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How to Learn Phonics: 5 Steps for Reading Success

How to Learn Phonics: 5 Steps for Reading Success

Before your reader picks up any chapter books, they have to pick up phonics. Both learning and teaching phonics takes time, effort, and strategy. But with daily practice and a science-backed curriculum, most kids can pick up this essential skill and move on to the most exciting aspect of reading: choosing books of their own.


Read on for an overview of how to learn phonics, as well as a step-by-step outline for teaching phonics for kids.

Learn Phonics

What Is Phonics?


Phonics is the study of how sounds (phonemes) connect with letters and letter groups, or graphemes, to form words.


Based on the science of reading, phonics is the predominant approach toward early literacy instruction. While this mode of learning is rooted in science, there’s no need for phonics to be bland; students should learn new sounds and words through systematic instruction, but these concepts can be taught through fun stories and age-appropriate games.


How To Learn Phonics: Step-By-Step


We love a step-by-step guide, but remember that you can rearrange, skip, and return to any of these steps, depending on the needs and progress of your reader.


1.   Decoding

Phonics for kids is like a constant puzzle, and each word unlocks a new piece. Decoding refers to the ability to see a letter and say its sound aloud: a novel breakthrough for any new reader! In this step of phonics instruction, decodable readers are an invaluable tool: their stories expose students to simple letter-sound patterns, which they’ll typically learn during complementary phonics lessons.


2.   Sound Manipulation: A.K.A. Blending!

As students develop their phonological awareness, they learn how to manipulate sound units to form words. In this context, “manipulation” includes blending, separating, adding, deleting, and substituting units of sound.


To become better manipulators of sound, students and their teachers can’t simply focus on blending phonemes together; they must approach words from all angles. Phonological awareness activities use age-appropriate sight words and prompt readers to segment, add, and delete sounds, in addition to blending phonemes together.


3.   Digraphs: Vowels and Consonants

Digraphs blend two sounds together to make one, and they also come in two varieties: vowel digraphs and consonant digraphs.


Vowel digraphs blend two vowels together to make one sound: for example, /ai/, /oo/, and /au/. Consonant digraphs blend two consonants together to do the same job: make one sound! Examples include /ch/, /th/, and /wh/.


4.   CCVC and CVCC Words

These are wonky acronyms, but don’t be alarmed: they’re simply ways to describe the common consonant clusters that readers encounter as they learn phonics.

  • CCVC stands for consonant, consonant, vowel, consonant. Example CCVC words include stop, tram, and clap.
  • CVCC stands for - you guessed it - consonant, vowel, consonant, consonant. Example CVCC words include tart, cold, and cast.


As students learn more CCVC and CVCC words, their vocabularies expand, their reading influency increases, and their confidence levels soar.

Phonics for Kids

5.   Spelling

When teaching phonics, spelling opens a doorway for both testing and fun. As students become more confident decoders, they can test and solidify their skills through encoding activities - otherwise known as spelling! Encoding is the complement of decoding, and simply involves writing down a spoken word. Whether you ask students to write mini-stories or stage a low-stakes Spelling Bee, any writing activity improves both decoding and encoding skills.


There’s no singular approach to teaching phonics for kids, but any combination of these five steps will jumpstart a successful academic career - and hopefully, an affinity for the bookstore. Give kids the tools, encouragement, and ample opportunities to practice, and they’ll continually surprise you with their reading progress.

Learn Phonics for Kids



  • Phonics is the most common and successful method for learning how to read, based on the science of reading.
  • When learning phonics, readers and their teachers should focus on the following concepts:
    • Decoding and encoding (spelling)
    • CVCC and CCVC words
    • Vowel and consonant digraphs
    • Sound manipulation

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