With regards to learning to spell, the term "phonics" refers to learning what sounds letters and letter combinations make. For example, students learn that vowels have both short and long sounds and that the suffix "-tion" is pronounced as "shun." They are able to realize what sound is being used by looking at the letters before and after a letter or letter group.
Once children understand what sounds compromise the English language, they can put these sounds together so that they can learn to read, write and recognize unfamiliar words. Students can take each component of an unfamiliar word, determine what sound it makes and put the sounds together to read the new word. Phonics also makes reading easier because students can recognize sounds that commonly occur, such as "un" and "pre."