Explicit phonics is the teaching of letter-sound correspondence for the purpose of learning to read. Reading requires the skill of decoding – recognition of phonograms for reading and sounding out unfamiliar words. Students learn the “basic code” of English, meaning the 71 phonograms for 43 elementary sounds, which compose almost every single word. A phonogram is the written expression of a sound. For instance, the word “ship” has three sounds: sh, i, and p. The “sh” is one sound written as two letters, and student learn the sound by hearing it, writing it, and saying it. Similarly, students learn that the letter “a” has 3 main sounds, and that in certain circumstances “a” will sound like “glad” and in others like “glade,” and in others like “walk.” Phonograms such as these are the primary and most basic components of an explicit phonics program.
Students also learn 47 different spelling rules that help them combine phonograms in correct writing. Because English is a mixture of several languages – principally Anlgo-Saxon, German, French, and Latin – student must learn explicit rules to make sense of English’s variety and richness.
Using tools such as diagramming and the study of root words, students will be equipped to speak and write with a high degree of communicative competency. As students learn to identify parts of speech and seek to develop syntax, students develop the building blocks of effective communication. The more they learn about the English language and its structure, their ability to easily and fluently express complex thoughts grows.