How to Teach Phonics to Adults

Teaching adults how to read is different from teaching children. Even if an adult has the same language learning capacity as a child, there are psychological factors that will make teaching him more challenging. Teaching using the phonics systems available is a wonderful bridge for adults to learn reading quickly. Through phonics, adults who are just learning to read will be able to translate the sounds that they learn and relate them with spoken words.

Find a phonics system with which you will feel comfortable. There are many out there. Find one that makes sense to you and that you think you can teach to another person.

Read short stories or poems written in straightforward English such as those of Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost.

Make a game of finding words that rhyme. Start with a word the student suggests and take turns finding a word that rhymes with it. If she says tree, you say bee and stress that the words sound alike at the end.

Teach the concept of syllables after the rhyming. Use people’s names, places and jobs as a basis for saying words. If your student is adept at plumbing, use terms such as sink, toilet, plumber and show him how to count the beats of the words by tapping the foot or clapping for each syllable.

Teach the alphabet and let the student associate each letter with an object that begins with that letter. Use words with the long sounds of vowels such as eat, ate, union and open.

Put the letters together to make short words. You can start with three-letter words that rhyme. You can use the "–at" words to begin. For example, you could use words such as bat, cat, fat and hat. Once this is mastered go on to other three-letter words such as words ending in "–un," "–in" and "–it." Teach four-letter words with the same ending such as game, name and tame.

Use easy books such a collection of poems and short stories to teach phonics. Allow the student to recognize the letters and the small words. Go slowly on a pace that the student feels comfortable.

Use flashcards with the words she has learned at the beginning of each lesson to reinforce what you have done previously. Allow her to use the flashcards at home.

Keep the lessons consistent, no longer than 45 minutes and initially no more than three times a week.

Be patient. It is easy for a person who knows how to read or write a language to get impatient with another adult who does not.

  • Try using phonics system used to teach children, as the process may be similar.

Tzvi Raphael has worked with Fortune 500 companies helping them to maximize their online brand exposure through innovative Web design, content, and marketing. Additionally, Raphael is a writer for multiple high-traffic blogs and websites including eHow and Weight Ladder.