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The standards within the Reading Foundational Skills strand are directed toward fostering students’ understanding and working knowledge of concepts of print, the alphabetic principle, and other basic conventions of the English writing system. These foundational skills are not an end in and of themselves; rather, they are necessary and important components of an effective, comprehensive reading program designed to develop proficient readers with the capacity to comprehend texts across a range of types and disciplines.

Phonics is the understanding that there is a predictable relationship between the sounds of spoken language, and the letters and spellings that represent those sounds in written language. Successful decoding occurs when a student uses his or her knowledge of letter-sound relationships to accurately read a word.

In kindergarten, children gain basic knowledge of one-to-one letter-sound correspondences and demonstrated that knowledge by producing the primary or many of the most frequent sound for each consonant. They also acquire knowledge of the long and short sounds of the five major vowels as well as their common spellings. During the kindergarten year, children grow in their ability to read common high-frequency words by sight (e.g., the, of, to, you, she, my, is, are, do, does) and to distinguish between similarly spelled words by identifying the sounds of the letters that differ.

Children in first grade build on the basic phonics skills acquired in kindergarten by acquiring knowledge about the spelling-sound correspondences for common consonant digraphs and about the final -e and common vowel team conventions for representing long vowel sounds. First graders use the knowledge that every syllable must have a vowel sound to determine the number of syllables in a printed word.
By the end of first grade, children are able to easily decode one syllable words and to decode two-syllable words following basic patterns by breaking the words into syllables. They can read words with inflectional endings and recognize and read grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words.

By the end of second grade, students should have acquired all the basic phonics skills necessary to be successful in advanced word study activities in later grades as well read narrative and informational texts that are increasingly complex. During second grade, students learn to distinguish long and short vowels when reading regularly spelled one-syllable words. They acquire the ability to decode regularly spelled two-syllable words with long vowels and decode words with common prefixes and suffixes. By the end of second grade, students know spelling-sound correspondences for additional common vowel teams, can identify words with inconsistent but common spelling-sound correspondences and can recognize and read grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words.

Associated Standards (kindergarten, first grade, and second grade)
CCSS RF. K.3, CCSS RF.1.3 and CCSS RF.2.3: Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words
Scaffolded Ideas
  • Phonics skills are essential for advanced word study and for reading text of increasing complexity
  • Phonics skills support decoding. Without decoding students have difficulty recognizing unfamiliar words.
  • Being able to decode words supports the development of automaticity and fluency.
  • Students are able to either access prior knowledge or acquire new knowledge to give meaning to words they can decode. Without the ability to decode, vocabulary development is stifled.
  • Phonics instruction should be differentiated. Good readers will need much less practice with these concepts than struggling readers will. The point is to teach students what they need to learn and not what they already know—to discern when particular children or activities warrant more or less attention.

Questions to Focus Instruction
  • What role does phonological awareness play in the development of phonics skills?
  • What level of knowledge should teachers have of how language “works” to successfully help children gain basic phonics skills?
  • What is a logical sequence for teaching phonics skills?
  • What materials and strategies can be used to help children develop the required level of phonics skills by the end of second grade?
  • How is phonics knowledge assessed?



Specific Feedback

Teacher helps children learn the schwa sound by being specific in her feedback to their attempts at reading words.