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Phonics Road Map: 5 Essential Strategies for Effective Instruction

Updated on
Modified on June 6, 2024
  • Phonics

Do you find phonics instruction to be a bit like navigating a maze? You're not alone. The complexities of phonics instruction can be daunting, but mastering this skill is crucial for nurturing strong reading abilities in young learners. That's why finding the right strategies to teach phonics effectively is crucial. In this blog post, we'll dive into five instructional practices to elevate your phonics instruction and boost reading proficiency in your students.

Explicit and Systematic Instruction

Remember the mantra: "Cut the fluff and teach the stuff!" – Anita Archer

First, we must ensure our teaching is explicit and systematic. Explicit instruction involves clearly and directly teaching phonics skills, ensuring students understand the specific sound-letter correspondences. Systematic instruction follows a logical sequence, building upon previously learned skills. We set our students up for success when we provide this instruction AND follow the gradual-release (I Do-We Do-You Do) method.

Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping

Phoneme-Grapheme mapping helps students understand the relationship between sounds and their corresponding spellings. Through sequential, systematic, and explicit instruction, students grasp that the number of sounds in a word (phonemes) may not match the number of letters representing those sounds. This approach enhances phonemic awareness and strengthens the connection between the brain's auditory- and visual-processing centers.

When we foster Orthographic mapping, we help facilitate the connections between auditory input and printed symbols. This promotes automaticity and fluency in reading and spelling, because they are reciprocal.

My favorite of these is word chaining, which is a powerful strategy that incorporates those higher levels of phonemic awareness but still applies those skills to print.

Utilize Decodable Texts

After introducing phonics skills and giving students time to practice in isolation, it is time to apply that knowledge to text. Decodable texts are critical. When chosen carefully, these texts will contain many words that allow students to practice previously learned phonics skills. It is essential decodable texts not only focus on recently learned skills but also pull in the cumulative review of previously taught words.

Dictation Exercises

As stated earlier, reading and writing are reciprocal. Just as we ensure the application of phonics skills through reading, we must do the same through writing. Dictation provides guided spelling practice. It provides teachers with an opportunity to model and support this application. Students hone their spelling and writing abilities by dictating words or sentences while applying phonics skills in context.

Cumulative Review

One important aspect of phonics instruction is building in time for cumulative review. Regular cumulative review solidifies previously learned skills. Remember, practice makes perfect when it comes to mastering phonics. Wiley Blevins reminds us that we are never “one and done,” but merely, “one and just begun.” If your curriculum doesn’t offer opportunities for review and repetition, then you need to take some time to build it in. Once we introduce a phonics skill, we should review that skill for four to six weeks.

In conclusion, integrating these five strategies into your phonics instruction can help students become proficient in reading. You can build a strong phonics foundation for all students with explicit and systematic teaching methods, decodable texts, Phoneme-Grapheme mapping, dictation exercises, and many reviews.

Next week, I’ll be presenting the webinar, “The Phonics Road Map,” with EDVIEW360. I hope you’ll join me as I discuss these strategies and provide more actionable steps!


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About the Author
Amie Burkholder
Amie Burkholder
Literacy Edventures
Amie is a K-5 Literacy Coach who’s passionate about creating hands-on + engaging literacy activities that follow the science. She taught in the classroom for 5 years before moving into her current coaching role where she has been for 10 years. Aside from being a literacy coach within her district, Amie is a literacy consultant supporting teachers and school districts through Literacy Edventures and her membership Route2Reading. 

Amie first learned about the Science of Reading while teaching first grade. When she began her teaching career, she thought she had it all figured out. She quickly discovered that programs and balanced literacy didn't work for all her students. 

She knew as a first-grade teacher, she played a crucial role in students’ literacy journey. She decided to go back to school and get her masters in reading. 

While she was hoping this would be the missing piece, it wasn’t. She went on to receive Orton Gillingham and LETRS training. 

After many years of training, research, and testing, she finally feels confident that she is best supporting her struggling readers and she is excited to share these strategies with you!
Learn more about Amie Burkholder