What to Teach After the Alphabet

The core of phonics skills is built on a strong letter name and letter sound foundation. We're programmed to teach the alphabet to our babies early on, but "elemono-p" doesn't offer much support when it comes to mastering key components of reading. Your learner will benefit from solidifying each layer of phonics before moving to the next and below I will break down exactly how to do that.

Beginning to read starts with a sturdy foundational of skills, which are easy to break down with the pyramid diagram. Imagine learning to drive on the highway the same day you are taught to distinguish between the gas pedal and the brake.

It wouldn't make much sense to set yourself up for such an aggressive goal one the first day of being exposed to the tool and task. The same thing is true of building reading skills!



Naturally Stepping in to Reading

Recognizing letters by their name and how the shapes are formed is usually the first step children take, seeing the letters in their name or noticing that the way to start their favorite video game begins with pressing a button that says p-l-a-y. From there, learners are lead to relate the letter symbol with the sound that it makes. This helps your child make the correlation to these random symbols making sounds to create a word that makes sense! These steps take place within the first few months of traditional kindergarten, leading into the next area of focus around month 3.

Next, children move on to putting three letter sounds together to create simple, 3-letter words. The activity pictured left allows children to practice putting the three sounds together, created by a consonant-vowel-consonant pattern, and match the correlating picture. When first moving to this area of focus, your child may like to choose a picture first and then look for the word that has the matching initial sound. For example, getting the picture of the jet and looking for the card that has a word beginning with the letter that makes a /j/ sound. Eventually, your emerging reader will be confident enough to choose the picture card or word first. You will know when your learner has mastered this step in phonics skills when he or she is able to accurately complete similar activities that initiate reading 3-letter words. The first two tiers of the reading pyramid are the critical to success in the next three sections, as learners must have an accurate recall of letters and sounds before advancing.


Blends and Digraphs


After your learner is comfortable and confident reading 3-letter words with a simple consonant-vowel-consonant pattern, adding complexity with longer words and new reading strategies will follow.


Blends are two consonants are next to one another but make their own sounds (clog, brag, stem).

Digraphs are two consonants working together to create one sound (shop, when, chip)


Practicing the skills on this tier should be rolled out slowly and continue to be built upon as your reader builds their confidence. Reading out in the real world will become more natural, like seeing the word s-t-o-p on a sign while riding in the car, and easier as your learner progresses!


These beginning skills will lead your emerging reader directly to success. Letters and words are everywhere around us, so recognizing letters to practicing reading will be an ongoing practice for your and your child. There is no deadline for creating a solid foundation of these tasks.


I will be back to cover the last two tiers as well as where to go next with reading. Use this 15-Minute Daily Reading Schedule to help guide your time with your child while reading and make the most of their dedicated practice. There are guidelines and instructions broken down for children beginning to read, as well as those who have already started!

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