Red Cat Reading Blog: how to teach phonics to first-graders

How to Teach Phonics to First-Graders — for Parents

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Children who are in first grade or going to first grade during the new school year tend to have already learned some phonics in kindergarten and preschool. For these children, the building blocks for phonics and basic reading skills might already be in place. When planning to teach phonics to first graders, remember it’s important to continue polishing and expanding on these bits of knowledge. You should review concepts that have already been taught and work on newer concepts that are about to be taught in the child’s classroom.

Since you’ve likely already spent a good deal of time on basic phonics skills, your child probably has a strong foundation of basic phonics concepts such as single letter sounds and rhyming words. With this foundation, there are plenty of new activities, games, and ways to exercise the knowledge and build onto it. This will allow your child to grasp new concepts and further explore the world of reading!


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Step #1 – Reviewing the Basics

Just because your child has learned something, doesn’t mean that you can move on without doing a review from time to time to make sure that he or she has retained information. Reviewing can be simple – creating or downloading worksheets, going over flashcards, writing words, and reading books that he or she has already mastered. There are a great deal of workbooks on the market that are intended for reviewing skills that a child has already learned in school. These make great additions to homework assignments or during summer vacation. Pick up workbooks in both a kindergarten and a first-grade level, as they can help review the basics in case it is necessary, as well as gain some new skills.

Step #2 – Pick up some new books!

Whether you would enjoy spending hours pouring over library books, checking some out, and bringing them home, or you prefer to take your child to the bookstore to purchase a few new books, make sure that he or she is selecting books at their level. There are plenty of books out there that market themselves as “first time readers,” and these can be valuable tools in your child’s education. Since books can be expensive, check out some recommended reading lists or visit the library.

You can find many digital books for free at

Red Cat Reading Blog: how to teach phonics to first-graders

Step #3 – Talk to your child’s teacher

A conversation with your child’s teacher can make a huge difference in your child’s learning. Set up a specific meeting time with the teacher and go in to discuss what your child is currently learning and what they will be working on in the future. Talk about what kinds of books they will be working with, and ask for recommendations of stories and activities to use at home. This will ensure that you are working on the correct things and will be a fantastic help for the child’s teacher as well!

Step #4 – Work together everyday

Make learning a fun activity, and part of your everyday routine! Since young children do well with a routine, make sure you try and stick with it as much as possible. Pick a certain time during the day to sit down together and work on reviewing and learning new concepts. Making the learning fun is also important – take your child to the grocery store and let them hold your shopping list, reading the list and directing you where to go next. When cooking or baking, ask your child to identify the next ingredient in the recipe.

Step #5 – Utilize Tablets and Smartphones

Tablets and smartphones can be helpful tools in your child’s education, if the device is used correctly and for ideal periods of time. There are countless learning apps and videos available out there; many of them teaching phonics skills and reading.

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If you are worried about your child having free access to the tablet and wandering the web or getting into apps you’d rather they didn’t, many companies make specific tablets for young children. Also, almost every tablet comes equipped with a variety of parental controls that are vital for keeping kids safe! Allowing your child to use these devices for short periods throughout the day (while you are on an important phone call, for instance), can be a great tool for learning – and if you are worried about how often they use it, a lot of tablets also have a built-in timer for how long the child is permitted to access it.

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Step #6 – Play games

Playing games with your children is the kind of thing that they will remember for years to come, and those memories will always be cherished. With the large amount of games available on the market that teach letters and reading, you should be able to find some great games that can hold your child’s attention. Most toy stores carry a variety, and what you can’t find in store, you can find online at different retailers.

Step #7 – Keep at it!

Teaching your child phonics skills and reading isn’t going to happen overnight. It is a process that is going to take a great deal of time and devotion, so make sure to keep going! Use workbooks on a daily basis and help your child learn to sound out words. Keep reviewing what your child has learned, even when it seems as if he or she already has a good grasp on it. Practice is key at this stage!


While children who are going to first grade or who are already in first grade tend to already have a decent grasp on phonics skills, it is important to keep helping them along and providing them with new opportunities to learn. Reviewing, talking to your child’s teacher, and reading together are the best tools that you have to help your child take this amazing journey into reading!


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