Overview, things to think about when teaching phonics to deaf children, the benefits of pre- and post-tutoring.

Deaf children will not be able to hear the phonic sounds as clearly or easily as hearing children.

Sounds may be difficult to differentiate by lip pattern. Gesture and visual cues will support a child’s understanding, for example: 

  • Jolly Phonic actions or visual phonics 
  • writing the grapheme on the board so that they associate the grapheme with the phoneme

High frequency, unvoiced sounds of speech such as ‘s’, ‘f’ and ‘th’ will be more difficult for a deaf child to hear.

Things to think about when teaching phonics to deaf children

Teaching environment

A deaf child will benefit from a quiet environment with minimal background noise so that they can hear the teacher’s voice clearly.

In a classroom environment, it’s harder for a deaf child to distinguish sounds of speech over background noise, as hearing aids amplify all sounds.

Teaching pace

Check that the child has learnt each phoneme before moving to the next. 

Extra time or support may help when introducing new concepts, for example rhyme, alliteration, blending and segmenting.

Taking breaks or keeping sessions short

Deaf children actively listen in order to access teaching and learning. This demands sustained concentration, which can lead to tiredness. 

Listening breaks or frequent, short phonic sessions help deaf children to access, learn and make progress.

Benefits of pre and post-teaching

Pre-tutoring allows the child to hear the sound in a quiet environment.  This will help the child to access the content of the lesson and apply it. An adult can check that they can hear and pronounce each phoneme correctly.

Pre-tutoring gives the child more time to process and develop important skills such as rhyme or blending.

The teaching of phonics can be challenging if a child relies on lip reading as some sounds have a similar lip pattern, for example p and b.  Also, some sounds don’t have a distinct lip pattern, for example k or n.  

Pre and post teaching, as well as using hand gestures to support understanding, can help in these circumstances.  

Recapping phonemes that the child has already been taught will support working memory.

Additional support

If you need additional support, contact the Sensory Support Service.

The National Deaf Children’s Society has put together: 


Contact us
Sensory Support Service
Elmfield House
Greystoke Avenue
BS10 6AY

Phone: 0117 903 8442
Text: 07810 506 669
Email: sensorysupportservice@bristol.gov.uk