A few months ago, I was sitting with my little kid reading from Thomas the Tank Engine. He had just started to identify a few letters here and there! 

He was so cute pointing out the D's and the S's! Unfortunately, Q & Y are still mysteries to us.

He then suddenly asked why L for lion is the same as L for 'Lady'. I didn't know how to answer him! 

"It just is," I said, "that's how letters work." 

But that was my bad. Telling him something is "just because" only leads to more questions. 

That is how I ended up entering the world of Phonics learning. And thought it would be a good learning experience for him.

But, there are so many options and so little awareness about phonics learning,  how does a parent make a wise selection?

Mainly, if they have limited knowledge about the reading process?

Well, here's what I've found when looking for a good phonics class near me.

Five key elements are needed when teaching kids to read. If the class is deficient in any one of these, you will want to supplement the class. So, if you're going to be relying entirely on the program you select, choose wisely.

1. Order of phonics letter sounds taught

Parents may not be aware of this, but there is an optimal order for the easiest to teach sounds. And that order is not A, B, C. 

So, if the program applies the ABC order, you know that it does not ensure progress. 

The order of sounds taught needs to resemble the group of sounds here:  

  1. s, a, t, i, p, n    

  2.  c, k, e, h, r   

  3.  m, d, g, o 

  4.   l, f, b, q, u  

  5.   j, z, w 

  6.  v, y, x

Certain phonics programs have revised the list but still follow the order of these letters pretty closely. 

2. ABC or abc?

When reading a paragraph, you will soon realize that the lower case letters outnumber uppercase ones. Therefore, excellent teaching of reading should concentrate on practising lower case letters. It is distressing when programs demand that they capitalize the letters' beginning letters that are not even in a sentence.

An example of this would be pictures exercises to help read the text, and "Horse" is spelt with a capital H. There is no reason for this capital case. This makes the letter for remembering the "h" sound a capital case letter.

3. A focus on how it sounds

The letters' sounds are important, not the names. And there is no magic in using the alphabetical order when learning. It will become important later when kids are using dictionaries, but before that, the order is arbitrary and not specified when learning to read.

Since phonics sounds are crucial, multimedia and multi-activity methods are favoured over the worksheet approach. You can utilize many different techniques to highlight the sounds of words, such as a phonics song, kid's rhymes, poems, actions, and activities that concentrate on the sounds.

4. Matching with appropriate reading levels 

Children learn to read by reading. 

The phonics worksheets are crucial, particularly in the early stages of learning to read. They help children break the code, but phonics is not the end game here... READING is. 

In the very early stages of reading education, it is necessary to practise phonics skills. 

In addition to exercises, an outstanding phonics program will incorporate unique phonics books that support skills. There are specific readers at every level of the phonics instruction. 

But not every word can be decoded with phonics because there are two kinds of words in the English language. Phonics words that you are able to sound out with phonics and words that do not follow those rules.

Words like "red, mat, Sam" are easy to sound out, but words like "white, brown, know" need to be learned as sight words. A program that states that it can teach your kid to read should be able to address the sight words. Usually, the sight words are taught along with rhyming words. Teaching brown and clown along with down as rhyming groups is a common practice.

 5. Only one part of the process

All comprehensive "learn to read" programs emphasize that parents should continue to read good picture books and chapter books to their kids. It is imperative that children hear literature and not simply contrived tales to build their skills.  

Children should be introduced to all sorts of genres and authors. It allows them to enjoy the whole process of reading. The addition of non-fiction phonics reading books is vital, too, as many kids like to learn about the world they live in. You can even find plenty of phonics stories free online to help you understand better.

So, there you have it, the FIVE crucial components of phonics teaching.

No, when picking a Phonics class for your kid, make sure to find out all these details.