Phonics SOS

Phonics SOS

 We’ve all heard of it…but does anyone actually know what it is? Ever wondered what the heck teachers are talking about in your child’s report or during parent’s evening when they mention phonics? Well, quite simply, phonics is HOW children are taught to read and write. Children learn the sounds that single letters and groups of letters make then use this information to read words and spell words. Simple, hey? Well….in principle it is! But I was never taught like that’, I hear you cry!! No and it can feel confusing so we’re here to help. Learning sounds helps children spell and read by breaking down each word rather than just learning spelling rules.

During the course of the first few years of school, your child will learn all of the sounds that are needed to help them spell and read words. Phonics is grouped into levels of difficulty and these groups are called Phases. Your child will be taught the letters and sounds in each Phase and taught rules that apply to these sounds. There are, of course, a few words that we cannot apply these rules to and these are called Tricky Words or Common Exception Words. Children learn to recognise and remember these as whole words.

Here’s a brief overview of the Phases:

Phase 1: This is focused on listening skills, hearing sounds and making sounds in different ways. It also includes rhyming, syllables and hearing sounds in words. Phase 1 is taught at nursery and pre-school. It is such a vital part of phonics learning that is sometimes overlooked in a rush for children to learn letters.

Phase 2: This is taught in the first year of school. Children will learn the most commonly used sounds, the letters which make these sounds and how to read and write them. They also learn some Tricky Words which don’t follow the sound patterns they have learnt. Some pre-schools will start to teach some sounds but this is always recapped at school.

Phase 3: Also taught in the first year of school, phase 3 includes more sounds, tricky words and also where two or three letters are used to make one sound (digraphs and trigraphs, for more on these see our jargon buster info at the end of this blog)

Phase 4: Sometimes taught in children’s first year at school and recapped in Year 1, sometimes started in Year 1. Phase 4 does not include new sounds, instead children learn longer words and where we blend consonants together e.g lamp, crisp, frog, step. They also learn lots of new tricky words.

Phase 5: Phase 5 is taught in Year 1. Using previously learnt sounds, children learn where the same sounds are written with different letters and groups of letters. For example, they will learn the ‘ai’ sound in rain can also be written like ‘ay’ as in day or like ‘a_e’ as in cake. They also learn some new Tricky Words.

Phase 6: Taught in Year 2 this is the last phase of formal phonics learning. All of the sounds have been learnt and this phase includes understanding the past tense, word endings, using apostrophes and more to help children become more fluent with reading and spelling.

There are a wealth of resources to help support your child’s learning of sounds on the internet but sometimes it can feel like too much. All schools teach phonics but they will use a range of different methods for doing this. It is a really good idea to ask your child’s teacher what scheme they use at school. Then, you can then have a little google to see if there are helpful videos/ resources which match how your child is learning in school. Many schemes will have recognisable pictures, songs and actions to help your child remember the sounds and letter shapes. When your child starts bringing books home to read most schools try to select books which only feature words that they have been taught during their phonics and literacy sessions. 

Phonics can include so many jargon terms which makes it even scarier. You might hear words like digraph, trigraph, blending, segmenting and phoneme to name just a few. If you’d like to know what all of these mean just pop to our jargon buster where we give you simple definitions that won’t hurt your brain!

We hope this is a useful overview and hasn’t been phonics overwhelm! We have lots of ways to help you more with your own knowledge and to support your child learning at home including two brilliant new online courses which you can access and learn in your own time. Check out the links below to learn more.

As always we would love you to get in touch to tell us if you found this helpful or if you have any questions at all.

Em and Vix xx

All About Sounds Online Workshop

If you have a child aged 2 – 4 this workshop gives you the tools to help them learn the first steps in phonics. 

First Year Phonics

Your ultimate guide to phonics in the first year of school!

Our All About Sounds kit has everything you need to support your child to learn Phase 1 phonics. Full of handy tips, game ideas and resources, this kit is your one stop shop to ensuring your child is prepared for phonics when they start school.

Should I teach my child letters before they start school?

Should I teach my child letters before they start school?

One of the most common questions I get asked as a teacher/ Headteacher when talking about children being ready for school is ‘Do they need to know their letters?’ and many parents worry about their child not ‘knowing enough’ before starting their school journey.

I think you will be pleased to hear that I always answer ‘No!’ There is no requirement for children to start school with any specific knowledge of letters, or numbers or anything else actually.  Schools are ready for children to start at all different levels of knowledge and they teach letters to all children even if they come in knowing some already. Phonics (the method for teaching children to read and write by linking sounds to letters) is taught in Reception classes usually daily. It’s a big part of their first learning at school and it’s normal for children to have very limited prior knowledge of letters.

So the short answer is no, your child doesn’t need to know their letters. However, many children are interested in letter shapes and are keen to learn. If this is the case then there’s no reason to hold your child back from finding out about letters but this blog is about some key information to think about before splurging on a load of letter shaped toys. And just to add here, if your child has no interest at all in letters please don’t worry, that’s very normal. Read on to find some ways you can really help them to be ready for school without a letter in sight.

Before children are really ready for letter recognition there is a huge amount of foundation building that parents and carers (including nurseries, childminders etc) can support with. These foundation skills are vital in getting children ready for their formal phonics teaching. I compare it to building a house, you wouldn’t just start with putting the bricks straight onto the mud, you need to dig out and lay some solid foundations. In order for children to be ready for their phonics learning in school, they need lots of playful experience with sounds which acts as these foundations.

We run workshops in Exeter explaining more about these key foundations and giving ideas for games and play at home. In this Blog post I’m going to give a brief explanation of three key areas which will really help to get children ready for phonics including some easy ideas to try at home. If you are interested to find out more check out our instagram and facebook pages for more ideas and info about workshops.

Listening skills are the first key piece in the phonics foundations jigsaw. This learning starts from the moment our precious little ones are born and we are always being told how important talking to our children, playing music and interacting with noises is for their development. Children need to be able to hear sounds and interpret them to later be able to hear words and unpick the individual sounds in them. 

There are loads of fun things to do with listening;

  • play music
  • make animal noises
  • play listening games when you are out and about
  • use household items to make sounds – bash pots and pans, boxes etc
  • make funny noises with your voices or bodies – clap, stomp, gargle, yawn and see if your child can copy you, apparently Alexa can make animal noises if you ask her!

Rhyming is another piece of the foundation puzzle and an important aspect of early phonics learning. Children don’t need to be able to make up rhymes but to be able to recognise when words sound similar or the same sets them up well for reading and writing skills later on. There is a huge selection of children’s rhyming books out there. Some of our favourites include the ‘Oi Cat’ series by Kes Gray and Jim Field, ‘Rhyme Crime’ by Jon Burgerman and anything by Quentin Blake or Julia Donaldson. Getting audio versions is really lovely especially if you can have them on in the car. Pointing out rhyming words to your children will really help them to distinguish rhyming and non-rhyming words even if they can’t hear the rhyme yet.

Some easy rhyming ideas for at home or on the go:

  • make up little rhyming phrases – let’s go to the park in the dark!
  • find objects/ toys which rhyme around the house and make a collection together (cat, hat, mat, rat etc, you can draw pictures if you don’t have all of the objects!)
  • sing nursery rhymes and childrens song’s as loads of these rhyme. See if you can change the words to make them funny while still rhyming. We often try new versions of ‘Twinkle twinkle’ and the current favourite is “twinkle twinkle little giraffe, how I wonder why you wear a scarf!!” There are much easier words to rhyme than giraffe, my tip is don’t choose giraffe!

Hearing Sounds in words is the third area I’m going to give a few tips on. Being able to hear individual sounds in words is key, it’s the most important skill children can grasp to help them be ready for learning letters. In order to read children need to link sounds to letters or groups of letters. Children who can hear the sounds in words and say individual sounds are really well prepared to start seeing how letters link to them. Making the sounds can be a challenge for adults, we often feel like we didn’t learn in this way and that it’s unnatural to us. We’re working on a page with sounds support and will link here when it’s done, watch this space. Until then there’s a little link to a helpful video under these ideas.

Ideas to practise at home:

  • focus on the first sounds in words and see if children can guess the word. Try “can you put on your sssssssss……..’ and see if you child guesses you mean socks.
  • Go on a treasure hunt around the house for items beginning with one sound eg ‘p’ you could find a pan, pen, pig some pasta etc.
  • Play I spy but use just sounds rather than letter names so say “I spy with my little eye something beginning with ‘ch’ for chair, ‘mmmmm’ for mummy or ‘ffffff’ for frog etc
  • Make up funny lists of words or names for people… magical, musical Mummy! Lovely, lively Lily!

These are just a few ways to support early phonics learning and to give your child some strong foundations of sounds knowledge. If your child is really keen to learn letters or you feel like they are ready then there are lots of ways to do this too. We would always advise learning letter sounds first rather than letter names as this is how children will learn in school. If you do want to introduce letters here are a few ideas:

  • use letter shapes in play – cookie cutters, magnetic letters, stencils etc
  • recognising the letters in children’s name and others in your family
  • looking at letters, they’re everywhere – books, posters, newspapers, road signs etc
  • cutting and sticking letter shapes from magazines or papers – see if you can find lots of the same letter shape
  • messy play – drawing letter shapes in shaving foam, sand, mud etc

If you are able to get out to playgroups and local classes then these will offer great experiences for listening, communicating and getting ready for more formal phonics in school. We go to a great class specifically designed to support children with early phonics learning. It’s called ‘Sounds Right Phonics’ and they are nationwide, offering sessions for babies right up to aged four. The classes are loads of fun, they cover lots of the foundation skills, early letter recognition and even gross and fine motor development. If you are in Exeter/ Exmouth area check out Jess via the link below.

Check out our instagram and facebook pages for more ideas and tips for early learning with your little ones and let us know if you have any comments or questions! 

Trigraphs

Trigraphs

So we are back to the world of phonics this week and delving into the concept of trigraphs.

If you have already read our blog post on digraphs (see here) you will know that they are simply two letters that make one sound. So, yes, you’ve got it trigraphs are three letters that, when placed side by side, will make one sound. The mind boggles!

If we look at the word ‘sigh‘ it is made up of two sounds; the initial s making this sound…..

and the igh is making the final sound……

Easy peasy! The tricky part is getting your child to spot them within words whilst reading. Typically, your child will begin learning their trigraphs during Year 1 and will be taught to include them in their writing as well as spotting them whilst reading. 

(If you would like to see the full episode of Alphablocks that focuses on the igh trigraph click here )

Supporting Your Child At Home

Listed below are some words containing the 4 trigraphs your child will initially learn during their phonics sessions (this number will increase as they learn their alternatives-we will touch more on that later…) This is nowhere near a comprehensive list- just a few words containing the trigraphs to help you get started at home. 

As always, we will be providing examples of ways of supporting your child with learning these trigraphs over on our Instagram page (if you haven’t already, go and give us a follow here). 

  • Ear
  • Gear
  • Hear
  • Tear
  • Rear
  • Dear
  • Near
  • Fear
  • Year
  • Beard

  • Fair
  • Pair
  • Chair
  • Lair
  • Hair
  • Stair(s)

  • Lure
  • Pure
  • Cure
  • Secure
  • Manure

  • Sigh
  • High
  • Light
  • Night
  • Right
  • Sight
  • Fight
  • Tight
  • Might

BUT FOR NOW………

Click on the button to link you to online magnetic letters. You could ask your child to write words containing one of the trigraphs (using the list above). Or you could write words that have a missing trigraph and ask your child to fill in the blanks. This is by no means a replacement for the real life alternative, but just in case you don’t have these at home.

If you hadn’t noticed already; we are huge fans of Alphablocks on CBBC. As well as providing accurate sounds they also have some fantastic online resources. Click on the button to discover more!

Finally, go and visit our Pinterest board dedicated to all things trigraphs for some inspiration for games and activities. You can find us here cool

 

Thanks for taking the time to read our posts; we do hope that they are useful to you as parents. As always, let us know if you have any questions or concerns. Happy trigraph-ing (most definitely made that up).