Systematic And Explicit Phonics Instruction

Our annual book study with Abbie from Kindergarten Chaos is 7 Mighty Moves; the second move is about systematic and explicit phonics instruction.

What Is Systematic And Explicit Phonics Instruction?

Explicit phonics instruction means we’re teaching the sounds and letters to spell those sounds in a very intentional way. It’s direct instruction that doesn’t make the students guess or figure it out. Systematic phonics instruction means we’re teaching those skills in an order that makes sense.

Explicit Phonics Instruction In The Classroom

The book suggests a phonics lesson plan that is very similar to what we do in our classroom, so I will share what it looks like in our classroom in the context of our TKS BOOTCAMP curriculum. I also want to point out that the author discusses how it’s okay to spread out instruction over days, and you can do them in order or move the components around to meet the needs of students. We actually spread these steps out over days and we do them in whole group and small groups.


In our classroom, our review is a daily sound/letter review using a PowerPoint. We quickly go through the slides, saying the sounds and letters. After a few weeks, we drop the letter and just do the sound. The slides look like this:

Another review activity that we utilize is oral blending. It’s so easy and requires absolutely zero prep! It’s also necessary because if they can’t do it orally, they won’t be able to do it on paper!

State Goal And Purpose

I simply say: “Today we’re going to learn the sound /m/ and how to spell m.”

Phonemic Awareness Warm-Up

This is a way to get students to focus on the sound. For our TKS BOOTCAMP, we do this before each sound and circle chart. We repeat the sound, and we talk about what our mouth is doing. We might even brainstorm some words.

Another way we review is with our Phonemic Awareness Bootcamp circle charts. These take about 5 minutes and focus only on the sound. After the sound-only circle chart, we move to the phonics circle chart of TKS BOOTCAMP, which has the sound and spelling. The pairing of these with TKS BOOTCAMP is easy and effective.

systematic and explicit phonics

Introduce New Concept

When we introduce the new sound and letter correspondence, we put the circle chart on the easel. I say: “Today we’re going to learn the sound /m/.” I repeat the sound and have the students say the sound. We repeat the sound multiple times. Then I say: “We spell /m/ with the letter m.” I ask students to repeat the sound and ask them how we spell the sound.

explicit phonics instruction using science of reading

Read Words: Explicit Phonics Instruction

This component of the lesson plan is where we change it up a bit. We explicitly teach the new skill using the “I Do, We Do, You Do” model. Instead of just reading words, the students actually come up with the words, we segment the sounds, spell the sounds and then read the words.


In our classroom, dictation happens in whole group and small groups. During whole groups, it happens in the days following the circle chart lesson. In small groups, it happens on the same day and the following days. We use a variety of materials for dictation including paper and pencil, whiteboards, chalkboards and even frisbees.

  • We use this routine:
  • Say the word. Students repeat the word.
  • Say the sounds in the word. We hold up our fingers for each sound to know how many sounds to spell.
  • Spell the word.
  • Read the word.
  • Discuss the meaning if necessary.

Decodable Text

Just like the dictation, decodable texts happen in small groups and whole group. For whole group, we’re using the decodable stories included in our required curriculum. We choral read these stories. We typically read the story two times and focus on decoding unknown words. In small groups, we use the decodable texts from TKS BOOTCAMP. In small groups, we focus on building fluency and automaticity. We read the same decodable multiple times because research says students need to decode words 5-8 times in order for orthographic mapping to happen!


For our closing, we go back to the circle chart and decode and read the words again. I also ask what sound we learned and how we spell the sound.

explicit phonics instruction blending and decoding

Systematic And Explicit Phonics: Additional Takeaways

One of the “criticisms” about the science of reading that I see is that phonics is boring. FALSE! Phonics should be fun. It should be engaging. Kids should be participating and responding. You should be playing games to practice phonics skills. It should be multisensory.

Do word sorts! We incorporate word sorts into our TKS BOOTCAMP curriculums regularly. We do word sorts in small groups. When I first started teaching we did word study using Words Their Way and it was so effective. We will be working on ways to bring this back into our routines!

explicit phonics instruction word sorts

Our TKS BOOTCAMP curriculum is a science of reading aligned resource. TKS BOOTCAMP is all inclusive and classroom proven. The curriculum was created to make phonics instruction easier and effective.

Phonics Resources

For more ideas and resources, check out these blog posts:

Be sure to visit Abbie at Kindergarten Chaos for her thoughts on chapter 1 of 7 Mighty Moves.

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