Phonics is a method of teaching beginners to read and pronounce words by learning the phonetic value of letters, letter groups and especially syllables. Research shows that phonics is the most effective way of teaching reading to young children of all abilities.
Teaching phonics is often broken down into ‘Phases’ from 1 through to 6.
The first phase of phonics focuses on developing children’s listening skills. Children are taught about different sounds such as environmental and instrumental as well as rhyming, voice sounds and alliteration.
After progressing to phase two, children start to learn about the sounds that different letters make, or ‘Phonemes’ which are the smallest units of sound. After phase two, children should be able to read and spell out some vowel-consonant and consonant-vowel-consonant words. Examples of these types of words include ‘cat’, ‘bed’ and ‘cup’.
Phase three continues with the teaching of phonemes and introduces the remaining, more difficult phonemes which are primarily made up of two letters. These are called digraphs, or two letters that make one sound. Examples of digraphs would be ‘ch’, ‘sh’, ‘oa’ and ‘ai’.
After entering phase four, children should now be confident with phonemes. In this phase children will be practising reading and spelling high frequency words and writing sentences. They will also start to learn trickier four and five letter words.
Phase Five of phonics generally takes place throughout the whole of Year 1, when pupils are aged between 5 and 6 years old. New graphemes are taught, which are different ways of spelling each sound. Children will also learn about split digraphs which are similar to digraphs except with another letter in between e.g. take (a_e) and bike (i_e)
At the end of the year children should be able to use their knowledge of phonics to read and spell unfamiliar words of up to three syllables.
Phase six is the final phase in teaching phonics and takes place throughout Year 2, between the ages of 6 and 7. By this time children should be able to read words by utilising one of three different strategies which are reading them automatically, decoding them silently and decoding them aloud.
During phase six children will learn about prefixes and suffixes, tenses, dictionary use, spelling rules, grammar and punctuation such as apostrophes.
Jolly phonics is a multi-sensory approach to phonics that is often taught in schools. Each of the 42 letter sounds has a corresponding action.
The letter sounds are taught in a specific order which allows children to begin building words as early as possible (not alphabetical order).
Jolly phonics teaches five core skills, which include:
- Learning letter sounds, where children are taught all 42 main letter sounds. This includes the alphabet sounds as well as digraphs.
- Learning letter formation. Children learn how to form and write the letters using different multi-sensory methods.
- Blending, which is when children are taught how to blend the sounds together to read and write new words.
- Identifying the sounds in words, or segmenting. This is where children listen for the sounds in words, helping to improve spelling.
- Children are also taught about tricky words which have irregular spellings. These are learnt separately from other words.
We’ve put together a list of our favourite phonics activities that can be used in both the classroom and at home.
To play missing sound, you should start by drawing an image on the whiteboard. Next to the image, write the name of it with one of the sounds missing. For example you may draw an image of a Cat and write ‘_at’ next to it. The children then have to provide you with the missing sound, in this case, the sound that ‘C’ makes when saying cat. This can be played with children on their own, in groups or as a whole class exercise.
Pen and eraser
This game can be played either individually or in pairs, give each student or pair a pen and an eraser. You should then pick two different sounds that you would like the class to practice, designate one sound to the pen and one to the eraser.
Say a word out loud, if the word starts with one of the designated sounds then the children have to correctly raise either the pen or eraser. If you say a word that doesn’t incorporate one of the designated sounds then the children have to make a big ‘X’ shape with their arms.
Whisper down the line
To play whisper down the line, split your class into two groups and have them stand in two straight lines. Whisper a word or phonic to the first two students. The students then have to whisper down the line until it reaches the student at the back. At this point the last student has to run to the whiteboard and write down what was whispered to them. If both teams are correct then the winner is determined by the first time to write the phonic.
This game is great for both parents and teachers. When outside with either your child or your class ask children to identify the sounds that they can hear around them. You can also pick out objects that you can see, and ask the children to spell the word and identify the sounds that make up the word. This can be a great game to play when walking to school or in the park.
This activity can be played by individuals, groups or classes. First, write a greeting phrase on the board such as “Hello”. Then ask students to practice saying it to different types of people, e.g. good friends, family members or someone they don’t know.
This helps to teach them about how the same word can be said in many different ways, depending on the circumstances of the conversation.
At Early Learning Furniture, we offer a range of free classroom resources, such as the alphabet set which is great for teaching phonics to children.
We are experts in early years’ education resources including classroom furniture, school dining furniture and school play equipment. For more information about our products, please contact us or call us on 01733 511121.