Introduction to Phonics

Introduction to Phonics

The sunshine is here and the summer holidays are just around the corner! For those of us who will be waving their little ones off at the school gates for the first time in September, this is the ideal time to get ahead with the basics, or to keep older minds busy and refreshed for next term.

As my little girl Bridget will soon be joining her big brother at school, I have added a Phonics print to my educational print collection, as well as some free printable worksheets for all beginners in Phonics. My new Phonics print focusses on the first sounds they will learn and is a great reference as they progress through their Phonics journey!

So what is Phonics?

Phonics is simply the method now widely used to teach children to read and write, by blending the sounds of letters. Teaching Phonics is broken into 6 phases, the first starts through play at home or while at nursery. Here's a run down of the 6 phases of Phonics to give you a better understanding of what to expect and when.

Phase 1

Phase 1 phonics focuses on developing memory, listening, and speaking skills, and includes understanding environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body sounds, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and lastly oral blending and segmenting.

It turns out that your child banging on pots and pans does far more than just give you a headache! Making sounds on different objects, shaking rattles, and generally making a ruckus, is one of the first steps. Singing rhyming songs and clapping out rhythms, along with games like I-Spy all count towards Phase 1 learning.

A woodland walk chatting about what you can hear (the wind through the leaves, birds tweeting, twigs snapping etc) is a great way to encourage kids to distinguish between sounds, or if you’re crafty there are lots of tutorials online for making instruments at home out of recycled containers.

Phase 2

Over roughly 6 weeks in Reception, children will start Phase 2 and will begin to learn Phonemes (the sounds that letters make) focusing first on the 19 most common single letter sounds. Most schools begin with S, A, T, P, I and N.

By the end of Phase Two children will be taught to segment simple words, blend basic letter sounds and be able to read some Vowel+Consonant+Vowel (CVC) words such as M-U-M / D-A-D / C-A-T etc… They will also be taught to recognise some ‘tricky words’ (or common words that aren’t phonetic) like T-H-E / Y-O-U and G-O on sight.

You could also start sounding out letters of common household items to your child while you go about your day. Another easy idea is to put post-It notes or labels on different objects in daily use around the house to familiarise your child with the letters and word formations, spelling them out together.

Check out my free printables as a fun way to get them engaging in the first sounds!

Phase 3

Over roughly 12 weeks children will learn the sounds for the remaining letters of the alphabet, as well as letter names and more Graphemes (two or more letters that make up a sound) such as CH, OO, TH, SH etc… and will be encouraged to form words and begin to write each letter.

Letter and number magnets within reach on the fridge are an easy way to encourage word formation, writing letters and numbers in chalk on a patio or even drawing with a stick in sand or with a finger in rice on a tray, are all great activities for this stage of learning.

Phonics print and free Phonics printables

My new Phonics print focussing on the first sounds they will learn in phases 2 and 3 and is a great reference as they progress through their Phonics journey.

Phase 4

By now the majority of children should be confident with each phoneme and will begin to segregate and blend longer CVCC words like SUCH / BELT / MILK etc. They will practice reading and writing in sentences, learn more ‘tricky words’ and those with double consonant pairings such as SW and CL. At the end of this stage (towards the end of Reception) the majority of children will be be able to write each letter fairly accurately and sight-read simple words rather than sounding them out.

At this point it’s really practice and more practice! Encouraging kids to read road signs and street names, to label their drawings or write a little story to go with their artwork. Reading books together and playing rhyming games will all help to keep the information fresh in their minds ready for Phase 5!

Phase 5

This phase is a fairly big mental leap, starting in Year 1 it will take the whole of the school year for the children to master before they sit a Phonics Screening Test.

Children will learn new graphemes and alternative ways to pronounce them, such as the difference between the OW in SNOW and COW. They should also become quicker at blending the words and be able to do it silently. They will learn split diagraphs - also known as the ‘Magic E’ – which is two letters that work together even when split with a consonant to represent one sound, such as the A-E in Cake or O-E in Home.

They will continue to learn more ‘tricky words’ and by the end of the year will be able to write all of the letters correctly, read and spell unfamiliar words up to three syllables, read all 100 high frequency words and be able to spell most of them!

Try writing a series of small clues for your child to read with a treasure at the end to encourage them to stick with it! Lots of rhyming words and short sentences, helping them along if they struggle, then they can do the same for you.

Phase 6

This phase begins in Year Two, using all of the phonics knowledge that they have mastered up to this point, the aim is for the children to become fluent readers and accurate spellers (although accurate spelling often lags behind reading).

By Phase 6, children will be able to read using one of the strategies they have learned, through memory or on-sight, by sounding out in their heads or sounding out aloud. They will also learn prefixes, suffixes, tenses, punctuation (where to put an apostrophe in words like I’m), spelling rules, how to use a dictionary and how to proof-read their own work.

I’ve found that Kids comic books are great for this stage as the illustrations help to move the stories along. Writing short postcards or letters to friends and family before posting them at the local Post Office is a great novelty experience to encourage writing too.

It’s also important to remember that not all children learn at the same pace. But there are so many resources online for teaching phonics, from educational games to worksheets and craft activities to suit every phase of learning and ability.

I really hope that this has been helpful, it’s fascinating how little minds absorb information! I would love to know if you have used my printables, and of course to see my prints in situ! Tag #kidofthevillage and contact me via the website or on Instagram @kidofthevillage to let me know of any other educational prints you would like to see on your walls.

Enjoy the sunshine!

Hayley x

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