What the heck are phonics?
The sounds letters make on their own or in groups is known as ‘phonics’.
Phonics isn’t reading but being able to sound out the words using phonic knowledge. Reading is sounding out the text and understanding its meaning.
Just because someone can say each word in a book or document doesn’t necessarily mean that they can read and understand it. On the other hand if you can’t read the words, understanding the text is impossible. So reading and phonics go hand in hand.
Learning to read is like deciphering code!
Below is a section of the Enigma Code. Without knowing the key, the message is impossible to read (I have no idea what it says!!). This is a similar situation for children who don’t know the sounds the letters make. C-A-T is as much as a mystery as the code below. Crack the code and reading is achievable.
I love teaching phonics in and out of the classroom. Children who get upset and anxious when looking at a book are thrilled when they can read the words. It is a great pleasure to see their excitement and enthusiasm to read another book.
So, what is the best way to teach phonics?
Over the years I have tried many different teaching methods and schemes but am convinced the best way to teach phonics is a step by step synthetic approach based on the Letters and Sounds scheme produced by the Department for Education and Skills (UK).
This is based on learning one sound/phoneme each day. Learning a sound a day may seem an impossible task, I certainly thought so initially, but children soak up the sounds like little sponges. The idea is to learn one new sound each day but also reviewing the sounds learnt previously.
For example, if the sound for the day is ‘sh’, the lesson will begin with reviewing the sound ‘th’, moving on to learning the sound ‘sh’ and ending with an activity that gives children the opportunity to practice either the ‘sh’ sound or possibly, ‘sh’ and ‘th’ together.
Your aim is to help your child to acquire the key phonic knowledge and skills quickly and successfully so they can move on to independent reading and writing.
These are lovely resources for teaching early phonics. Having an object to hold is great for the kinaesthetic learner. Click on the links to take you to Amazon for these and other phonic resources.
Don’t under-estimate the potential to learn!
It is important not to underestimate children’s learning potential. We look at these little people and believe they are too young to learn about split digraphs, phonemes and graphemes but they thrive on them. Teaching them the correct terms gives them a thrill especially when Mummy and Daddy have no idea what the terms mean.
Of course, if your child is struggling with a particular sound or group of sounds, stick with it until they are successful. Like all learning, if you miss out a crucial part, nothing else can make sense and this is where the trouble starts.
I keep harping on about learning not being a race but I honestly believe that once the steps are in place, independent learning follows automatically. It isn’t a race. It doesn’t matter if you learn quickly or slowly, the purpose is to be confident in all the necessary steps to become independent and competent learners.
Take it slowly and take it step by step by step.
Do you have experience of teaching phonics that you would like to share?