Why phonics is important
Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5 to 7. Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment. Children who have been taught phonics also tend to read more accurately than those taught using other methods, such as ‘look and say’. This includes children who find learning to read difficult, for example those who have dyslexia.
What is phonics?
Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skilfully. They are taught how to:
- recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes;
- identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make - such as ‘sh’ or ‘oo’; and
- blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word. Children can then use this knowledge to ‘de-code’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read.
How is phonics taught at Haimo?
We teach the children phase 1 from Nursery up to phase 6 in Year 2.
Typically, phases follow the following pattern of teaching:
Nursery - Phase 1
Reception - Phase 2 & 3
Year 1 - Phase 4 & 5
Year 2 - Phase 6, including learning through a phonics-based spelling programme.
Styles of teaching
We use a range of teaching strategies when delivering our phonic sessions. Visual, audio and kinaesthetic styles are delivered in a variety of practical, musical, reading and writing activities. Sessions typically run 20 minutes a day.
What can Parents and Carers do to support their child/children?
Phonics works best when children are given plenty of encouragement and learn to enjoy reading and books. Parents/carers play a very important part in helping with this. Some simple steps to help your child learn to read through phonics:
- Ask your child’s class teacher about how you can reinforce phonics at home. For example, your child/and or the teacher will be able to tell you which letters and sounds the class is covering in lessons each week.
- You can then highlight these sounds when you read with your child. Teaching how sounds match with letters is likely to start with individual letters such as ‘s’, ‘a’ and ‘t’ and then will move on to two-letter sounds (digraphs) such as ‘ee’, ‘ch’ and ‘ck’.
- With all books, encourage your child to ‘sound out’ unfamiliar words and then blend the sounds together from left to right rather than looking at the pictures to guess. Once your child has read an unfamiliar word you can talk about what it means and help him or her to follow the story.
- Your child’s teacher will also be able to suggest books with the right level of phonics for your child. These books are often called ‘decodable readers’ because the story is written with words made up of the letters your child has learnt. Your child will be able to work out new words from their letters and sounds, rather than just guessing.
- Try to make time to read with your child every day. Other adults in the home can help, too. Encourage your child to blend the sounds all the way through a word.
- Word games like ‘I-spy’ can also be an enjoyable way of teaching children about sounds and letters. You can also encourage your child to read words from your shopping list or road signs to practice phonics.
- Make use of your child's reading record, which is a great way for teachers and parents to communicate about what children have read. The reading record can tell your teacher whether your child has enjoyed a particular book and shows problems or successes he or she has had.