During my phone calls several parents asked about phonics. As you know phonics is the teaching of letter sounds and is one of the strategies that children use when learning to read. In nursery we focus on phase one.
Phase One phonics is about children discriminating between sounds and encourages children to:
- listen attentively;
- enlarge their vocabulary;
- speak confidently to adults and other children;
- discriminate phonemes;
- reproduce audibly the phonemes they hear, in order, all through the word;
- use sound-talk to segment words into phonemes.
The guidance document that we use at school reminds us of the importance of listening and speaking:
Modelling listening and speaking
The ways in which practitioners and teachers model speaking and listening, interact and talk with children are critical to the success of Phase One activities and to promoting children’s speaking and listening skills more widely. The key adult behaviours can be summarised as follows.
■ Listen to encourage talking – time spent listening to children talk to each other, and listening to individuals without too frequent interruption, helps them to use more, and more relevant, language. This provides practitioners with insights into children’s learning in order to plan further learning, that is make assessments for learning. Practitioners should recognise that waiting time is constructive. It allows children to think about what has been said, gather their thoughts and frame their replies.
■ Model good listening. This includes making eye contact with speakers, asking the sort of questions attentive listeners ask and commenting on what has been said. Effective practitioners adapt their spoken interventions to give children ample opportunities to extend their spoken communication.
■ Provide good models of spoken English to help young children enlarge their vocabulary and learn, for example, how to structure comprehensible sentences, speak confidently and clearly, and sustain dialogue. Phase One activities are designed to foster these attributes.
Here are some considerations to bear in mind when helping children with sounds…
■ During Phase One, there is no expectation that children are introduced to letters(graphemes). Of course some children may bring knowledge of letters from
home, and be interested in letters they see around them on signs, displayed
and in books. Practitioners and teachers should certainly respond to children’s comments and queries about letters and words in print.
■ Children who can hear phonemes in words and sound them out accurately are generally well placed to make a good start in reading and writing.
■ Children learning EAL generally learn to hear sounds in words very easily.
■ Children need to hear the sounds in the word spoken in sound-talk immediately followed by the whole word. Avoid being tempted to ask any questions in between such as I wonder what that word can be? or Do you know what that word is? The purpose is to model oral blending and immediately give the whole word.
■ It is important only to segment and blend the last word in a sentence or phrase and not words that occur at the beginning or middle of the sentence. Over time and with lots of repetition, the children will get to know the routine and as they gain confidence they will provide the blended word before the adult.
■ Using a toy is preferable to a puppet because it is important that children watch the adult’s face and mouth to see the sounds being articulated clearly, rather than focusing on the imitated movements of the puppet.
■ It is very important to enunciate the phonemes very clearly and not to add an‘uh’ to some (e.g.‘ssssssss’ and not ‘suh’, ‘mmmmmmmm’ and not ‘muh’).
■ Avoid using words with adjacent consonants (e.g. ‘sp’ as in ‘spoon’) as these will probably be too difficult for children at the early stages of practising blending and segmenting.
■ Once children have been introduced to blending and segmenting they should be practised hand in hand as they are reversible processes.
There’s so much “white noise” around and it’s really important to give children quiet time without any music, radio or television.
Here is a link to a listening game. Children (and adults!) will have to really tune into these sounds to identify them.
This is a rhyming game that you might like to play…
If you feel that you want to introduce children to the letter sounds then this is the jolly phonics song and will be help children to link sounds to letters.
Please don’t panic about phonics. The best thing that you can do to support your child with learning to read is to read with them and talk with them. We really want to foster a love of stories and a lifelong passion for reading. The best way to do this is by sharing books and enjoying stories together in a relaxed way.