Our approach to learning phonics in EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) and KS1 (Key Stage 1) is through using Letters and Sounds: Principles and Practice of High Quality Phonics as well as Jolly Phonics, Big Cat phonics and Fast phonics first. We have a multisensory approach in EYFS and by using Jolly Phonics the pupils are provided with a picture, a song and an action to help them learn each different sound. This is an effective and interactive way for young learners to recall phonemes.
Letters and Sounds provides us with games and resources to support our teaching of phonics. It aims to build pupils’ speaking and listening skills, as well as prepare pupils to learn to read, by developing their phonic knowledge and skills. It sets out a detailed programme for teaching phonic skills, with the aim of pupils becoming fluent readers by age seven.
Throughout KS1, pupils are provided with a range of fiction and non-fiction books which are regularly changed to aid progression with their reading. We use the popular and well- established range of books that include; Phonics Bug, Oxford Reading Tree scheme. In addition to this, books from the Project X reading programme are incorporated to create further enjoyment for 21st century children.
Our pupils learn through a creative curriculum which provides them with the skills to research a theme using a variety of non-fiction texts.
Parent information about Phonics - parents_phonic_info.pdf
So, what exactly is phonics?
Words are made up from small units of sound called phonemes. Phonics teaches children to be able to listen carefully and identify the phonemes that make up each word. This helps children to learn to read words and to spell words
In phonics lessons children are taught three main things:
They are taught GPCs. This stands for grapheme phoneme correspondences. This simply means that they are taught all the phonemes in the English language and ways of writing them down. These sounds are taught in a particular order. The first sounds to be taught are s, a, t, p.
Children are taught to be able to blend. This is when children say the sounds that make up a word and are able to merge the sounds together until they can hear what the word is. This skill is vital in learning to read.
Children are also taught to segment. This is the opposite of blending. Children are able to say a word and then break it up into the phonemes that make it up. This skill is vital in being able to spell words.
What makes phonics tricky?
In some languages learning phonics is easy because each phoneme has just one grapheme to represent it. The English language is a bit more complicated than this. This is largely because England has been invaded so many times throughout its history. Each set of invaders brought new words and new sounds with them. As a result, English only has around 44 phonemes but there are around 120 graphemes or ways of writing down those 44 phonemes. Obviously we only have 26 letters in the alphabet so some graphemes are made up from more than one letter.
ch th oo ay (these are all digraphs - graphemes with two letters)
There are other graphemes that are trigraphs (made up of 3 letters) and even a few made from 4 letters.
Another slightly sticky problem is that some graphemes can represent more than one phoneme. For example ch makes very different sounds in these three words: chip, school, chef.
So why bother learning phonics?
In the past people argued that because the English language is so tricky, there was no point teaching children phonics. Now, most people agree that these tricky bits mean that it is even more important that we teach phonics and children learn it clearly and systematically. A written language is basically a kind of a code. Teaching phonics is just teaching children to crack that code. Children learn the simple bits first and then easily progress to get the hang of the trickier bits.
How is phonics taught?
Some people worry that phonics is taught to children when they are too young. However, those people might be surprised if they stepped into a phonics lesson. Phonics sessions are entirely made up from games, songs and actions and these sessions can last between 20 -30 minutes per day; to ensure that children are able to recap, learn, apply and consolidate their phonic teaching. In overall experience, (when phonics is taught well) children generally enjoy phonics so much that they beg their teachers to play phonics games with them at other times of the day. Phonics is taught through a variety of schemes suited to the children's needs and abilities including, Letters and Sounds, Jolly Phonics, Fast Phonics First and Big Cat Phonics.