Phonics: Understanding The Relationship Between Sounds And Letters

Phonics: Understanding The Relationship Between Sounds And Letters

mosaic-catepillarIn a previous post about phonemic awareness, I discussed the importance of emergent reader’s understanding of phonemes or sounds in words. As children develop strong phonemic awareness skills, they need to begin to associate the sounds in words to letters or graphemes. The relationship between sounds and letters is called phonics.


Phonics is an essential building block in the reading process. Without learning to associate the phoneme with the grapheme, reading cannot occur. For fluent readers, phonics seems almost common sense, however, there is no natural connection between sounds and letters. Phonics cannot be learned through osmosis but instead must be explicitly taught.


748fa-alphabet-1219546__340252c2bcc0_pixabayPhonics is particularly important for emergent readers. Beginning around the age of 5, children should have daily explicit phonics instruction. Like many reading skills, some children may need only minimum exposure to a letter to connect the associated sound. Other children may need repeated and constant exposure to a letter to become automatic in connecting the correct sound. If your child is older and still struggling with letter-sound relationships, they can still benefit from phonics instruction. Every child must know the names and sounds of all the letters in the alphabet to become a good reader.


Here are a few ways that you can practice phonics skills with your child at home to help increase their reading proficiency:

  • Word Building: Using letter cards or Scrabble tiles, have your child build words. Encourage your child to first segment the sounds orally and then use the corresponding letter card to build the word and blend it back together. Talk with your child’s teacher or reading tutor to find out appropriate words to work on.
  • Letter Sound Practice: Make flash cards of letters or spelling patterns and quiz your child on them. For a list of appropriate spelling patterns talk with your child’s reading clinician  or teacher.
  • Race to Build a Word: Draw 7 consonants and 2 vowels from a stack of letter cards. Challenge your child to a race to see who can build the most words in 3 minutes. To make this more challenging use digraphs. Digraphs are two adjacent letters in the same syllable that represent a single speech sound. Some examples of consonant digraphs are (sh, ch, th, etc.). Vowel digraphs often called vowel team examples such as ( ee, ea, ay, ai, etc.) will add a higher level of practice . Check with your child’s teacher or reading tutor to see which digraphs are appropriate for your child’s level.
  • Slap A Letter: Create a game board of letters and digraphs that your child is working on using butcher paper or poster board. Give your child a fly swatter. Call out a sound and have your child slap the appropriate spelling pattern with their fly swatter.
  • Writing Practice: Say sounds and have your child write the appropriate grapheme. Say words and have your child segment the sounds and spell the words. Encourage your child to tell you how many sounds are in a word and identify any instances where two letters make one sound (like ck, sh, ay, etc.). Always ask your child to segment before writing and read the word when they are done.


mosaic-booksThese activities will help your child develop the phonics skills necessary to become a fluent reader. If you have an older child who struggles with reading, you may consider trying some of these to find out if phonics is an area they struggle.

If your child struggles with this foundational skill, it is imperative that you get them help from a reading specialist with training in structured literacy. Without explicit phonics instruction, it is unlikely that students with reading difficulties will increase their reading proficiency. If your child struggles, the best thing you can do as a parent is get them help as early as possible.

In our online tutoring program, our trained clinicians systematically and thoroughly teach phonics concepts to ensure that children master reading and writing. We also encourage parents to work with their children at home and provide many resources for you to use to help your child. If you are worried about your child’s reading, call us today to discuss your needs and learn how online tutoring with systematic phonics instruction can help your child succeed.

Look for more reading tips and tricks coming soon. If you are concerned about your child’s reading, call us today to set up a screening and find out if our online tutoring program is the right fit for your child.

Becky Welsch


Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.
Do I Love Him?

Do I Love Him?

My daughter’s first birthday is only two months away. Which means that it is time to start searching Pinterest for cakes to ruin for her and to look for party themes that I will never actually take the time to plan.

 I am thinking I might attempt this cake. For more on my cake making adventures, see my post called "Nailed It!" I can totally handle something this complex...

I think I should attempt this cake. Based on my son’s Mickey cake, I think I can handle this….

 I am thinking I might attempt this cake. For more on my cake making adventures, see my post called “Nailed It!” I can totally handle something this complex. During my search I got a little side tracked, which is shocking because Pinterest has never side tracked anyone. Ever. And I came across some quote about how if you love someone you can’t be mad at them for more than three days. If you are, you don’t really love them (I can’t find this quote again so there is a strong chance that I made it up in some sleep deprived stupor, but for the purpose of this blog, let’s say it’s real). Reading that got me thinking. I was irritated with my husband for the better part of the month of May. Now, before you start judging me, let me give you a bit of the back story. My husband is a creative type. He is constantly working on projects and building things. It makes him happy. However, it also leaves our counters looking like this:

Actually, this desk might have less shit on it than my counters did.

Actually, this desk might have less shit on it than my counters did.

This was a big project and had a deadline so my kitchen had junk everywhere for a month. So it was safe to say that I had been a little miffed at him for more than three days. But, what did this mean for my relationship? Did I love my husband? What an existential dilemma. I needed answers. And like everyone does when they have a crisis in life, I turned to the internet for answers.

Luckily my friends at had just what I needed. A quiz for people in my situation. An online quiz called “Are you like him or LOVE him (girls only).” Thank goodness it was for girls only. I wouldn’t want something that might think I’m a dude. And with these type of quizzes, it is important that they know your sex because they are extremely accurate and there is not much room for error. I mean, take this first question:

photo 2 (2)                This question is clearly meant for ladies only. None of those emojis look like gentlemen. The yellow smiley is clearly a girl. My favorite part about this question is that it doesn’t even relate to the quiz. I could choose any of those clearly female animations to describe almost any part of my day. At the time I was answering the question my baby was screaming and my two year old was whining because I wouldn’t give him chocolate for breakfast. I chose number 3.

As I progressed through the quiz, it became apparent that I should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Although the first question may have been irrelevant, the rest were spot on and would clearly show the level of affection I felt for my husband. For example:photo 1 Well, anyone who knows me knows the story of how I relied that I like my husband. But there wasn’t an option for got a little drunk and told him “I like you and I don’t need anymore friends, so make a choice.” I guess it is kind of a combo of one, two, and three (the night is a little foggy, that’s why number three comes into play). Clearly this question is going to get to the heart of my feelings.

After reminiscing, I got to some more hard hitting questions. That is what you can count on all the tests for, questions that make you think, like this one:

photo 5  The all-knowing, grammatically meticulous quiz creator warned me that I must answer truthfully on this specific question (I lied on the rest) so I knew it was serious and would get to the crux of my marital state. Well, and the truth is, my husband I don’t have too much in common, but I do think we make a good couple. Oh no! A conundrum. I needed to answer truthfully but two answers were truthful. I thought back to my years as an educator and test prep training. Were there any choices I could eliminate? Well, I never use all caps so choice C could go. I was left with A and B. All my friends seems like quite the generalization and choices with all or never are rarely correct, so A it is. This test is proving to be more stressful than I first imagined.

So I kept going through the thought provoking questions until I got to this amazing one:

photo 4 Shy is not an adjective that anyone would use to describe my husband and I am not totally crazy pants, so options 2 and 3 are out. We do talk about a lot of stuff, but I can’t say I remember all of it. Luckily this question did not admonish me to reply truthfully so I picked option one.

After painstakingly going through each and every thought provoking and well written question, it was time for the best part. The results. My Pinterest created life dilemma would be solved. I would finally know for sure, do I love my husband?

photo 2 Wait, what? Do I love him? I don’t even understand this result. Maybe I wasn’t honest on question 4….