Phonics Curriculum by Grade Level

A solid, complete phonics curriculum probably was not taught at your school in the 80s and 90s when you were learning to read, but if you were lucky, your reading teacher probably used some of the phonics skills in her lessons.

However,  now that you are going to be teaching your child to read, you need to know those terms. I've listed them here by grade level to help you better understand when you introduce them. 

If you would like to print this information for easier reading, feel free. It often helps to absorb the information more easily when you don't have to scroll. Also, be sure to check out my reading comprehension guidelines to further develop your child's reading skills. 

Pre-K and Kinder Phonics 

Since you have begun to introduce this phonics curriculum by reading to your child, s/he has probably already learned that those squiggly shaped lines on a page stand for sounds that they hear, and they probably have already learned that reading occurs from top to bottom and left to right.

When your child turns three begin introducing individual letters and their sounds to them. Depending on how quickly they learn and how exciting they find the adventure stories you have been reading to them, they will soon be eager to learn more.

If, however, your child is still reluctant to engage in the active learning process, remember to remain relaxed.

One suggestion I have would be to expand the type of illustrated stories that you've been reading. 

For example, if most of the stories are about the ocean, maybe try a couple of books about the jungle or farm animals.

Perhaps, combine that with a trip to a petting zoo or a video about the Amazon.

Sight Words - are a limited number of words that your child needs to know that don’t follow phonetic rules

Short vowels are the sounds a for apple, e for elephant, i for igloo, o for octopus, and u for umbrella. In Pre-K and Kindergarten, you will be teaching your child to identify letters and recognize and to say their sounds. The next stage, which can begin in the first grade or before that, will be beginning and ending consonant sounds.

First Grade Phonics Curriculum

The phonics curriculum guidelines in the first grade introduce these new concepts:

Long vowels - refers to the vowels when they say their names like a for cake, e for eager, i for ice, o for orange, and u for useless.

Beginning and ending sounds - refers to the consonant sound at the beginning of the word. The ending sound refers to the sound heard at the end of the word.

The Silent E Rule – has a cute phrase to help you remember it. It states: The silent “e” at the end of a word makes the first vowel say its name.

In other words, if a word ends in “e”, then the preceding vowel will be long.

SILENT     "E"      RULE

cap          cape

cut           cute

fat           fate

Consonant blends – These are two consonant sounds that are both heard in making up a word. These include the letters r, l, and s. The r-blends are br, cr, dr, fr, gr, pr, and tr. The l-blends are bl, cl, fl, gl, pl, and sl. The s-blends are sc, sk, sm, sp, sn, sq, st, and sw. You can see a list of more of these words here

Consonant digraphs – These are two-letter consonants that make up one sound and include CH, WH, TH, PH, and SH.

Trigraphs - are three letters that combine to make a single sound, like sch- for school. There is a whole list of them here

Suffixes – the ending of a word that is attached to a root word. For example, -ed and –ing are suffixes that are commonly added to the ends of the main word, or root.

Second Grade Phonics Curriculum

In the second grade (or your child's next stage of development) the phonics curriculum introduces more complex sounds and words, along with and continuing to build on the phonemes (distinct units of sound) already acquired. Here are a few more your child will learn next.

 Initial, medial, or final sounds - When you see the phrase “initial consonant sound” that means the consonant sound at the beginning of the word. Medial means the sound in the middle of the word, and final is the sound heard at the end of the word.

Diphthongs – are two vowel sounds that combine to make a distinct sound, like OI for oil, or OY in boy. It occurs when the tongue glides from one position to another to pronounce the second vowel while making a distinct sound.

Double vowels - When two vowels appear together, they are pronounced as one long sound. Examples of the double vowel rule are peek, greet and vacuum. 

Vowel digraphs are two vowels that combine to make a single vowel sound. They follow the silent rule: the second vowel is silent and makes the first vowel say its name. Examples are OA, EE, AI, EA, OO, and OU. There are other vowel digraphs that include AW, EW, and OW that also create one sound.

Suffixes – the ending of a word that is attached to a root word. For example, -ed and –ing are suffixes that are commonly added to the ends of the main word, or root like walking and cooked. 

Compound words – are two smaller words joined together to make a new word, like fire+hose = firehose, fingerprint, and evergreen. Here is a list of some of them

Third Grade Phonics Curriculum

In the third grade, a solid phonics curriculum continues to build a strong foundation by continually reviewing and drilling previous lessons, so this year, your child will continue working on blends, digraphs, double vowels, diphthongs, compound words, and suffixes, but your child also will learn: 

Prefixes – These are a single letter or letters attached to the beginning of a word. For example, un-, a-, re- are prefixes.

Syllables – means that your child is starting to read longer words and this is the study of how to divide them into syllables. That’s why these are studied along with the compound words. 


Fourth Grade Phonics Curriculum

In the fourth grade, the phonics curriculum makes a decisive shift toward increasing reading comprehension. Your child will begin to produce book reports, along with learning a final couple of phonics rules.

You can read more about that under Curriculum, 4th grade.

Silent letters – The silent letters are K and G.  When a K precedes an N like for the words knee, knot, know, and knock, the K will be silent. The G when it precedes an N also will be silent, like in the words gnat, gnaw, and gnome. Most of these words come from Germanic origins.

R-controlled vowels – These are vowels that are followed by the letter “r” and as a result, there is a pronunciation change. Examples of these words are AR in arm, ER  in baker, IR in bird, OR in corn, and UR in burger.


To read more about the importance of reading, click here. 

For reading comprehension guidelines and strategy, click here.

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