In my role as a Specialist Leader in Education I get to indulge my geek-like ways and deliver training sessions to a group of nervous and inexperienced student teachers. There are 3 key words I beg them to, if nothing else, remember about phonics...
FAST, FUN, FREQUENT
FAST- try and keep the pace of children's new learning snappy. Letters and Sounds suggests that a set of sounds (roughly 4 per set) are taught a week and I totally see how this works. After 1 week of phonics (provided each section of the session is taught daily) it is amazing just how many words and sentences most children can at least try to read! What a confidence boost!
Agghhh disclaimer- I am all for children learning at their own pace and totally see how some children are not suited to this set up, let alone phonics full stop and I am by no means advocating phonics as the only teaching method for reading nor am I suggesting L&S is the scheme to follow/ use it just happens to be the one I do- just so you know!
FUN- this is the whole reason I love phonics- IT IS FUN!!! If you can have a giggle with it then the children will too- my top 3 activities are
- 'Freddy (insert any puppet name here) Says' perfect for practising those oral blending skills. The puppet whispers an instruction in your ear and you orally segment it for the children who then blend it silently and follow 'Simon Says' style- I use short instructions such as 'Freddy says clap/ smile/ wave/ sit up' and only give the children about 5 instructions to keep this section snappy and fun.
- Silly Soup- you can play this in a variety of ways e.g. rhyming words or initial sounds but I continue to use this game at phase 3 to introduce new sounds. I love children to latch their new sound onto a familiar object as it overcomes any pronunciation issues and instantly makes them feel as though they know the sound already. To play Silly Soup you need a bowl, spoon and a range of ingredients which do and do not match the days sound. Pull one 'ingredient' out at a time and the children decide if it can or cannot go in the soup e.g. 'sh' may have a shoe, shark and ship in it. Those ingredients which did not contain the sound remain out of the soup- the children love to stir the soup and have a taste of it!
- Singing the alphabet- as corny as it sounds we love it! My group adore this silly monkey version and my colleague even has her group up doing a rap with dance moves. I think it is vital that they know the letter names before moving on to phase 5 where they will encounter all of those horrible alternative spellings of sounds the English language so kindly insists 6 year olds learn so why not make this most mundane of tasks fun and move beyond the common 'now I know my ABC' version.
FREQUENT- try and build in a short (20 mins) phonics session every day and ensure you spend some time in each session revisiting the sounds they have already learnt to ensure they are not forgotten. I'm always conscious to point out that whilst most schools teach phonics discretely it also needs to form a part of the wider Literacy curriculum and you need to remember to draw the children's attention to using their phonics knowledge when reading and writing outside of those 20 mins. This includes lots of teacher modelling so get 'phonicy' people!
Let's hear it for phonics- yay!