What is Phonics?
Phonics is the name most used to describe how children are taught to read and write in learning settings today. It concentrates on teaching the main sounds in English, not just the alphabet.
Some Phonics terminology:
In the teaching of Phonics, the letter shape is known as a grapheme and the letter sound as a phoneme. There are 44 phonemes (sounds) that need to be learnt. Some of these are represented by a single grapheme (letter) e.g. “a” as in “ant”. Others are written with two letters such as “ee” and “or”. These are called digraphs. Others are written with three letters such as “igh” as in “sight” and “ure” as in “pure”. These are called trigraphs. Once children have an understanding of these initial sounds, they can begin to use this knowledge to blend. Blending is the process of saying the individual sounds in a word and then running them together to make the word e.g. d-o-g makes dog. Some words in English have an irregular spelling and cannot be read by blending, such as “said”, “was” and “one”. Unfortunately, many of these are common words. The irregular parts have to be remembered. These are called the tricky words.
When is Phonics usually taught?
Phonics is usually introduced in Reception Class and continued until the end of Year 2. Schools normally have a Phonics session each day and will follow a six-phase programme, introduced by the Government called ‘Letters & Sounds’, to ensure all nuances of language are learnt. However, schools are not obliged to follow this programme and often adapt the way they deliver Phonics to suit the ability and needs of the children. Some schools use programmes such as Jolly Phonics or Read, Write, Inc. to help teach Phonics.
Whatever methodology is applied, most schools adhere to the Government intention to “equip children who are 5 with the Phonics knowledge and skills they need to become fluent readers by the age of 7.”
What will Ladybird do?
Considering the above, until your child starts school, it’s not feasible for pre-schools to teach children more than the basics, as this could hinder them in Reception Class if their school uses a different approach to the one they’ve started to learn.
We do introduce the children to letters and most importantly we help them to recognise the sound the letter makes, thus, giving them an appreciation of the phoneme. As a first step, children need to be able to hear sounds in spoken words and then replicate them orally. We work on oral segmenting and blending words, using body percussion to help find rhythm and pattern.
Remember we are here to give your child a good start in education – through play and experiences, helping to prepare them for school, and school is the best place for them to learn Phonics as schools have tried and tested methods and systems in place.
What you can do?
Often as parents, we become concerned with how and when our children are going to read and forget that reading, at any level, should be enjoyable. So, share books, magazines, comics, newspapers, football programmes, take away menus, shopping catalogues, anything with text that ignites your child’s interest to read. Simple things like knowing the text conveys a meaning, is read from left to right, is supported by illustrations, punctuation etc. are all really beneficial aspects of reading.
• Talk to them about the sound they have learnt at pre-school this week – ask your child what things they can think of that starts with that sound.
• Read to your child every day – find 10 minutes and sit together with a book. Don’t worry if it’s the same book over and over again!
• Join the library – it’s free to do and you can borrow books from any library in Bedfordshire, not just Ampthill!
Here is a list of websites, programmes and magazines that support the learning of Phonics (please bear in mind, most of the resources are aimed at 5-7 year-olds):
• Alphablocks (CBeebies – TV)
• Sounds Like Fun (Cartoonito – TV)
We have provided some ideas for games to play that may support your child with simple Phonics.
Remember, that when your child starts in Reception Class, their class teacher will provide you with all the support you and your child need to learn Phonics. So above all, pick up a book and share some time together.
Phonics games that can be played at home
Most of these games are based upon identifying sounds in words. The easiest way to know how to spell a word is to listen for the sounds in that word. Even with the tricky words an understanding of letter sounds can help. Start by having your child listen for the first sound in a word. Games like I-Spy are ideal for this. Next try listening for the end sounds, as the middle sound of a word is the hardest to hear. Begin with simple three-letter words such as cat or hot. A good idea is to say a word and tap out the sounds. Three taps means three sounds. Say each sound as you tap. Take care with digraphs. The word fish, for example, has four letters but only three sounds, f-i-sh.
1. Mood Sounds
Say a letter sound and ask the children to repeat it. Ask the children to say the sound as if they were angry, happy, frightened etc.
2. Gobbler/Muncher Game
Use a cereal box to make a person. e.g. Gordon the Gobbler. Have a large hole for the mouth. Collect a variety of objects beginning with 2 different sounds. Ask your child to select an object from your tray that begins with a certain sound. Children feed the object to the gobbler who replies with an “mmmm” sound if they are correct.
3. Hoop game
Get 2 hoops, trays or plates and place a letter card on each of them e.g. s and a. Have a variety of objects beginning with these 2 sounds. Ask your child to select an object and say the name of it. Repeat it several times and then ask your child to place it on the correct letter tray.
Introduce a puppet to your child. Explain that it is finding it hard to say some words. Ask your child to select an object out of a bag. The puppet pronounces it incorrectly – maybe missing off the initial or end sound. The children help the puppet say the word correctly emphasising the part of the word that was missing. For example, the puppet says ‘encil’, the child can say the word correctly ‘pencil’ and then the adult can emphasise the ‘p’ sound that was missing.
5. Rogue Sound Game
Show a variety of objects to your child. All of the objects to have the same initial sound except for one item. Children to identify which is the rogue item. e.g. sun, sausages, cup, scissors.
Bingo boards can easily be made to suit the ability of your child. You can use them in a variety of different ways to help your child learn the letter sounds. Make a board containing 6 letters of the alphabet. Then make a set of 6 letter cards that match the board. You can make 2 boards to play a matching game with your child or one of you could be the bingo caller and say the letter on the cards and the other person finds the letter on their board and puts a counter or toy on it. You can just match the letters or you could have some objects to match to the letter boards. Your child can then pick an object and place it on the correct letter to show what sound the object begins with.