To define phonics: Connect the big sound coming from the little fellow on the left with the letters on the right.
Phonics is using letters to stand for sounds.
There are 44 sounds in English. We have only 26 letters. Hmmm not enough letters to stand for all those sounds. One solution to this shortage is to pair letters to stand for extra sounds. ch, th and sh are examples.
So far so good. We can learn which letters and letter pairs stand for which sounds.
d says the first sound in dog
b says the firs sound in bell
y says the first sound in yellow
a says the firs sound in apple
M says the first sound in mat
yam, mad, bad, bam
by or day
Phonics that stops at simply connecting letters to sounds leaves 1 out of 4 English words on the list of things we cannot read.
If you don't define phonics beyond that point you will likely put the idea aside. But there is more! Going back to 44 sounds and 26 letters. To get even more English sounds from the same alphabet we use the same letter twice (or more). We use it to stand for different sounds in different parts of a word.
y when it is the first letter in a word says the first sound in yellow
Y at the end of a 2 or 3 letter word says I, like the letter name.'
ay says the letter name A
With these additional phonics rules we can read
by, day, as well as my, May
With a few more rules we can read these just as easily:
baby, lady, hazy, buddy, muddy, funny, money, honey ...
To read most anything in English requires just over 100 rules. Is that a lot? No, if you compare it to the alternative of memorizing every word in the dictionary!! Every rule learned yields thousands of words readable.
Did you notices something missing in the rules listed above? There is no mention of syllables, long and short vowels, or consonants. Save these terms for the adults. They will trip up a preschooler. These ideas would fall into "the too much to learn" category for new readers. Thankfully, they are not needed to use phonics.