ones given here,—for "b" it may be "baby," "ball," "boy," or "box," but let it be a word familiar to the class and easily remembered. For "d" it may be "doll," "day," or "dog;" for "y", "you", "yellow", etc.

The teacher should previously go through the text and select the words she wishes to use as type words in teaching the consonant sounds.

3. First Steps in Writing and Spelling.

As each consonant sound is taught its written form may be learned. On rough manila paper, using waxed crayons, make copies of the letters about two inches in height, for each pupil. At his desk the child traces with his fore finger, going over the smooth path again and again—thus developing psycho-motor co-ordination. Each time the letter is traced, the pupil sounds it softly, and as soon as he is sure of the form, runs to the board and writes it.

The writing at first may be entirely at the blackboard, where the teacher's copy may be reproduced. For the slower ones who have difficulty with the form, a good practice is to "write it in the air," the pupil pointing with index finger and following the teacher as she writes, also tracing the teacher's copy with pointer, using free, rapid movement. (Tracing with crayon or pencil tends to slow, cramped writing, and should not be encouraged.) Thus when the forms of the letters are learned and associated with the sound, the pupils are able to write phonetic words from dictation as well as to "spell by sound."

4. Consonant Drill.

(1) With a rubber pen, a set of type, or with black [Pg 9] crayola, and cardboard, a set of consonant cards may be made, one for each sound. On one side of the card is written or printed the type word with the consonant sound below; on the other side, the consonant alone, thus:

b all


The number of cards will increase each day as new sounds are learned. Rapid daily drill with these cards is most valuable in associating instantly the sound with its symbol and should be continued until every child knows every sound. After the analysis the side of the card containing only the consonant should be used for the drill. But if the pupil fails to give the right sound, or is unable to give any sound at all, the card should be reversed and he readily gets the right sound from the word.

Other devices for teaching the consonants are sometimes used by successful teachers who do not use the type-words and cards. For instance, the letter may be associated with its sound in this way:—The clock says "t"; the angry cat, "f"; the cow says "m"; etc. The difficulty here is to find suitable symbols for each sound. If, for example, the sounds of "l", "v" and "sh" are represented by a spinning wheel, a buzz saw, and a water wheel respectively, and if the child is not familiar with these symbols, they will not call up a definite sound in his mind; but if "l" is taught from "little," "sh" from "sheep," and "v" from "very", (or other familiar words,) there can be no uncertainty and no time need be spent by the child in laboring to retain and associate the sounds with unfamiliar symbols.

Not the method, but the motive, is the essential thing. What we want is that every child should know the consonants thoroly. Get the motive, then use the method that brings the best results with the least expenditure of time and energy.

(2) For variety in reviewing and fixing the consonant sounds, give frequent dictation exercises.

a. With all the consonants on the board, the teacher [Pg 10] sounds any consonant, the pupil finds and repeats the sound as he points it out. As the teacher points, pupils sound, occasionally in concert, and in individual recitation of the entire list. Individual work should predominate, to make sure that the pupil is giving the correct sound and putting forth independent effort.

b. Pupils write sounds as teacher dictates. If a pupil fails to recall and write the form, the teacher may pronounce the type word and ask the pupil to sound the initial consonant (tell the first sound in the word). To illustrate: The teacher pronounces "cup", pupils sound "c", then write it. If they have mastered the written forms they will enjoy this exercise.

Children soon acquire the ability and become possessed of the desire to write whole words. Then the teacher should direct this effort, teaching the child to visualize (get a picture of the word as a whole) and write short, simple words.

5. Blending.

When a number of consonant sounds are mastered, practice in blending may begin. When the need arises—when words are met which begin with a combination of consonants the blends are taught, e.g., bright—b, r,—br, br ight, bright. f, l,—fl, fl ower, flower. Keep a separate set of cards for these blends—and drill upon them as the list grows.

(br, pl, fl, sl, cr, gl, gr, bl, cl, fr, pr, st, tr, str, sp, sw, tw, sk.)

gr owdr awpl ay
s kysm allsl ay
fl owercr owst ay
st andcl eanfr ay
gl asspr aytr ay
br ownsp instr ay
bl uesw ingsl ow
st oresl ackbl ow
tr ackdw arfgl ow

The teacher must pronounce the syllables that the children have, as yet, no power to master, e.g., with the word [Pg 11] "grow", (1) the children will blend g and r, gr; (2) teacher pronounces "ow"; (3) children blend "gr" and "ow" until they recognise "grow."

Teach also the digraphs sh, ch, th, wh, as they are met in the common words in use: when, they, chick, etc.

sh eepch ickwh atth at
sh ellch ildwh enth is
sh ych airwh yth ese
sh orech illwh ereth ose
sh inech errywh ichth ere
sh owch ildrenth enth eir
sh ech urchth eyth ey
sh allch ase
sh ouldch est

III. Teach the Short Vowels.

Since more than 60 per cent of the vowels are short, and since short vowels outnumber long vowels by about four to one, they are taught first. Teach one vowel at a time by combining with the known consonants. And what fun it is, when short "a" is introduced, to blend it with the consonants and listen to discover "word sounds." Henceforth the children will take delight in "unlocking" new words, without the teacher's help. She will see to it, of course, that the words are simple and purely phonetic at first; as:

c-a-n, canh-a-d, had
c-a-p, capm-a-t, mat
c-a-t, catm-a-n, man
r-a-t, ratf-a-n, fan
h-a-t, hats-a-t, sat

Whole "families" are discovered by placing the vowel with the initial or the final consonants, thus:

ca nr atfan
ca ph atand
ca tc atsand
ca bb atstand
ma tf atland
ma ns atband

The children will enjoy forming all the families possible with the known sounds.

[Pg 12]

Short "a" Families or Phonograms.

atanapadackagandr angb ank
b atc anc aph adb ackb agb ands angr ank
c atm ang apl adh ackf agh andb angs ank
f atp anl apm adJ ackj agl andh angt ank
m att anm apg adl ackl ags andf angbl ank
p atr ann apb adp ackn agst andcl angcr ank
N atf anr apc adr ackr aggr andspr angdr ank
s atb ans apf ads acks agbr andFr ank
r atD ant app adt ackt agstr andpl ank
h atN antr aps adst ackw agth ank
th atV anstr apgl adsl ackst ag
sn apbr adtr ackbr ag
wr apbl ackdr ag

After a little drill in analyzing the words of a family, (sounding the consonant and phonogram separately) they should be pronounced at sight, analyzing the word only when the pupil fails in pronunciation.

The teacher's chart of phonograms as she works it out for herself may be something like this.


While this gives the teacher a working chart, it is neither necessary nor advisable that the above order be always followed in teaching the phonograms and sounding series of words, nor that they be systematically completed before other phonograms found in the words of the reading lessons are taught. Such phonograms as "ound" from "found", "un" from "run", "ight" from "bright", "est" from "nest", "ark" from "lark", etc., may be taught as soon as [Pg 13] these sight words are made a part of the child's reading vocabulary.

f oundr unbr ight
s oundf unm ight
r ounds unr ight
gr oundb unf ight
b oundg unfr ight
p oundn unl ight
f oundr uns ight
h ounds unsl ight
ar oundst unn ight
n estl arkc atch
b estd arkh atch
l estb arkm atch
p estm arkm atch
r esth arkb atch
t estp arkl atch
v estsp arkp atch
w estst arkth atch
cr estsh arkscr atch
ch estsn atch
gu est

Attention is not called here to the various vowel sounds, but the complete phonogram is taught at sight.

Short "e" Phonograms.

bedh enb endb ent
fedd enl endc ent
ledp enm endd ent
n edm ens endl ent
r edB ent ends ent
Fr edt enbl endr ent
sh edwr ensp endt ent
sl edth entr endw ent
bl edwh ensp ent
gl en
edgeB essb ellsh ell
h edgel essc ellsm ell
l edgebl esss ellsp ell
s edgech esst ellsw ell
w edgedr essf elldw ell
pl edgepr essn ell
sl edgegu essw ell

[Pg 14]

Short "i" Phonograms.

D icks ickcl ickth ick
k ickt ickqu icktr ick
l ickw icksl ick
p ickbr ickst ick
b idp igd imp inth in
d idb igh imt intw in
h idf igJ imb in
k idd igr imf in
l idr igT ims in
r idw igtr imw in
sl idtw igbr imch in
sk idsk imgr in
sl imsk in
sw imsp in
d ipl ifts ingp inkb ill
h ipg iftk ingl inkf ill
l ips iftr ingm inkh ill
n ipdr iftw ings inkJ ill
r ipsh iftbr ingw inkk ill
s ipsw iftcl ingbl inkm ill
t ipthr iftsl ingbr inkp ill
ch ipst ingdr inkt ill
cl ipstr ingch inkw ill
sl ipspr ingcl inkch ill
dr ipsw ingshr inksp ill
gr ipth ingth inkst ill
sh ipwr ingtr ill
sk ip
tr ip
str ip
wh ip

Short "o" Phonograms.

B obn odc ockd og
c obp odl ockh og
r obr odr ockl og
s obh ods ockf og
m obc odm ockfr og
j obcl odbl ockc og
f obpl odcl ockj og
kn obtr odcr ockcl og
thr obsh odfl ock
kn ock
st ock

[Pg 15]

h opt opsh op
m opst opsl op
l opdr oppr op
s opcr op
s ongl oss
l ongt oss
d ongR oss
g ongm oss
str ongb oss
wr ongcr oss
pr ongfl oss
thr onggl oss

Phonograms Containing Short "u".

r ubd uckb ugr un
t ubl uckh ugs un
c ubt uckj ugf un
h ubcl uckl ugb un
cl ubpl uckm ugg un
gr ubsh uckp ugsp un
scr ubtr uckr ugst un
st ubstr uckt ugsh un
sn ubdr ug
pl ug
sn ug
dr umc uffr ung
pl umm uffs ung
ch ump uffh ung
g umh uffl ung
h umb uffcl ung
sc umbl ufffl ung
gl umgr uffsl ung
st uffst ung
spr ung
sw ung
str ung
b unkj umph ushm ust
h unkb umpm ushj ust
j unkl umpr ushr ust
ch unkh umpg ushd ust
dr unkp umpbr ushcr ust
sk unkd umpcr ushtr ust
sp unkst umpbl ushthr ust
tr unkth umppl ush
thr ush

[Pg 16] From the beginning review daily the phonograms taught.

Thus by means of these daily drills in pronunciation, the pupil gains power in mastering new words. He constantly makes intelligent and practical application of the knowledge he has gained in pronouncing a letter or a combination of letters in a certain way, under certain conditions.

Diacritical Marks

The child has no need of diacritical marks at this time; indeed he has little need for them until the fourth year, when the use of the dictionary is taught. The new dictionaries greatly simplify the matter of mastering the diacritical marks, and lessen the number needed, by re-writing unphonetic words in simple phonetic spelling.

During the first three years do not retard the child's progress, and weaken his power to apply the knowledge which his previous experience has given him, by marking words to aid him in pronunciation. At best, the marks are artificial and questionable aids.


Much necessary drill can be made interesting by infusing the spirit of play into an exercise that would otherwise be formal.

1. "Hide and Seek"

"Hide and Seek" at once suggests a game. The teacher introduces it simply by saying: "We'll play these sounds are hiding from us. Who can find them?"

Place the consonant cards on the blackboard ledge. The teacher writes any consonant on the board and immediately erases it. A pupil finds the card containing the same consonant, sounds it, and replaces the card.

Teacher writes several sounds on the board, then erases them. Pupil finds corresponding sounds on cards, in the order written.

[Pg 17]

2. "Fishing"

(Fish in pond.) Cards placed in a row on black board ledge. (Catching fish.) Pupil takes as many as he can sound correctly.

Single and blended consonants, and digraphs written on cardboard cut in form of fish, and put into the mirror lake on the sand table. Children "catch fish" in turn.

3. "Guess."

A pupil thinks of a word containing a known phonogram, which is communicated to the teacher. The child standing before the class then says, "I am thinking of a word belonging to the "an" family." The word, we will say, is "fan." A child who is called on asks, "Is it c an?" The first child replies, "It is not can." Another asks, "Is it m an?" etc., until the correct word is discovered.

4. "Run Home."

For reviewing phonograms and fixing the vowel sounds as well, the following game is used.

Draw pictures of several houses on the board, writing a different phonogram in each, explaining that these are the names of the families living there, as, "ed," "eg," "est," "en," etc. Distribute to the class cards containing a word with one of these endings, and let "the children run home." Those holding the words ten, pen, men and hen, will run to the house where "en" lives. The children holding rest, best, nest, etc., will group themselves at the house of "est."

Again let several children represent mothers and stand before the class holding phonograms. As Mother "ed" calls her children, those holding cards containing red, led, fed, Fred, and bed, will run to her. If a child belonging to the "est" family should come, she will send back the stray child, saying pleasantly, "You do not belong in my family." A little voice drill as practiced in the music lesson may be used here. The mother calls "Children" on 1 and 8 of the scale (low and high do thus:

1-8           8-1

child-dren), the children replying as they come, "We're here."

[Pg 18] For individual tests let the mother call out all her children from the other families, the children coming to her as she calls their card names.


Enliven the phonic drills occasionally by originating little rhymes, using the words of the series to be reviewed. Write the words on the board in columns, or upon cards. As the teacher repeats a line of the jingle, she pauses for the children to supply the rhyme words.

Grandma was taking a cozy nap
Her hands were folded in her (lap)
When she wakened she heard a (tap)
In the maple tree that was full of (sap.)
She soon spied the tapper—he wore a red (cap)
White vest and black coat, and his wings gave a (flap)
As he hopped about with a rap-a-tap-(tap)
What did he want—was he looking for (sap)?
Ah no, but for grubs, which he ate quick as (snap)
Can you name this gay drummer who wears a red (cap)?


As soon as possible introduce a number of phonograms into the same story.

I have a little pet
Who is as black as (jet)
She sits upon a mat
And watches for a (rat.)
Her coat is smooth as silk,
She likes to drink sweet (milk)
She grows so fast and fat
That soon she'll be a (cat)
Can't you guess? Now what a pity
'Tis the dearest little (     ).


An easy step now, which the children will enjoy is the writing of the words of given families as a dictation exercise, followed by sentences as soon as the use of the capital and period have been taught. Such sentences as the following [Pg 19] may be given after a number of short "a" phonograms are mastered:

The cat sat on a mat.
Nan has a fan.
The cat is fat.
The cat can see the pan.
The man has a hat.
Dan has a bat.
Dan has a hat and a cap.
The bag is in the cab.

When phonograms containing the other short vowels are known, words may be pronounced miscellaneously from different series or families; as, run, cap, pet, ran, pin, top, followed by sentences made up of miscellaneous words, as,—

"Run red hen."
"Nan has a fan."
"Get the hat pin."
"Ned can spin a top."
"Nat set the trap."
"Jack run back and get the sack."
"A fat man got in the hack."
"Can Sam get the hat?"


The names of letters should not be formally taught until their sounds are thoroly fixed in mind; otherwise the names and sounds will be confused. Pupils who begin by "learning their letters" will be found spelling out a word (naming over the letters) in order to arrive at the pronunciation. Attention must be focused on the sounds only, at first. When the consonant sounds are mastered by every member of the class, and they have gained some proficiency in pronouncing words by blending these with the short and long vowel sounds, the names of the letters may be taught, and the alphabet committed to memory in order.

While as a rule, most children learn the majority of the letters incidentally by the end of the first year, it often happens [Pg 20] that some remain ignorant of the alphabetical order until they come to use the dictionary, and are greatly handicapped.

To Associate the Name of the Letter With Its Sound.

(1) The teacher names the letter as she points to it and the children give the corresponding sound; (2) As the teacher sounds the letter, pupils name the letter sounded. (3) Repeat with the letters erased from the board.

Oral spelling may begin after the sounds have first been mastered—and as soon as the names of the letters are taught. Spell only the phonetic words at first. The lists of families of words which have been written from dictation may now be spelled orally.

The spelling recitation may be both oral and written, but written spelling should predominate the first year. Unphonetic words should be taught by visualizing—getting the form of the word as a whole. The teacher writes the word on the board in free rapid hand, pupils observe for a moment, getting a mental picture of the form; the word is erased by the teacher, and reproduced on the board by the pupil.

While oral spelling aids the "ear-minded" pupil and gives variety in the recitation, written spelling should predominate for the reasons that (1) in practical life, spelling is used almost wholly in expressing thought in writing; (2) the eye and hand should be trained equally with the ear. It is often true that good oral spellers will fail in writing the same words for want of practice. (3) In the written recitation each pupil can spell a greater number of words and in less time than is possible in oral spelling.


1. Distribute pages from magazines or old readers and let pupils underline words beginning with a certain consonant (the one being taught). If different colored pencils are used, the same pages can be used a number of times. When the "m" sound is being taught let all words beginning with that sound be marked with black; at another seat [Pg 21] work period, words beginning with "b" are marked with "green;" and again, words beginning with "f" sound are marked with blue pencils, etc.

Underline digraphs, blended consonants, and phonograms.

2. The teacher writes a phonogram on the board and below it all the consonant sounds from which words may be built. Pupils write the entire words.

3. Phonograms are written on the board; pupils supply consonants and write out the words.

4. Have a number of phonograms and three or four sets of consonants in envelopes. Give an envelope to each child and let him build the words on his desk. Duplicate copies can be made on a hectograph, one set for each lesson; then if one envelope from each set is preserved, those miscellaneous lessons can be used in review for a long time, each child using a different set each time.

5. Write on the board lists of words ending in various phonograms and let the children re-write them, arranging in columns according to phonograms.

6. Write families from memory.


1. At least two daily periods should be given to phonics. The first lessons will be short, but after some advance has been made, ten to fifteen minutes should be given.

2. As far as possible let the words for phonic drill be those that will occur in the new reading lessons.

3. Constantly review all familiar sounds, phonograms, digraphs, blends, etc., when met in new words, and so teach pupils to apply their knowledge of phonics.

4. Teaching them to "pantomime" the sounds—representing them mutely by movement of the lips, tongue and palate, will aid them in silent study at their seats.

5. By the end of the first year the pupil's phonetic knowledge, combined with his vocabulary of sight words and his power to discover a new word, either phonetically or by the context, ought to enable him to read independently any [Pg 22] primer, and to read during the year from eight to twelve or more primers and first readers.

6. In reading, pupils should be taught to get the meaning chiefly by context—by the parts which precede or follow the difficult word and are so associated with it as to throw light upon its meaning.

7. When a word cannot be pronounced phonetically, the teacher should assist by giving the sound needed, but the pupil will soon discover that by using his wits in phonics as in other things, he can get the new word for himself by the sense of what he is reading, e.g., in the sentence, "The farmer came into the field" he meets the new word "field." Naturally a second year pupil, who has learned the reasons for sounding will apply the long sound of "i;"—as he reads it does not make sense, so he tries short "i." Still the sentence is meaningless, so he tries again with "e" and reads a sentence which satisfies him, because the meaning is clear.

If the first year pupil pronounces the word "coat" as co-at (recognizing the last combination as a member of the "at" family) the teacher will underline and call his attention to the digraph "oa" which he has already learned to pronounce as long "o." Most pupils however, meeting the word in a sentence—as, "The caterpillar's coat is green"—would, if reading thotfully recognize the word by the context.

8. Drill on obscure sounds should be omitted the first year. Unphonetic words should be taught as sight words: as: one, many, been, said, they, ought, eight.

9. Begin to combine words and syllables into longer words as soon as possible: door-step, in-deed, hand-some, be-fore, ham-mer-ing, in-no-cent, for-get-ful, car-pen-ter, side-walk, mis-take.

10. Give time increasingly to analytic-synthetic word study, e.g.—"eight" and "rain" are taught as sight words. [Pg 23]



Exercises to correct faulty articulation and secure flexibility should be given frequently. Constant vigilance is necessary in overcoming the common errors shown in the following examples.

"I will eat you," said the troll. (not "e-chew")
Dear little baby, close your eye. (not "clo-zhure eye")
"I will then," said Red Hen, and she did. (not "an' she did.")
Put your right hand in. (not "put chure")
—you, and you, and you. (an' Jew.)
Father will meet you (meat chew) at the station.
The leaves turned to red and gold. (red Dan gold)
"No matter what you hear, (what chew) no matter what you see, Raggylug, don't you move." (don't chew)
Tender flowers come forth to greet her. (gree-ter)
It is not at all (a-tall) like the mother bird.

Have the pupils practice such exercises as:—

Did you? Don't you? Would you? Should you? Could you? (Not "did Jew," "don't chew" etc.)
Where shall I meet you? (not meat chew)
When shall I meet you?
She sells sea shells.

Pupils usually have difficulty with words ending in sts, dth, pth. Lists of such words should be drilled upon:—

Nests, vests, posts, hosts, boasts, fists, mists, frosts, length, breadth, depth.

"He thrusts his fists against the posts, And still insists he sees the ghosts."

(If necessary show the pupils how to adjust the vocal organs to make the different sounds.)

m, n, ng (nasal)

[Pg 24] p, b, w, m (lips)
f, v (lips and teeth)
t, d, s, z, n (tongue and hard palate.)
j, ch, (tongue and hard palate-back)
k, g, ng (tongue and soft palate.)
y, l (tongue, hard palate and soft palate.)
p, b, d, t, j, k, h, g, ch (momentary)
w, f, v, s, l, r, y, th, sh (continuous)

The majority of children learn the sounds by imitation and repetition. The above is to help the teacher in giving the sounds correctly.


I. Review Single and Blended Consonants, Digraphs, Short and Long Vowels, and All Phonograms.

II. Continue Pronouncing Exercises, Teaching New Phonograms.

Continue word study by the analytic-synthetic process. These phonic drills will deal largely with the new words that occur in the daily reading lessons.

III. Syllabication.

In mastering the pronunciation of new words, pupils should acquire the habit of analyzing them into syllables.

The ear must be trained to hear syllables, they should be separately pronounced, and clearly imaged. This makes for effective spelling later. Most of the difficulties in spelling are removed when the habit of breaking up a complex word into its elements is acquired.

re mem berther mom e ter
sep a ratein de pen dence
dan de lionmul ti pli ca tion
beau ti fulre frig er a tor

IV. Teach the Long Vowel Sounds.

We have found that the short vowels predominate in the English language. The long vowel sounds come next in frequency. When the child has mastered the letters and combinations representing these two sounds, he is able to [Pg 25] recognize a large majority of the phonetic words in our language.

Phonetic words follow definite rules of pronunciation. These rules are not to be formally taught in the first and second years, but pointed out by examples, so that the visual and auditory image may be associated.

To illustrate: When there are two or more vowels in a word of one syllable, the first vowel is long, and the last silent, as: came, leaf, coat, rain.

"When there is one vowel in the word and it is the last, it is long," as: me, he, fly.

All vowels are short unless modified by position.

Have the children notice the effect of final "e" upon some of their short vowel words. These lists will furnish good pronunciation drills.


Call attention to the vowel digraphs in the same way: ea, ai, oa, ay.


While there are exceptions, as in the words "head" and "bread," the digraph "ea" has the sound of long "e" in nearly three-fourths of the words in which it occurs and should be so taught. The visual image "ea" should call up [Pg 26] the auditory image of long "e." When the child meets the exceptions the context must be relied on to aid him.

Likewise in the following list, the new fact to be taught is the digraph "ai" having the long sound of "a." Blending the initial and final consonants with this, the pupil pronounces the new list of words without further aid.


The digraph "oa" and "ay" may be taught with equal ease the first year. There is no reason for deferring them; they should be taught as soon as the children have need for them.

oarboatoat meal

[Pg 27]


(These lists are for rapid pronunciation drills.)

c amef adef acesh ape
l amem adel acegr ape
g amew adep acem ate
n amebl ader aced ate
s amegr adebr acef ate
t amesh adeGr aceg ate
bl amesp adepl aceh ate
fl amegl adesp aceK ate
sh ametr adetr ace
c ageb akes alel ate
p agec akeb aler ate
r agel akep alecr ate
s agem aket alegr ate
w ager akesc alepl ate
st ages akest alesk ate
t akewh alest ate
w akeg aleg ave
c anedr aked ales ave
l anefl akec apec ave
m anequ aket apep ave
p anesh akecr aper ave
v anesn akedr apew ave
cr anest akescr apebr ave
pl anebr akegr ave
sh ave
sl ave
st ave
cr ave

[Pg 28]

b eh eeds eek
h es eedm eek
m ew eedw eek
w er eedch eek
sh ebl eedcr eek
th ebr eedsl eek
tr eegr eedp eek
s eesp eedGr eek
b eest eedf eet
th eefr eedb eet
fl eef eelm eet
kn eep eelfl eet
fr eeh eelgr eet
thr eer eelsh eet
gl eekn eelsl eet
sk eest eelstr eet
d eedwh eelsw eet
n eed
f eed
p eepd eem
d eeps eem
k eept eem
ch eepbr eeze
w eepfr eeze
cr eepsn eeze
sh eepsqu eeze
sl eepwh eeze
st eep
sw eep
d eerm icepr idekn ife
ch eern icegl idestr ife
qu eerr icegu ideh igh
sh eerpr icesl ides igh
st eersl icestr iden igh
sn eersp iced ieth igh
gr eentr icet iel ight
qu eentw icel iem ight
pr eenr ided iedr ight
scr eens idedr iedbr ight
w eenh idefr iedf ight
spl eent idesp iedn ight
s eenw idel ifes ight
k eenbr idew ife
f ife

[Pg 29]

t ightf indt ire
fr ightm indw ire
sl ightb indf ire
kn ightr indh ire
w indm ire
l ikebl indsp ire
d ikegr indsqu ire
p ike
h ikef inek ite
t iked ineb ite
sp ikem inem ite
str iken inequ ite
p inesm ite
p ilev inesp ite
t ilebr inespr ite
m ilesh inewh ite
N ilesp inewr ite
f ilesw ine
sm ileth inef ive
st iletw ineh ive
wh ilewh ined ive
l ive
d imer ipedr ive
l imep ipestr ive
t imew ipethr ive
ch imesn ipe
sl imetr ipem y
pr imestr ipeb y
fl y
cr y

[Pg 30]

dr yc oldb onech ose
fr ys olddr oneth ose
pr yb oldph onecl ose
sh ym oldsh onew ove
sk yt oldthr onedr ove
sl yf oldgr ove
sp yg oldr opecl ove
spr yh oldh opest ove
st ysc oldd ope
tr ysl opeh oe
wh yh olet oe
p olec oreJ oe
r obem olem oref oe
gl obes olep orew oe
r odest olet ore
j okewh olew ored oor
p oker olls orefl oor
w oketr ollch ore
br okestr ollsh orem ow
ch okesn orer ow
sm okec oltst ores ow
sp okeb oltb ow
str okej oltt ornbl ow
v oltw ornsl ow
sh ornsn ow
h omecr ow
t oner osefl ow
st onen osegl ow
h osegr ow
p osekn ow
sh ow
thr owt ubebl ue
s ownc ubed ue
bl ownm uleh ue
gr ownf umec ue
fl ownpl umegl ue
thr ownJ unefl ue
t une
c ure
p ure

[Pg 31] The Diphthongs oi, oy, ou, ow.

oioym oundow
b oilb oygr oundc ow
s oilj oyc ountn ow
t oilt oym ounth ow
c oilR oyh ourb ow
br oiltr oyfl ourbr ow
sp oilouh ousef owl
m ouseh owl
v oicel oudbl ousegr owl
ch oicecl oudp outsc owl
c oinpr oudsh outd own
j oinc ouchsp outg own
j ointp ouchspr outt own
p oints oundst outbr own
n oiseb oundtr outcl own
m oistr oundm outhcr own
f ounds outhdr own
w oundfr own


(For rapid pronunciation drills.)

sh eepch ickbathwh enthen
sh ellch ildbothwh ythey
sh ych airdothwh erethese
sh orech illmirthwh ichthose
sh inech erryworthwh atthe
sh owch ildrenbirthwh ilethy
sh ech urchtoothwh osethat
sh allch aselothwh itethis
sh ouldch estgirthwh alethus
sh akech angethinwh eatthine
sh amech alkthickwh eelthere
sh apech ainthinkwh acktheir
sh arech ancethroatwh ipthem
sh arkch argethornwh irlthough
sh arpch apthreewh etthou
sh awlch apelthirdwh ey
sh edch apterthawwh isper
sh earch armwh istle
sh epherdch eck

[Pg 32]


I. Rules or Reasons for Sounds.

(The effect of the position of the letter upon its sound.)

II. Effect of "r" Upon Vowels.

III. Equivalents.

IV. Teach Vowel Sounds Other Than Long and Short Sounds, by Analyzing Known Words and Phonograms.

Pupils know the phonogram "ark," learned when the following list of words was pronounced: bark, dark, hark, lark, mark, park, shark, etc. Attention is now called to the long Italian "a" sound (two dots above) and other lists pronounced; as, farm, barn, sharp, charm. Broad "a" (two dots below) is taught by recalling the familiar phonogram "all" and the series: ball, fall, call, tall, small, etc., pronounced. Also other lists containing this sound: as, walk, salt, caught, chalk, haul, claw, cause.

(The rules for sounds apply to the individual syllables in words of more than one syllable as well as to monosyllables.)


Before the rules for the sounds are taken up, it will be necessary that the pupils know how to distinguish the vowels from the consonants.

Have the vowels on the board, also lists of words, and drill on finding the vowels in the lists. The teacher says, "These letters are called vowels." "How many vowels are there?" "Find a vowel in this word"—pointing to one of the words in the lists. As the pupil finds it he says, "This is a vowel." Find the vowels in all the words in the lists.


When the vowels and consonants can be distinguished, pupils can be taught the use of the articles "a" and "an".

"An" is used before words beginning with vowels; "a" before words beginning with consonants. Lists of words [Pg 33] are placed on the board to be copied, and the proper article supplied.


Use the article "the" with the same list of words in oral expression, pronouncing "the" with the long sound of "e" before words beginning with vowels, as "The apple," "The ink-stand."

The apple is on the table.
The peach is ripe.
The flower and the orange are for you.
The owl has bright eyes.
The ice is smooth and hard.
Grandfather sits in the arm chair.
Is the envelope sealed?
The old man leans on the cane.


The real difficulty in phonics lies in the fact that the pronunciation of the English language abounds in inconsistencies. Its letters have no fixed values and represent different sounds in different words.

While there are but twenty-six letters in the English alphabet there are forty-four elementary sounds in the English language.

Thus far but one sound for each consonant has been taught and emphasized. Incidentally the fact that some of the letters have more than one sound has been discovered, as c in city, g in gentle,—but now definite teaching is given concerning them. The new sound is taught with its diacritical mark and the reason given, e.g. "c before e, i, or y is soft."

When a reason or rule for marking is given, lists of words illustrating the rule should be sounded and pronounced. The teacher marks the word as the reason is [Pg 34] given. Lists of words may be marked by the pupils as a dictation exercise.

The above use of diacritical marks does not apply to the pernicious practice of marking words to aid in pronunciation, but to show the purpose of marks, which is merely to indicate the sound.

Teach that the sound of the letter depends upon its position in the word, and not upon the diacritical marks.


1. When there is one vowel in the word and it is at the last, it is long.


2. One vowel in the word, not at the last, is short; as, mat, nest, pond.

(Refer to short vowel lists to test this rule.)

3. When there are two or more vowels in a syllable, or a word of one syllable the first vowel is long, and the last are silent; as: mate, sneeze, day. (Teacher marks the long and silent vowels as the reason for the sound is given.)

Children mark these words and give reason: game, kite, make, coat, meat, wait.

After rules (1 to 3) are clearly developed, apply them by marking and pronouncing these words and giving reasons.


Rule 4.

[Pg 35] When double consonants occur, the last is silent; tell, back.


Rule 5.

T before ch is silent: catch.


Rule 6.

N before g, the sound of ng (): sing, also n before k—g,—ik.


Rule 7.

Initial k before n is silent—knife.


Rule 8.

Initial w before r is silent—write.


[Pg 36] Rule 9.

Initial g before n is silent—gnaw.


Rule 10.

C before e, i or y is soft.—cent, city, cypress.


(Hard c is found before a, o, and u or a consonant.)

Rule 11.

G before e, i or y is soft,—gentle, giant, gypsy. (Get and give are common exceptions.)


Exercise—Pronounce and mark the following words, and tell whether they contain the soft or hard sounds of g.


Note effect of final e on hard g.


Rule 12.

I before gh—i is long and gh silent—night.


[Pg 37] Rule 13.

Final y in words of more than one syllable is short,—cherry.


Rule 14.

Final e in words of more than one syllable is silent.—gentle, Nellie.

Rule 15.

Effect of r upon vowels.




[Pg 38]


[Pg 39]



I. Review and continue to apply the principles of pronunciation, with a more complete mastery of the vowel and consonant sounds as found in Webster's dictionary.

II. Teach the diacritical marks found in the dictionary to be used. The marks needed will be found at the foot of each page of the dictionary.

III. Teach the use of the dictionary.

(1) See that every child owns, if possible, one of the new dictionaries, in which unphonetic words are respelled phonetically.

(2) See that all know the alphabet in order.

(3) Pupils practice finding names in the telephone directory, catalogs, reference books, etc.

(4) Practice arranging lists of words in alphabetical order, as in the following dictation exercise.

Rewrite these words in the order in which they would occur in the dictionary.


[Pg 40] Also lists like these:—a step more difficult.


After teaching the alphabetical order, with dictionary in hand, have the pupil trace the word to its letter, then to its page.

Having found his way to the word, he must now learn to read what the dictionary has to tell him about it. His attention is called to syllabification as well as to diacritical marks. (Those found at the foot of the page will furnish the key to pronunciation.)

He finds that his dictionary is a means of learning not only the pronunciation of words, but their meaning and spelling. Later, as soon as the parts of speech are known, he should learn the various uses of words—their grammatical uses, derivation, etc., and come to regard the dictionary as one of his commonest tools, as necessary as other books of reference.

But here the teacher's task is not done. Provided with the key to the mastery of symbols, her pupils may still fail to use this key to unlock the vast literary treasures in store for them. They must be taught what to read, as well as how to read. They must be introduced to the school library and if possible to the public library. Dr. Elliot has said: "The uplifting of the democratic masses depends upon the implanting at school of the taste for good reading."

Moreover that teacher does her pupils the most important and lasting service who develops in them not only an appreciation of good literature, but the habit of reading it.

End of Project Gutenberg's How to Teach Phonics, by Lida M. Williams


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