Teaching Strategies for Phonics & Sight Words

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Learning about phonics is a crucial aspect of learning to read and write. This lesson offers concrete strategies for teaching phonics and sight words.

What Are Phonics and Sight Words?

A big part of helping children learn to decode, or read the words that are written on a page, is learning phonics. Phonics is the aspect of reading that deals with phonological awareness, or the concept that sounds within words can be separated and are represented by different letters and groups of letters. Learning sight words, or words that are used frequently in spoken and written language but do not follow ordinary phonetic rules, is also a tremendous part of learning early reading. Yet these aspects of literacy can be challenging to teach. Gone are the days when we thought it was effective to simply drill students again and again on letters and their sounds. Most students learn phonics and sight words better when they are taught either in context or via fun and memorable activities that access a variety of learning styles and modalities.


As with so many aspects of teaching, the teaching of phonics and sight words is heavily informed by information gained from assessments. After all, you cannot know what aspects of phonics instruction to work on with children unless you have assessed their reading and writing. Looking at children's independent writing, conducting running records, testing them on word lists, and testing their ability to decode nonsense words are some of the most helpful ways to begin getting a sense of what phonics concepts would be most beneficial to focus instruction on. Once you know what skills and concepts to work on, you can begin to utilize a variety of strategies within the classroom. Let's take a look at some great activities you can start to use right away.

Good literacy instruction is always informed by thoughtful assessment.

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