Teaching Phonics to ESL Students

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Teaching Pronunciation to ESL Students

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

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 What Is Phonics?
  • 0:23 Teaching with Phonetics
  • 1:01 Sound Partners
  • 2:14 The Root of Things
  • 3:06 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

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Vanessa Botts
Learning phonics will help your ESL students improve reading, spelling and pronunciation, especially with new words. In this lesson, we will discuss some ideas to teach phonics to students of various ages and linguistic levels.

What Is Phonics?

Phonics is a method for teaching English reading and writing. It focuses on promoting students' ability to hear, identify, and manipulate phonemes, which are the smallest sound segments. The goal of phonics is to enable readers to decode new written words by recognizing the relationship between written letters and their spoken sound.

Teaching with Phonetics

As you know, English phonetics can be very confusing, especially since the same letter, or combination of letters, can be pronounced differently in different words. As a matter of fact, the same English word can be pronounced in different ways by native English speakers from different countries or even from different regions of the same country.

This makes the English language hard to learn and understand, particularly for ESL students whose first language does not use the same alphabet as English does, like Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Arabic. And so, teaching phonics can be very helpful. Let's look at a few activities you can incorporate into your classroom when teaching phonics.

Sound Partners

In order to make sense of what they read, ESL students need to sort out the unfamiliar sounds into pieces that make sense. Like deciphering a code, knowing the sounds of letters and letter combinations helps ESL students decode words as they read. This process will also help them figure out which letters to use as they write, in addition to facilitating proper pronunciation.

The Sound Partners game helps students of any age at the basic language level learn to decode words. Start by creating a set of flashcards made up of different phonemes that can be assembled to create words. For example, you might include the phonemes for the word 'chicken' in your deck:

  • Card 1: ch
  • Card 2: i
  • Card 3: ck
  • Card 4: en

Shuffle the cards and give one to each student, then have them walk around the room to find their sound partner and decode the words hidden in the deck. Once students have found their sound partners and figured out a word, they will say it out loud for the rest of the class to hear. If they also show the flashcards that made up the word, in correct order, so the rest of the class can benefit as well.

Students are likely to come up with a variety of words you had not intended, so be prepared for some hilarious results!

To unlock this lesson you must be a 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

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
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? 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