If you think the young student in your life may be falling behind their peers, Varsity Tutors can set you up with a knowledgeable phonics tutor in as little as 24 hours. For many parents, phonics can be a difficult thing to try to teach to their children. Worse, some phonics problems stress general rules at the expense of accuracy, like pronouncing the "k" at the beginning of the word "knit" because your student hasn't been introduced to silent letters yet.
What all of that means is that you may not be able to help your student if they need help with their phonics studies. Thankfully, we can connect you to one of many certified phonics tutors who not only understands the basics of phonics but also knows how to effectively share that information with a young child. Read on for more information about how we might be able to help you.
What topics can my student study with the help of phonics tutors?
Phonics is actually a pretty involved subject covering a variety of topics, including consonants and short vowel sounds, consonant digraphs and blends, vowel patterns, syllable patterns, and affixes. Here is a quick refresher on what each of these concepts are:
1. Consonants and Short Vowel Sounds
This is the most basic concept in phonics. Consonants are speech sounds produced with a total or partial closing of the vocal tract, such as the letters "t," "d," and "f" in the English alphabet. They are contrasted by vowels such as "a" and "e" that do not require speakers to close their vocal tract to produce their corresponding sounds. These sounds are called "phonemes."
2. Consonant Digraphs and Blends
You're almost certainly familiar with digraphs, though you might not call them that. A digraph may be defined as a combination of letters that produces a sound that isn't signified by any letter in a language's alphabet. For example, the "sh" at the beginning of words like "shark" and "ship" is a unique sound that no individual letter produces. Some digraphs are also "leftover" from an earlier point in a language's history when there were distinct pronunciations that no longer exist. For example, the digraph "ph" produces an "f" sound in words like phone, but it would be incorrect to spell it "fone."
3. Long Vowels
Long vowels are longer than their shorter counterparts, though they are denoted by the same letters in English. The concept is typically taught as a vowel saying its own name, such as the "a" in "may" or the "i" in "mine."
4. Syllable Patterns
Syllables are the phonological building blocks of language, and phonics instruction generally involves identifying and counting them. A vowel sound usually serves as the "nucleus" or core of a syllable, with optional consonant sounds on its beginning or end.
An affix is the addition of particular letters to a base word that changes its meaning in a predictable manner. For example, adding an "s" to most nouns in English makes it plural. Both prefixes and suffixes may be considered affixes.
What are the benefits of working with phonics tutors?
Your student's classroom teacher is likely to teach phonics from kindergarten to second grade, but the volume of children in the class prevent any one student from getting the kind of individualized attention that may be necessary for it to sink in. Furthermore, younger children may be too nervous to ask for help in front of their friends even if they realize they need it. This can prove problematic, as students are expected to be able to read and write basic words by the conclusion of second grade.
Working with a professional phonics tutor can help solve both of these problems above. Your student can work with a knowledgeable phonics expert in a one-on-one learning environment where they don't need to worry about anyone making fun of them because they are learning a little more slowly than everyone else. In fact, your child may establish a personal rapport with their instructor that makes it easier for them to ask for help as necessary.
Any questions your student asks can also be answered quickly, ensuring that they receive clarification before a minor misunderstanding gains momentum. Furthermore, their completed assignments can be returned with feedback expediently, allowing them to correct any mistakes while the material remains fresh in their mind.
Studying with a private phonics tutor also allows your student to study at their preferred pace. If they already understand how to read and phonics bores them to tears, their instructor can aggressively introduce new concepts to make their study sessions more engaging. If they're having a hard time distinguishing between short and long vowel sounds, their instructor can slow down and provide additional examples until they are ready to move onto the next thing.
Phonics tutoring sessions can also be designed around your student's preferred learning style to optimize their study efficiency. If your son or daughter is a visual learner, their instructor can incorporate charts, tables, and other visual aids to help them understand what sounds each letter can make. If they are more of a kinesthetic student, they might play with magnetic letters to develop a better understanding of the concepts taught in phonics. If your student is more auditory by nature, their instructor might utilize a lecture and discussion format with plenty of oral repetition to help key concepts stick in their head.
Since young children rarely want to sit down and study the way older students might, your student's instructor may also use games to make studying phonics more fun. There are a lot of educational video games that can help a student understand the principles of phonics, and your child's instructor can recommend a good one. Alternatively, they might invent a game using something as simple as flashcards to make studying more engaging.
Your child's tutor can also help you find resources to help you effectively reinforce the instruction your student receives in school and during phonics tutoring sessions. You can also receive regular progress reports to help you understand where your student is progressing and any areas of opportunity that could benefit from a little more work.
Why should my student study phonics?
As many as 87 percent of all English words can be successfully sounded out to some degree with phonics, allowing students to sound out a lot of potentially unfamiliar words. Working with phonics can also help young students identify linguistic patterns, potentially allowing them to achieve fluency more quickly. An approach called "synthetic phonics" also introduces students to writing through segmentation. Phonics may also help young children with spelling, though there are a lot of exceptions since many English sounds can be spelled in more than one way.
Perhaps most importantly, phonics is part of the English Common Core standards that students take standardized tests on throughout their academic lives. If your student is apprehensive about taking a test, their instructor can shoe them test-taking strategies for them to fall back on if they feel stuck. They may also demonstrate mindfulness techniques such as meditation if they are experiencing test anxiety.
What makes Varsity Tutors such a powerful educational resource?
If you were going to try and find your own private instructor for your student, you would need to make sure that they understand phonics, a subject that most adults haven't thought about in years. You would also need to make sure that they know how to work with young children, as working with a four-year old bears little similarity to helping a teenager prepare for something like the SAT. Finally, you would need to make sure your schedules are compatible. As a busy parent, do you really have time for all of that?
Probably not, which is why we specialize in taking the hassle out of private instruction. We maintain a database of thousands of independent tutors, helping us find you somebody who meets all of your phonics tutoring needs quickly and efficiently. We also offer an exclusive Live Learning Platform that allows your child to receive face-to-face instruction online, so you don't need to worry about cleaning up the house because the instructor is coming over or driving your student anywhere. Powerful features such as video chat functionality and a virtual whiteboard ensure that your student's study sessions are just as effective as meeting up in person would be, so you're not compromising efficacy for convenience either.
You are also in complete control over when study sessions take place, allowing your young student to continue pursuing any extracurricular activities they enjoy while also working on their phonics skills. For instance, there never needs to be a session on a Sunday if you prefer to devote the day to family time.
Educational consultants are currently standing by to help you in any way they can, so what are you waiting for? Contact Varsity Tutors using the information provided below today to help your student start working with knowledgeable phonics tutors who can help them reach for their academic potential!