World Book Dictionary defines "phonics" as "a method of teaching reading by association of letters and combinations of letters with their appropriate speech sounds." Rather than enter into the debate about whether children should be taught to read using phonics or whole language, I simply offer these five great sites to help children (and foreign-speaking adults) learn the sounds of our language.
Yes, they do have British accents and call their mothers "Mum" instead of "Mom," but this BBC site does a fabulous job of integrating audio and animation into a really fun learning experience. Try Jim's Crankophone for practice in distinguishing vowel sounds in Consonant-Vowel-Consonant words. Use the teacher's panel to control which vowels are tested. I also liked the ten long-vowel poems ("Mr. Creep is hardly sweet. He's got three legs and smelly feet.") with voice-over and activities.
Now we move from paper worksheets to interactive ones where the word search puzzles actually pronounce and spell each word as you find it! Phonics is all about the learning of sounds, and this site has plenty of sound. It's colorful, fun and has lots of variety, even though it's not complete yet. For example, short vowels are covered, but long vowels are not. As you finish each game, you earn certificates that can be printed or e-mailed to friends, family and teachers.
Julie Vickery, a teacher of English as both a second and first language, has created a page of ten in-real-life activities to help reinforce the learning of phonics. Activities include Clapping Alphabet Chants ("A says /a/ like apple. A says /a/ /a/ /a/."), Alphabet I Spy ("I spy something that begins with the letter B.") and Letters in the Sand ("Fill disposable aluminum pie pans with approximately one-half inch of sand or salt. Call a letter or word. Students write the letter or beginning letter in their pans.")
"In this activity children are asked to match one of three pictures with a given word." Saxon Publishers has produced two interactive activities (Picture-Word Match and Word-Picture Match) that tie-in with their phonics textbooks, but are useful whether you use their books or not. Start by selecting a grade level (K, 1 or 2), a lesson number (from 22 to 140) and the number of problems you want to complete (from five to twenty.)