Phonics is a method of teaching children to read. Phonics works by breaking words down into it's individual sounds. There are 44 different sounds in the English language. Learning to read with phonics is therefore a bit like learning a code, after learning just a few sounds, you will be able to use this code to read 100's of words. The more sounds you know, the more words you will be able to work out how to read.
Not all words are phonetically decode-able however, a select few words you need to learn through the 'sight words' method of learning to read. Sight words are when you learn to read by memorising 1,000's of words individually.
Your child will be taught two crucial things when they are learning to read using synthetic phonics:
- How sounds are represented by written letters. For example, they will be taught that the letter ‘m’ represents an mmm sound.
- How sounds can be blended together to make words. For example, they will be taught that the sounds of the letters ‘c-a-t’ blend together to make the word ‘cat’
Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5 to 7. Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment. Children who have been taught phonics also tend to read more accurately than those taught using other methods, such as ‘look and say’.
So.... How do we teach Phonics at Southfields?
At Southfields Primary we believe that the teaching of high quality systematic phonic work is the prime approach to decoding print. We also teach alternative phonics which is for pupils who benefit from a different approach when learning to read. This involves strategies such as flashcards.
We enable children to start learning phonic knowledge and skills systematically from when they arrive in Reception with the expectation that they will be fluent readers having secured word recognition skills by the end of Key Stage One.
We teach discrete daily sessions progressing from simple to more complex phonic knowledge and skills covering the grapheme- phoneme correspondences. The lessons follow the structure of ‘Review, teach, practise, apply’ to ensure that children are consolidating phonic knowledge and skills over time and they are able to apply them in context. Consequently, wherever possible, links between phonic knowledge and understanding are made to learning in both reading and writing. These lessons proceed at a pace and include daily teaching of high frequency words, they are practical and we use a range of interactive resources. Activities are carefully chosen to ensure that children develop skills in aural discrimination, phonemic and rhyme awareness, blending and segmenting as well as grapheme correspondence.
We use a multi-sensory approach so that children learn variously from simultaneous visual, auditory and kinaesthetic activities which are designed to secure essential phonic knowledge and skills.We demonstrate that phonemes should be blended in order from left to right. We teach children to apply their phonic knowledge and skills as their first approach to reading and spelling even if a word is not completely phonically regular.
We follow the order and structure of 'Letters and sounds' which can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/190599/Letters_and_Sounds_-_DFES-00281-2007.pdf
We use Jolly Phonics to support our teaching of phonics as it offers a multi-sensory approach with songs, actions and images to support children to learn each sound.
An example of how we use Jolly phonics resources to teach our phonics lessons
In phonics, it's important to pronounce "pure sounds": for example, the sound /m/ is pronounced 'mmmm' and not 'muh' or 'em'. This makes it much easier for children to blend sounds together to read.
This video can help you pronounce the sounds:
How can I help at home:
There are so many easy things you can do to help support your child’s phonics learning. Here are a few ideas from Oxford Owl:
1. Talk, talk, talk!
As a parent, you are the model of good speaking and listening. Regularly introduce new words (vocabulary). For example, for the word big you could also introduce large, huge, or enormous. Encourage them to say the word too. This is not about reading the words but about your child hearing and saying them.
2. Read to and with your child
This models good reading skills and promotes reading enjoyment. Have a special book box or bag where your child can keep the stories and any other texts, such as comics or non-fiction books, you’ve read together recently. Re-read these so that over time your child builds up their stock of stories and texts they know well.
Teach nursery rhymes and songs and make lots of opportunities to sing and recite them.
4. Pronounce words and sounds clearly
In all games and activities make sure you pronounce the speech sounds clearly and as short as possible. Do not make them too long. For example, the letter ‘m’ has a short /m/ sound not a continuous /mmmmmmm/ sound. Try not to add an extra sound onto the speech sound too. For example, the sound is /m/ NOT /m-uh/.
5. Rhyming games and activities
These kinds of games are fun to do and will support your child in hearing speech sounds that are the same and that are different. For example:
Into the pot: Model the phrase ‘into the pot goes’ while placing objects that rhyme into a pot/bowl (for example, a bat, a hat, a cat, a mat). Ask your child to repeat with you. Do this lots of times and then see if they can do it independently. You can then vary this; choose objects so that they have to decide which will not go in the pot e.g. a cat, a rat, a hat, a bird.
6. Play phonics games
Play simple phonics word games. Great games can be found at www.phonicsplay.com
7. Model blending
Start off using just the speech sounds and then immediately say the word. For example, At the shop I will buy a… /m/ /a/ /p/ – map, a /b/ /e/ /d/ – bed, a /d/ /u/ /ck/ – duck. Encourage your child to join in with you after you have this modelled for them. Then say the sounds and ask your child to say the whole word.
8. Wizard’s Magic River
Prepare a box/tray with small objects or pictures from around the house (for example, a peg, a bag, a cup, a pen). Say the words, ‘Wizard, Wizard can we cross your magic river?‘ Ask your child to repeat this to memorise the sentence. You are now the Wizard!
Then they say the sentence to you and you reply saying the sounds in order. For example, ‘only if you give me the…‘ /p/ /e/ /g/. Develop these games further by using word cards instead of objects so your child reads the words.
9. Play ‘Speedy Speak’
Make or buy small flashcards with the speech sounds on them. Keep a set in your bag to play while waiting for a sibling, or going to a café. Using the timer on your mobile phone, select the sounds and letters you child has been taught so far. Place them in a pile. Start the timer (set to whatever time you wish – for example, 30 seconds).
Ask your child to turn over the cards one at a time and say the sound clearly. (If they get to the end of the pile before the timer stops, they keep turning over the same cards.) Count how many times they say a sound correctly. Keep a note and next time tell them that you’re going to see if they can beat their record!