All schools will have their own favourite phonics programme. But whether you are Floppy fans or find joy in Jolly or elsewhere, the Guardian Teacher Network has some excellent resources to complement phonics work in school and at home and help your pupils to learn the most important lessons of their lives.
Real questions from parents and educators, answered by experts.
Parents helping their child learn to read with phonics often ask why it uses letter sounds and not names?
Children are first taught a small group of sounds, then learn to blend the sounds to read words made up of those sounds, e.g. mat. Then they are taught more sounds and learn to blend those too.
Children will focus on decoding (reading) three-letter words arranged consonant, vowel, consonant (CVC words) for some time. They will learn other letter sounds, such as the consonants g, b, d, h and the remaining vowels e, o, u. Often, they will be given letter cards to put together to make CVC words which they will be asked to say out loud.
It goes without saying that reading a range of age-appropriate texts as often as possible will really support children in their grasp of all the reading and spelling of all the phonemes.
Phonics is a method of teaching children to read by linking sounds (phonemes) and the symbols that represent them (graphemes, or letter groups). Phonics is the learning-to-read method used in primary schools in the UK today.
When your child is learning to read there are two crucial things to learn:
Say the sounds c-a-t to read cat, sh-o-p to read shop and s-t-r-ee-t to read street. If your child gets stuck and is struggling to blend the sounds, say the sounds yourself, quickly, until your child can hear the word!
While children are learning to say the sounds of letters out loud, they will also begin to learn to write these letters (encoding). They will be taught where they need to start with each letter and how the letters need to be formed in relation to each other. Letters (or groups of letters) that represent phonemes are called graphemes.
From the much maligned key stage 1 screening test which asks children to sound out words such as "drall", "halp" and "snope", to the current embrace of the synthetic phonics model in UK schools, how to teach reading and writing is a subject of hot debate.
Some sounds are represented by more than one letter such as sh in ship, ch in chat, th in thin, qu in quick and ng in sing. When you’re out and about point out examples of these to your child too. You might see them in posters, signs, or leaflets.
Another approach is to practise phonics when reading with your child. Here is a step-by-step method for practising phonics while reading:
Encourage your child to make a link between the sound and the written letter shape. Start with the sounds in your child’s name and then look out for them in signs. The sound m in McDonalds is always a good starting point too!
Many children find this difference confusing. So, instead of trying to teach the two at the same time, it is helpful to focus on teaching the letter sound first.
Children will also learn about consonant clusters: two consonants located together in a word, such tr, cr, st, lk, pl. Children will learn to read a range of CCVC words (consonant, consonant, vowel, consonant) such as trap, stop, plan. They will also read a range of CVCC words (consonant, vowel, consonant, consonant) such as milk, fast, cart.
Show a card to your child and say the sound. Ask your child to say it as well. This will help to build a link between a letter and its associated sound.
Only beginner readers need to sound out every word as they read all the time. But, they will still need to work out new and long words.
The aim is for children to be able to see a letter and then say the sound it represents out loud. This is called decoding.
The following websites will give you further information on phonic reading schemes and more detailed phonics advice.
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As World Book Day approaches, academic Andrew Davis argues that the synthetic phonics check isn't an appropriate way to teach or assess reading among primary students
Say a word and ask your child to break into its individual sounds. For example: pig, p i g. This technique is known as oral segmenting.
Children in Year 2 will be learning spelling rules, such as adding suffixes to words (such as -ed, -ing, -er, -est, -ful, -ly, -y, -s, -es, -ment and -ness). They will be taught rules on how to change root words when adding these suffixes (for example, removing the 'e' from 'have' before adding 'ing') and then move onto harder concepts, such as silent letters (knock, write, etc) and particular endings (le in bottle and il in fossil).
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Ask your child questions about the story you've been reading together to check they are understanding the words. For books to practise phonics at home, search 'Phonics Bug' in the Amazon Book Store.
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How to teach Phonics
Children are taught to read letters or groups of letters by saying the sound(s) they represent – so, they are taught that the letter l sounds like llllll when we say it. Children can then start to read words by blending (synthesising) the sounds together to make a word.
Sounding out words is at the heart of phonics, and it is therefore a simple and straightforward way of teaching that you can use confidently at home.
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Many teachers will be using supplemental phonics and word-recognition materials to enhance reading instruction for their students. In this article, the authors provide guidelines for determining the accessibility of these phonics and word recognition programs.
Speedy recognition of the sound for each letter is really important too, so your child can blend them to read words easily.
Lots and lots of books! Carry on sharing and reading lots and lots of stories and information books to and with your child.
Tips on finding great books, reading nonfiction and more
When your child is ready to write the word down, encourage them to tap out each sound before they write it. This helps children to maintain the correct sequence of letters.
A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound. The phonemes used when speaking English are:
If you’re not sure then use our sound chart to hear how to say each sound .
Pictures are great for sharing and talking about a story (which is really important too!) but don’t encourage your child to use pictures to guess the words that they don’t already know.