Explicit & Implicit Phonics Approaches to Literacy

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Literature-Based Approaches to Reading

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 00:00 Phonics
  • 00:53 Explicit Instruction
  • 2:08 Implicit Instruction
  • 3:48 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed Audio mode
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Phonics are a fundamental part of learning to read well. But how should they be taught? In this lesson, we'll examine both explicit and implicit approaches to phonics instruction, including the pros and cons of each and example activities.


Lyle is an elementary school teacher. He wants to make sure that all of his students understand language and are able to read successfully, but he's not sure how to do that. He knows that they need to understand that certain patterns appear in language, but how can he teach those patterns? Phonics is the system of relationships between written and spoken language. For example, knowing that 'ph' makes the 'f' sound in English is part of phonics. Phonics is an important part of reading. If Lyle wants his students to be able to read the word 'phonics,' they have to know that the 'ph' at the beginning of the word sounds like an 'f.' But teachers don't always agree on how to teach phonics. To help Lyle plan his instruction, let's look at two different types of phonics instruction: explicit and implicit.

Explicit Instruction

Okay. Lyle gets what phonics is (the understanding of written letters and syllables and how they relate to the sounds of words), but how should he teach it? The teacher across the hall from Lyle believes in explicit phonics instruction, which involves teaching children phonics by clearly explaining the skills they are learning.

Let's say that Lyle wants to teach his students that 'a-consonant-e' makes a long 'a' sound. In explicit instruction, he will teach that 'a-consonant-e' makes a long 'a' sound, and then provide examples like nape, cape, hate, late, and so on. He might even ask students to come up with their own 'a-consonant-e' words that they know. In explicit phonics instruction, teachers start by teaching a rule and then offering examples.

The nice thing about explicit phonics instruction is that it has been shown in many studies to be highly effective. That is, students who are taught using explicit instruction understand phonics very well. On the other hand, there's a danger that it can lead to students viewing reading as a chore instead of a pleasurable activity. Students who are taught via explicit instruction can find it difficult to truly enjoy reading.

Implicit Instruction

The danger that his students might not enjoy reading makes Lyle nervous. He's not sure that he wants to use explicit instruction if it means that his students won't enjoy it, but what else is there? The teacher next door to Lyle believes in implicit phonics instruction, which, she explains, involves teaching children phonics through exposure to language, instead of through teaching explicit rules.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account