Intensive Phonics

Purpose: The Intensive Phonics Institute is dedicated to the promotion of intensive phonics in every first grade classroom by providing information, materials, workshops, and demonstration teaching.

Fundamental Premise: True to its name, The Intensive Phonics Institute believes that students who begin their reading instruction with intensive phonics will become far better readers, spellers, and writers than those who begin with less intensive approaches. 

What about other popular approaches? Many teachers these days were trained in Whole Language, Balanced Literacy, or Guided Reading. These top-down approaches focused on literature rich classrooms, but often at the expensive of intensive phonics - all too often failing students who need stronger and more direct instruction in phonics.

What is DISEC?  DISEC stands for Direct, Intensive, Systematic, Early and Comprehensive instruction in a hierarchy of prearranged discrete reading skills. 

What is Intensive Phonics? The term, intensive phonics, was coined by Sister Monica Foltzer, former Director of the Intensive Phonics Institute at Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio. It is termed intensive because all the basic 44 English speech sounds (phonemes) are taught in connection with their spellings in a logical, sequential, and methodical manner in the shortest time possible, generally just one semester. Particular attention is paid to phonic decoding and orthographic mapping. We have published Foltzer’s A Sound Track to Reading, advanced, intensive phonics book and reader in a convenient paperback format. 

What’s the deal about sight words? Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Intensive Phonics is the total rejection of teaching sight words with whole word memorization. This is a universal practice in today’s classrooms; yet, it is totally rejected by advocates of intensive phonics. We are convinced that memorizing sight words (Dolch or Fry), in many instances, leads students to view all words as sight words to be memorized without reference to the sound values represented by the letters. To compensate for poor phonics skills (phonemic awareness), the students resort to guessing, a bad reading habit that can become so engrained that it is most difficult to break. 

Why does the Intensive Phonics Institute promote part-to-whole phonics instead of whole-to-part phonicsWhole-to-Part Phonics is part and parcel of the Whole Language approach and her sisters: Balanced Literacy, Guided Reading, Reading Recovery (remedial arm of Whole Language), and Leveled Literacy Intervention. This approach requires students to memorize word as wholes and then using onset-rime (b-at), to figure to the sound-to-symbol relationships (phonics). The problem with this approach is that memorizing words as wholes develops a wholistic reflex in the right hemisphere of the brain that creates a cognitive conflict making it difficult to develop a phonics reflex later. 

What reading programs does the Intensive Phonics Institute recommend? We recommend two programs; Blend Phonics for younger students and A Sound Track to Reading for teens to adults. Both programs are based on the Intensive part-to-whole phonics approach. Other programs could be recommended, but these two are the least expensive and among the most effective. Both programs feature synthetic phonics with body-coda (b-at) sequential/cumulative decoding (Pace Isabel L. Beck's Making Sense of Phonics) rather than analytical phonics with onset-rime decoding


 We provide expert instruction in manuscript and cursive handwriting. 

 What about the linguistic side of Intensive Phonics? Intensive phonics is based on a thorough analysis of the relationships between spoken and written English. Here is a video explaining the A Sound Track to Reading Phoneme Charts

The Science of Reading: Videos from the Reading League.

1.  Learning to Reading Words: Is it a Visual Memory Task? 

2. Orthographic Mapping: What it is and Why it is important

3. Syllable Patterns and Syllable Division 

4. .Phoneme vs. Phonological Awareness: Knowing the Difference Matters for Assessment and Instruction. 

5. Recent Advances in Understanding Reading Development and Difficulties: Prevention & Intervention. 

6. Oral Reading Fluency: Understanding it to Improve it. 

7. Strategies for Teaching Irregular “Tricky” Words

8. Dispelling Misconceptions of Dyslexia. I do agree that some dyslexia is inherited, but I highly suspect that much of what passes for dyslexia is simply the logical result of inappropriate beginning reading instruction. Dr. Murry gives hope for improvement if appropriate instruction is afforded. I have taught people as old as 41 to read so I agree that it is never too late. 

9. The Science of Reading a white paper by Laura Steward, Author and National Director for The Reading League. 

Lyn Stone

Orthographic Mapping Explained

Popular animated presentation of Dr. Kilpatrick’s Orthographic Mapping.   Reverse Sentence Reading: A Demonstration 

The Reading Wars: Phonemes or Whole-Words? A easy-to-understand YouTube presentation, 6:13 minutes.


Mr. Potter's Approach to Education 

To teach the heart, where lies the gold,

My goal shall always be,

With warm love and true kindness

For all the world to see. 

                      By Donald L. Potter 1/1/2014


Reader Come Home. Maryanne Wolf explores how our brains process reading print versus digital mediums. There is cause for alarm. Schools might be wise to reconsider the mad rush to use digital devices in the classroom. 

Mr. Potter originally created this page to support the A Beka Book Curriculum at the Odessa Christian School in Odessa, Texas, where he taught for 13 years. Mr. Potter resigned from the school on May 31, 2019 in order to concentrate his efforts on promoting the goals of the Intensive Phonics Institute, 



Page last revised 12/29/2019.