How to Teach Phonics: Questions and Answers

How to teach phonics: 

when your son is reversing b and d,

or you 

need the best way to

blend letter sounds? 


How to teach phonics questions are in bold 

Click read more sections to get a whole page of help.

Mind your p's and q's
(and mostly b's and d's)

My 8 year old boy consistently confuses b with d and q with p. Should I be concerned? How can I help him?


No, you should not be concerned. This is very common up until 9 years old. After that age, there is a change in development and the problem largely goes away.

Until then, you can give him landmarks or memory-joggers. I have listed 3 types: visual, mechanical or sound landmarks. When his visual memory alone can't tell him which letter name is correct, one of these types of landmarks will help. Just pick one.

(Honestly, p's and q's come up so infrequently that I just tell my children the letter if they get stuck.) All examples are for b and d.

Visual Landmarks: The red margin. Draw one in on every page you read. Describe letters in reference to this. ie." The b faces away from the red line, the d faces the red line" or, "The b stick is closest to the red line and the d stick is further away." Pick the best one for you and your child.

Cure Reversed and Confused Letters, Read more

How To Teach Phonics and
Avoid Blending Blunders

Is there a right way and wrong way to blend letter sounds?

Yes, start with the first part of a word and add the end. So if the word is "win" you should aim for wwwiiiiii . . . n, instead of w .... iiiii nnnnn. This keeps your child's eyes moving from left to right.

There is often a big difference between exact letter sounds and the way we say a word normally. Emphasis is not part of phonics, but changes a word's sound. ie. EATen vs. eaTEN.

Some sounds get rushed to the point of being unrecognizable in actual speech. This is not a big idea to understand, but you have to explain it or you will get frustration.

How-To-Teach-Phonics: Explain Blending Letter Sounds, read more

How To Teach Phonics: Stalled Progress and Reading Readiness

Help, I have an apparently ready to read child with lots of enthusiasm but few reading times pass without tears.

Progress is stalled. Tears, tears, tears.

(1) Are you using a how to teach phonics scripted course or doing absolutely every page in your workbook? Relax.

I started with a scripted book and took a "teacher prayer break" for a few weeks soon after. The only daily result from our reading lessons was crying. I saw another family with the same book I was using. When I asked how it worked for them, the Dad (who was across the room and not the main user) chimed in "I couldn't stand listening to that book!".

The Mom said she edited out half the repetition and lots of lessons. Too much of a good thing can cause frustration.  Try to gauge repetition, needed by progress made.

(2) Also, reconsider the book you are using. Parents should not have to brace for tears and confusion just because their child is learning to read. Our language is just not as inconsistent as we once thought.

Look at English Decoder Phonics. It's the only book that makes English 95% decodable (ie. sounds out and makes sense) and is much easier to learn. OK, I'm really partial. I wrote it for my own children. It worked great for them! You can see their results even.

(3) Reading readyness may not be reached. If you do not see progress with less repetition, wait and try again in a few weeks. Do lots of out loud reading in the mean time. Have you ever heard of my audio school.com? We use it often. A great resource if you have multiple learners, need children to work independently, or your voice has given out!

In the mean time look for signs of phonological awareness read more.

(4) Consider learning style. Is your child a hands-on learner? audio? You may want to read about our experience when we ignored learning styles.


Great Read ALouds


What type of books should I be reading out loud?

I like books with interesting pictures and ones that both the children and I will want to read over and over. Rereading, which is so "kid-like" goes a long way in teaching a child that words are very specific. If you were making up a story as you went, then you would not be repeating yourself exactly until your little listener has memorized the book.

How To Teach Phonics: Read Out Loud! What and How, read more


Just Starting Out? Try Printable Phonics Worksheets

Ready For Progress Acceleration? English Decoder is a real breakthrough!

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