As a reading specialist and university instructor I am often asked to find and evaluate the best phonics programs as well as to locate those with the best free phonics lessons for families.
Here is a comparison of five of the largest sites which claim to have the best free phonics lessons (some have both free and paid phonics programs included) and I have rated each as follows:
One star is given for the websites with the best free phonics lessons which are least effective and five stars represents the websites with the best overall phonics program who also have the best free phonics lessons.
There are pros and cons to each of these websites with the best free phonics lessons but ultimately one phonics program stands out as the clear leader.
This phonics program ranks five out of five stars because it is the most comprehensive, has most scientifically evidence-based phonics instructional method, uses sequentially guided instruction and has several of the best free phonics lessons as well.
Here are the sites with the best free phonics lessons and their ratings:
1. PrintableReadingGames.com ★ 1 of 5 stars for Best Free Phonics Lessons
I visited this site expecting to find the best free phonics lessons that I searched for online.
While I did find a few phonics and reading games such as Printable Magic E phonics game in Reading Room One, there is no instructor, nothing sequential, and no comprehensive program to direct me, a parent or a teacher through the lessons one sees in any bonafide phonics program with free lessons.
There were a few printables on this site along with their version of the best free phonics lessons and a store.
As I searched around the site I came to Reading Room Two hoping to find a the best free phonics lessons and some type of guided program which told me where to begin and how this would best help a child. I also wanted some of of the best free phonics lessons which would align with any state’s curriculum standards, but could find no evidence of the comprehensive beginning, middle and ending lessons in phonics.
Unfortunately, what I did find was a page full of what appeared to be clickable links to what were supposed to be the best free phonics lessons, but instead were actual clickable advertising words disguised as best free phonics lessons and they led to unrelated sites.
For example, on this page, http://www.printablereadinggames.com/room2/index.html I clicked on the word printable and clicked through to a technology site with an electronic tablet on it from Samsung.
Overall, this site has a few best free phonics lessons which you can use for practice, but generally it is a site which places contextual ads on their key words leading off site to unrelated websites when you click on them.
This is certainly not a site I would recommend with the best free phonics lessons.
2. Starfall.com ★★ 2 of 5 Stars for Best Free Phonics Lessons
Starfall has a myriad of pages with the best free phonics lessons for each grade and is the brainchild of the Polis-Schutz family, i.e. BlueMountain Greeting cards, etc.
Admittedly, this is a good site with many of the best free phonics lessons, but as a reading specialist I found the lack of a personalized instructor and generalized instructions to be inappropriate to teach children to learn to read as it claims.
The biggest question I had was where to begin once on the site. In other words, how would I know where to find the best free phonics lessons for my child and which of those lessons is the best place to begin?
I found something akin to chaotic instruction on this site claiming to have the best free phonics lessons. There were no sequential reading instructions which I would expect to find as a parent or a reading specialist. I could not locate any type of diagnostic tools which a a site claiming to teach children to read would have.
Unfortunately, there is no way to keep track of your child’s progress, no way to determine which letters or sounds your child has difficulty on or masters, and little input except for a short set of instructions for the parent or teacher.
Parents are told to start their children on the ABC’s and when you click on any letter, such as A, you see the letter “A”, with the long sound like “a” store, in both upper and lower case, as well as an arrow which also gives you the corresponding short “a” sound as in apple.
The act of putting the names and sounds of a single letter together (A, a) during the same exercise with both short and long sounds, can actually hinder a child’s progress in reading because it is confusing.
Higher quality instruction programs with the best free phonics lessons use the sound of the single letters until the child knows that sun, sound, silly, snake, etc. begin with the sound “sssss” and the child begins to make the connection that “S” makes the “ssss” sound. This is called sound-symbol association.
In addition, once a child masters one letter sound and moves on to the next, you want to build on and reinforce the previous instruction with more of the best free phonics lessons. This does not occur on Starfall’s website that I could find.
As a reading specialist, I would not use this site because of the clear lack of scientifically programmed lessons and the confusion that this type of unguided instruction generates. Unfortunately, I cannot say it has the best free phonics lessons.
The specific instructions on the page say, “Have your child click on any letter. The order (of the letters) doesn’t matter. Your child will come to recognize the relationship between letters and sounds. “This is called the “Alphabetic Principle,” the foundation of phonics,” claims the website.
In my experience as a reading specialist, children need specific guidance with on or offline programs and assuming they will simply ‘come to understand’ the relationship between letters and sounds by playing around at will on a site, is nothing short of poor quality and inadequate advice for learning phonics in a guided, precise method.
The best free phonics lessons on Starfall’s site may in fact be free, but in the end, your child will not master phonics in a research based or scientifically backed program. In this case, free is simply free and certainly not the best free phonics lessons available.
3. Jumpstart.com ★★★ 3 of 5 Stars for Best Free Phonics Lessons
Jumpstart is a membership site with virtual games for teaching learning with 3D adventures in the process.
In the demo for the best free phonics lessons there is a section with multiple real world learning possibilities.
Using the newspaper, your child chooses a letter of the day, circles as many as he or she can find on a page, then moves on to flash cards, matching upper and lower case letters, uses food to paste onto the letters, heads for the mall to find that letter in signs, and finds even more of that letter along the drive to the mall.
Each child gets to choose their own “Jumpy” character, dressing the character with clothing, eye and hair color of their choice. This character leads them through the different adventures in learning on the site.
While I could not go further into the site without purchasing a monthly membership for between $7.99 and $149.00 for a life-time membership it is obvious that the site makes use of fun and games with technology to help kids learn which is certainly positive in the world of the best free phonics lessons.
I had a lot more questions and discovered that the site does have email and telephone support. Although I tried calling on July 5th during normal business hours to find out more about the foundations and science behind their phonics program, I was told they were closed.
The fact that there are a number of “expert names” written on the site connected to the best free phonics lessons is good, but none of those names had background information which did not inspire my confidence so this site does not get my highest recommendation for the best free phonics lessons.
4. Time4Learning.com ★★★★ 4 of 5 Stars for Best Free Phonics Lessons
Time4Learning website offers what they refer to as the best free phonics lessons in their demo.
The software they use on the site is excellent, and the lessons that I previewed showed me a green snake slithering along, seeing a mouse, monkey and moose saying that he had stumbled upon the “m” sound.
The lesson demo was a letter-sound correspondence, which is a great start in the best free phonics lessons but I was unable to determine how the rest of the phonics program functioned without becoming a paying monthly member of their site.
What I did see in place on the site for best free phonics lessons was Compass Learning Odyssey software which I am familiar with as a teacher for keeping track of student progress and test scores.
This means there is automated grading to each lesson and printable reports, thus telling me that their best free phonics lessons, which lead to a monthly membership site for which you pay $19.95 per month is most likely a quality program which has most or all of the features and benefits you want from a phonics program as well as some of the best free phonics lessons.
5. SuperBooks.net ★★★★★ 5 of 5 Stars for Best Free Phonics Lessons
In my opinion as a reading specialist, learning expert and University Instructor, SuperBooks® is by far the best phonics program which also happens to come with best free phonics lessons in order to try the program out before purchase.
The science behind SuperBooks® is the most rigorous I’ve seen.
The kits are designed for Sequential Phonics Readers – ensuring are able to gradually build up their knowledge and familiarity with phonics through gradually increasing difficulty.
This helps children build their understanding of how letters and sounds are correlated and intuitively apply this knowledge when encountering new text or words.
SuperBooks offers several of its kits for free as samples free to download on their site.
All the kits feature colorful, engaging stories to capture young readers’ interests, written at various levels of difficulty to give them the practice they need to build up their phonological awareness sequentially.
Because children more naturally progress up the difficulty scale of the kits, they are able to start reading at their level and develop their skills, allowing them to be confident in their reading abilities.
This makes these kits a brilliant option for children learning English as a second language, as well!
The homeschool bundle for children learning to read at home contains 40 books and teachers guides to help you plan lessons. Currently, it is on sale for just $69.95 (the retail price is $130!)
As a parent, teacher or reading specialist it is critical that you have an expert guiding your child through phonics. JoAnne Nelson is precisely the person you want teaching your child phonics because she set the program up to guide users in a logical and scientifically-based method.
Nelson has a Master’s degree in the Teaching of Reading, and a Bachelor’s degree in Education.
She has decades of experience in curriculum development and gifted education at the local, state and regional levels, Reading Specialist, Language Arts Consultant and Director of Kindergarten and Early Childhood Programs at the local and regional levels.
Furthermore, her thesis on developing a phonics-based reading/writing program for primary grade students formed the foundation for SuperBooks, along with her insight from her long career in helping children learn to read.
SuperBooks.net has been around for 40 years and is widely recommended and recognized by teachers and schools as highly effective in helping young readers master this skill!
The old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ certainly applies in the online world of best free phonics lessons.
For the most part, the best free phonics lessons were not really the “best” at all until I reviewed high quality sites like SuperBooks.net, at which point it was obvious even their best free phonics lessons were indicative of the best online phonics program.
While parents and teachers can certainly make use of some of the best free phonics lessons available online, it is important to know that there are no best free phonics lessons which cover the entire K-3 curriculum in phonics.
As a reading specialist who has taught thousands of children to read, I recommend that you give your child the best phonics program when teaching them to read.
A comprehensive and scientifically proven program, such as SuperBooks.net, gets my highest recommendation and you can skip over those who claim to have the best free phonics lessons.
Pat Wyman is the CEO of HowtoLearn.com, best-selling author of over 15 books, and America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert.
She personally helps learners succeed with her Learning 2.0 and Career 2.0 Brain Advantage Programs. They consist of both learning and career assessments combined with her How to Learn Anything 100% Faster Program to empower learners with the most competitive learning advantages in every situation.
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