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What Should a Kindergarten Phonics Curriculum Cover?

Teaching phonics to Kindergarten students is a little different than teaching phonics to other grade levels. Why? Well, for one, Kindergarteners first need to learn the alphabet and the alphabetic principle! In this blog post, we'll explore what an effective Kindergarten phonics curriculum should include, as well as some best practices for how phonics skills should be taught in Kindergarten. (These best practices align with the Science of Reading.)

Starting at the Very Beginning: Learning the Alphabet

The vast majority of Kindergarten programs (in the United States, anyway), begin by teaching students the alphabet. Students should learn the letter names, letter sounds, and how to form (write) each letter. These are the building blocks of phonics instruction!

Here are some guidelines to look for in a Kindergarten phonics curriculum (our phonics program, From Sounds to Spelling, follows all of these guidelines):

  • Teach letter names and letter sounds at the same time. In Kindergarten, there's no need to go through and teach all the letter names and then go back and teach the letter sounds (or vice versa).
  • There's no single correct order for teaching the letters, but avoid teaching similar letters together​. You wouldn't want to teach, for example, the letters m and n in the same week, or b and d in the same week.
  • Cover more than 1 letter per week for fast learning. Covering between 2 and 5 letters per week (2-3 is what we've found to work best) helps students learn the letters more quickly than the "letter of the week" approach. Once you've covered all the letters, assess students' knowledge, and then begin alphabet review to target the letters they still need to work on.
  • Teach phonemic awareness to support letter sound learning. Activities where students have to identify, contrast, and match beginning sounds are especially effective. In From Sounds to Spelling, we use picture sorts to help students develop these skills and master letter sounds.
  • Incorporate activities that teach the alphabetic principle. In addition to learning the letter sounds, students also need to understand that letters are used together to create words. In From Sounds to Spelling, the teacher begins modeling how to read CVC words (words with a consonant-vowel-consonant pattern) after students have learned a handful of letters. This helps students understand how reading "works" (the alphabetic principle), and it also prepares them to be more successful with CVC words once it's time to focus on them!

A Kindergarten phonics curriculum should also be developmentally appropriate for young children. It should include plenty of meaningful, hands-on activities for partner or independent practice. Students should have opportunities to develop fine motor skills. They should not be expected to sit and listen quietly for long periods of time. 

The Next Step: More CVC Words + Reading

As mentioned above, we recommend that a Kindergarten phonics curriculum begin covering CVC words once students know a few consonants and short vowels. (Some programs wait until students have mastered all the letters, but this is unnecessary and perhaps ineffective.) 

At first, students will need to see their teacher model how to sound out (decode) CVC words. In time, the teacher can ask students to help her sound out words. Meanwhile, students should continue to work on their letter sounds, as well as practice phonemic awareness skills like blending. All of this will help students eventually be successful with reading CVC words on their own.

Note: It can also be helpful to work on some VC (vowel consonant) words to eventually build up to CVC words. Some examples of VC words (which should include short vowels) are: up, in, if, it, on, at.

Once students have mastered most of the alphabet, they can begin focusing exclusively on CVC words with short vowel sounds. Eventually, students will learn to read complete sentences and decodable texts with CVC words. Small groups provide a great opportunity to give students guided practice with reading these texts.

An effective Kindergarten phonics curriculum "eases" students into reading complete texts. Most students will not be successful if they are asked to read decodable books with many CVC words. Their decoding will still be slow at first, so they should start with sentences and decodable texts with fewer words, like we do in From Sounds to Spelling.

A Kindergarten phonics curriculum should, in addition to having students read CVC words, provide opportunities for students to spell CVC words. Activities like building words or writing words on whiteboards will help students with spelling and reading.

Most Kindergarten students need lots and lots of practice with CVC words before they become fluent with them (able to read them quickly and easily). Complete fluency with CVC words often does not happen until first grade.


​A Kindergarten phonics curriculum will also usually teach students digraphs (typically: sh, th, ch, wh, and ck). Digraphs are pairs of letters that work together to represent one sound (i.e. the "sh" in "sheep").

The point in the year when digraphs are taught will vary from program to program. In the phonics units in From Sounds to Spelling, students first learn the alphabet and begin to work on CVC words. Then, they are introduced to the digraphs. Next, students practice more CVC words, including words with digraphs. This gives students many opportunities to practice digraphs, rather than just saving them until the end of the year.

Just like with CVC words, students should have opportunities to read and spell words with digraphs. They should also practice digraphs in the context of sentences and complete texts.

Consonant Blends

Some Kindergarten phonics programs also include consonant blends. (From Sounds to Spelling covers blends briefly, at the end of the school year.) Consonant blends are groups of 2+ consonants that are next to each other. Their individual letter sounds are heard individually, but the sounds are blended together. The "fl" in "flag" is a blend, as is the "mp" in "jump."

In Kindergarten, there's no need to rush into consonant blends. What's most important is that students learn the individual sounds of the letters and can decode CVC words. Phonics concepts like digraphs, blends, and long vowels (which we'll discuss next) should not be taught if students have not mastered the basics. In From Sounds to Spelling, we encourage teachers to adapt the pacing of instruction to their students' needs.

Silent E / Long Vowels

A Kindergarten phonics curriculum may also cover long vowel words. Often, these are silent e (CVCe) words like "take" and "rode." Toward the end of the school year, From Sounds to Spelling introduces the sounds of the long vowels. This is an important first step that should be addressed before introducing silent e. Students need to hear the differences between long and short vowel sounds before they are asked to apply this concept to reading and spelling long vowel words.

Just as with digraphs and blends, students should not spend much time (if any) on this advanced skill if they have not yet mastered simple short vowel words (CVC words). These advanced skills will be covered in higher grade levels, so it's fine to leave them out of your Kindergarten phonics instruction.

From Sounds to Spelling: A Comprehensive Phonics Curriculum for Kindergarten

From Sounds to Spelling is a developmentally appropriate, comprehension, phonics, phonological awareness, and high-frequency words program for Kindergarten. It includes:

  • Step-by-step, easy to follow lessons
  • Professional development videos to help teachers understand how to best implement the program
  • Decodable books
  • Engaging supplemental activities that can be used as literacy centers

If you want your students to have a strong phonics foundation, download the free trial of From Sounds to Spelling and see sample lesson plans from the teacher manual, activities, and a scope and sequence.

Happy teaching!


Mesmer, H. A. (2019b). Letter lessons and first words: Phonics Foundations That Work. Heinemann Educational Books.

Stahl, K. K. (2014). New insights about letter learning. Reading Teacher, 68(4), 261-265.

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