Phonics and Word Study Instruction

Teaching CLD students how to read

Orthography- Background Information

As children spell words as they hear them, they are also using the words they have in their vocabularies. They use this form to support them in identifying the word they are reading. Although there are similarities in learning to read across languages, differences in the orthography of the language lead to differences in how long it takes to learn to read and how much difficulty some children may have. In some languages, like Finnish, Italian, and Spanish, the relationship between letters or symbols and sounds is fairly consistent—that is, there are few exceptions and fewer relationships to learn. Other languages, like Kanji, English, and Danish, are not as consistent. There are many inconsistencies in English that confuses English Language Learners. (Linan- Thompson)

For children learning English as a second language, understanding the relationship between letters and sounds is critical. Since some of the sounds will be new to them, sounds they have not heard or spoken as important units of speech. They may be applying a phoneme from their home language to a different letter or using letters alone or in combinations that do not exist in their home language. In addition, they lose the advantage provided by accessing their knowledge of words, since their English vocabularies may be limited. (Linan- Thompson)

Phonics instruction

A way of teaching reading that stresses the acquisition of letter-sound correspondences and their use in reading and spelling. The primary focus of phonics instruction is to help beginning readers understand how letters are linked to sounds (phonemes) to form letter-sound correspondences and to help them learn how to apply this knowledge in their reading. (Herrera)

Bilingual Alphabet Chart

  • Give each student a blank bilingual alphabet chart.
  • Have students take the chart home and complete them with their parents.
  • Instruct students to work with their parents to identify cognate or words in their native languages that start with each letters on the chart.
  • Have students keep the charts on their desks to use as a resource. --This will help not only the CLD student but the general education teacher as well, when looking over student work. (Herrera)

The importance of Phonics and Word Study

Children learning to read in English are faced with having to use the trial and error process to form words until they come out right. This can be stressful for CLD students, they go through the trial and error process in English orthography, but this is not a systematic way of learning, applying, and practicing the spelling patterns and rules they are learning.

Children learning to read in English have to learn the letter-sound relationships among 44 speech sounds and more than 100 spellings used to represent them. (Blevins) In addition, students have to apply this knowledge to read both known and unknown words in isolation and in context, and they need to be able to read irregular words. Although it might seem that English is too irregular to teach systematically, there are enough regularities to make a systematic approach to phonics instruction appropriate.

Phonics and word study instruction provide an opportunity to teach children that there are systematic relationships between letters and sounds, that written words are composed of letter patterns that represent the sounds of spoken words, and that recognizing words quickly and accurately is a way of obtaining meaning from what is read. In addition, children learn that they can blend the sounds to read words and segment words into sounds to spell. (Linan- Thompson)

Contextualzing Phonic Instruction

Teachers can link teaching phonics into their literacy block, through word study groups. There are several approaches in teaching phonics. Teachers can use the Words Their Words, Primary Spelling Inventory used in Kindergarten through 3rd grade. Students can be grouped for instruction according to the spelling development stages or by specifc grade level. Student groups can be further differentiated by the three stages within the developmental stage or grade level (this can be seen to the right). (Pearson)

CLD students may possibly place lower than their peers. For example if it is a first grade classroom, the CLD student could be placing in early or middle kindergarten level. (Pearson)

Effective Word Study Instruction:

Teaching word recognition:
  1. having the knowledge critical elements of word recognition
  2. effective methods for introducing, practicing, and reviewing word recognition strategies.
  3. procedures for monitoring students’ mastery of these skills.

Critical Elements of Word Study:

  • letter/sound knowledge
  • Decoding words
  • Analogizing words
  • Less phonetically regular words
  • Spelling words

(Texas Center)

Strategies for teaching Phonics

Book Strategies:

  • Synthetic phonics approach: Students sound out (or segment) individual letter sounds and then blend the sounds to form words.
  • Analytical approach: Students identify letter/sound correspondences by analyzing known words and breaking them into their component sounds.
  • Analogy- based approach: Students use word families of known words to support the pronunciation of new words.
  • Spelling- approach: Students write words by segmenting them into phonemes and then writing words from these sounds.
  • Embedded approach: Students learn letter/sound correspondences in context by reading authentic literature.
  • Onset-rime approach: Students decode and spell words by dividing them into onsets and rimes. (Herrera)

Word Study Instruction for English Language Leaners:

  • Use listening discrimination activities to assist students with English sound patterns. (listening stations)
  • Use charts and word banks that categorize words according to similar patterns to facilitate word recognition.
  • Provide pictures of words to help with identification and understanding of vocabulary or difficult words (Texas Center)

Daily 5 Options


Lets Go Fishing:

  • For this game you will need 2 large plastic bowls, and fish heads with onsets and blends and fish tails with rimes. Students will go "fishing" and have to create words using the fish heads and tails. These words can be silly or real words as long as they make sense. (Texas)
Shoots and Ladders:
  • Using blends, vowel sounds, and rimes.


  • Phonics Cootie Catcher
  • Partner spelling test - Student A reads word- Student B writes word (improves spelling)
  • Read to partner
  • Listening centers
  • Free writing with pictures
  • iPad games
  • Dashed line words

I have learned about these activities through my various field placements as well as from Pinterest.

About the creator

Laura is currently finishing her junior year at Rider University. She is an Elementary Education and Psychology double major, working towards her certification in ESL. You can find Laura shopping, reading, and working with kids.



Blevins, W. (1998). Phonics from a to z: A practical guide. New York: Scholastic Professional Books.

Herrera, S. G., Perez, D. R., & Escamilla, K. (2015). Teaching reading to english language learners (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Linan-Thompson, S., & Vaughn, S. (2007). Phonics and word study. In S. Linan-Thompson & S. Vaughn (Authors), Research-based methods of reading instruction for english language learners, grades k–4. Retrieved from

Pearson (Ed.). (n.d.). Assessment: Placement and grouping. Retrieved May 3, 2015, from MyPearsonTraining website:

Texas Center for Reading and Language Arts. (2002). Word study for students with learning disabilities and english language learners. Retrieved May 3, 2015, from website: