What is Systematic and Explicit Phonics Instruction?

Here is Reading Horizons Teacher Trainer, Shantell Berrett, explaining what systematic and explicit phonics instruction entails, and how it is different from implicit phonics:


Phonics instruction in and of itself isn’t necessarily effective. If phonics instruction simply includes an alphabet soup of sounds, a piecemeal approach, unorganized… it won’t help struggling students gain neccessary reading skills.

Explicit Instruction

The way that working memory issues effect the way struggling students interpret sounds and their visual representations requires that they receive instruction that logically builds from the smallest concept to more complex concepts. That’s what explicit phonics means—that we start with the simplest sound in a word and then build out from there – from patterns to syllables and then the whole word. Explicit phonics is a key component in the broader structured literacy approach.

Implicit phonics, which research has shown is not as effective as explicit phonics, implies that students are taught to look at a word and try to use context to figure it out. If they can’t figure it out from context, then they come back and go from whole to part, whereas, explicit phonics teaches students to read words from part to whole.

Systematic Instruction

Research has found that students that struggle with reading have working memory issues—thus, the ability to filter, categorize, and prioritize information is very difficult for struggling students. Thus, instruction needs to filter, categorize, and prioritize information for them. They need systematic instruction that guides them through each phonetic and decoding skill using a step-by-step, logical sequence.