How to learn phonics for adults

Updated April 17, 2017

Phonics is a method of teaching reading skills that focuses on units of sound (phonemes) and their correspondence with written letters (graphemes). For example, the phoneme at the beginning of the word "shoe" (the "sh" sound) is represented as a grapheme by the combination of two letters: "s" and "h." Adults can improve reading fluency by learning phonics in association with other reading strategies, such as sight vocabulary, comprehension strategies and contextual clues. For adults to learn phonics effectively, they need to use a phonics scheme that is adult-centred, systematic and accurate.

Obtain a reading program that is appropriate for adults, such as the "Sight Phonics" program or the online program "We All Can Read."

Learn to recite the names of the letters of the alphabet in the correct order.

Learn to identify the single-letter short vowel sounds ("a," "e," "i", "o" and "u") and the sounds of single-letter consonants (all other letters of the alphabet).

Learn to blend two-letter, vowel-consonant words, such as "on," and three-letter, consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words, such as "jam." Practice blending by creating "nonsense" CVC words such as "hab," "sep" and "fuf." Use as many variations as you can until you are quick and proficient in this phonics skill.

Learn to identify the two-letter vowel-consonant and consonant-consonant sounds: "ar," "er," "ck," "ch.," "ng," "or," "ph," "qu," "sh" and "th."

Learn to identify the two-letter vowel sounds, "ai," "ie," "ea," "ee," "oa," "oi," "oo," "ou" and "ue."

Learn to identify the following two-letter consonant blends: "bl," "br," "cl," "cr," "dr," "dw," "fl," "fr," "gl," "gr," "pl," "pr," "sc," "sk," "sl," "sm," "sn," "sp," "st" "sw," "tr" and "tw."

Learn to identify the following three-letter consonant blends: "chl," "chr," "phl," "phr," "scl," "scr," "sph," "shr," "str" and "thr" and the three-letter consonant-vowel blend, "squ."

Learn to recognise words that have a "silent" 'e," which changes the short vowel sound in the middle of the word to a long vowel sound. For example, in "a-e" words such as "gate" and "mane," the "e" is silent and the "a" forms a long vowel sound.

Things You'll Need

  • Online or software phonics program for adults
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About the Author

Mother of three and graduate of the London Metropolitan University, Julie Vickers is an early years teacher and writer who also loves to craft and create! She writes on topics such as education, health and parenting for websites such as School Explained and has contributed learning sessions on child development and behavior for the Education Information and Learning Services website.