Phonics in Early Years
Gusford Primary School
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Learning to read with phonics
OUR INVITATION TO YOU
Education does not begin at four years of age or at nine o’clock in the morning. If we are to be effective as teachers of your children we need you!
Reading is one of the most important things your child will learn to do at school. With your support we aim to help your child to enjoy reading in its own right so that your child will come to love and value reading and books for the pleasure they give but also as a way of finding out independently about everything else in the world. In this modern world of computers and internet access it is just as important to value our wonderful world of books.
Reading should never be a chore. With adult support and enthusiasm all children will enjoy the magic of stories and rhymes. Our enthusiasm is vital in getting children to value and enjoy books. Keep reading stories to your child at home. You can start reading to a baby as young as three months and keep reading to them up into their teens. Please use this booklet in conjunction with the ‘Read with me’ booklet. Look on the school website for this helpful booklet.
Learning to read with phonics (letter sounds)
The children at Gusford in our Foundation Stage gain a wonderful experience of listening to and joining in with rhymes, songs and stories. They experience what we call a ‘language rich’ environment. Children will also be enriched with this environment at home. A child who has a good knowledge and experience of rhymes, songs and stories has the basis of becoming a confident reader later in school. The children at Gusford experience the ‘Jolly Phonics’ method of teaching reading initially. Teachers in the infants use the synthetic method of teaching the letter sounds in a multi sensory and fun way. Children develop skills in order to use the letter sounds to read and eventually write words.
Your support is vital.
Your support at home and in school is vital to encourage your child. Your child will benefit from praise and encouragement as they learn how to read. The ‘technical’ side of learning letter sounds and key words can be tedious but we try to teach phonics in a fun, active way. Each child will be different and learn at their own pace. Some children are ready to read whilst still in nursery yet others need time and will become more confident as they move into year one. Some children may have good language skills and love books yet still take time to learn the technical side of reading. They may need additional support to help them remember symbols and words. Some children find it more difficult to ‘hear’ letter sounds and some children benefit from having a good ‘visual memory.’ Even in your own family each child will learn differently and at their own pace. Some children are just too tired after a long day at school so be guided by staff and talk to them for ideas.
BASIC SKILLS FOR READING
- Children need to learn the sounds that the letters make.
- They need to learn how to recognise and form the letters.
- They need to learn how to ‘blend’ the letter sounds together to make whole words.
- They need to learn how to recognise and identify sounds or combination of sounds in words.
- They learn how to read and later spell those ‘tricky’ words by sight.
Generally these skills are taught together even though they are talked about separately in sections in this booklet.
LEARNING THE LETTER SOUNDS IN FOUNDATION.
At Gusford we generally introduce the children to the letter sounds in a particular order. This is very important at the start. Once the first 12 letter sounds are learnt then we may slightly change the order depending on the children who are being taught. We introduce the first six letters as follows.
s a t p i n
The next six letters are:
c/k e h r m d
We teach each sound with an action to go with it. A child learns to recognise the shape of the letter, the sound it makes and the action to go with it. We also teach a little song as well to support reinforcement. At Gusford we introduce the children to the letter sounds at a steady pace allowing the children to gain confidence and practise a range of activities to reinforce learning. Children love to practise the sounds and actions and will choose to do this independently or with a friend. Ask staff for a copy of these sounds and actions. There are plenty of Jolly Phonic materials available for you to buy as parents. These can be ordered online or bought from the Early Learning shop in town.
It is better to teach your child the ‘sound’ of the letter before its ‘name.’ It is also most important to leave showing children capital letters until later. Children who are ‘taught’ at home to write in capital letters (upper case) find it very difficult later to write in small letters (lower case.) Once your child is in nursery we will mention the letter name but always tell them what the sound is. Your child will accept that the capital letter at the start of their name is special.
- Children will learn each letter by the sound it makes and not the name. eg: the letter b will say (buh) and not (bee).
- Learning the sounds correctly will help your child when blending letters together.
- The first six letters are introduced to the children as they make a large range of simple words. The letters b and d are introduced in different groups as they are easy to muddle visually.
LEARNING TO FORM LETTERS CORRECTLY.
It is very important that your child learns to hold their pencil correctly. Your child needs to have strong finger muscles in order to be able to do this. It is important that your young preschool child experiences a wide range of activities. This starts with your child being aware of their body and learning to run, skip, jump and play physical games. Good fine motor control comes once your child has developed good gross motor skills. Your child will develop strength in their finger muscles through a range of activities.
- Making play dough/ rolling, twisting, cutting dough.
- Building with large and small bricks. Learning to place them one on top of each other.
- Playing with duplo then lego. Fixing small pieces together will strengthen muscles.
- Threading small shapes and beads. Using different pasta shapes to make necklaces.
- Finger/ action songs are great fun and a good way to develop muscles. Clapping/ singing ring games are also great fun.
- Using a range of crayons and paint brushes. Use large movements first. Use large paint brushes and water on the patio outside in summer.
When your child shows an interest in picking up a crayon or pencil try and help them to hold it correctly. It is the same position whether they are left or right handed. (Some children take until at least the age of four to show which is their dominant hand.) The crayon needs to be held in a ‘tripod’ grip between the thumb and the first two fingers. You can buy a triangular grip from shops or ask staff at school. Your child may want to do try the following activities at home:
- Dot to dot with pictures.
- Magic painting books with brushes and water.
- Colouring books. Simple pictures to start. Try sitting with your child and colouring together. Talk about what you are doing.
- Give your child a black felt pen to draw with. Their early pictures show up so much clearer. Photo copy a picture your child has drawn, enlarge it so they can then paint it.
- Puzzle and activity books are great fun too.
- Simple tracing activities are still popular.
- Play a game where you draw something and your child copies it. Draw shape pictures using triangles, squares, circles and rectangles.
Learning to hold the pencil correctly helps your child to have relaxed muscles when drawing and writing later on. Ask staff to show you if you are unsure. An incorrect grip will cause problems later.
Your child needs to learn to form each letter in the correct way.
The letter c is introduced early on. This letter forms the basis as several other letters. We tend to teach the children the formation in families. Ask staff for a handwriting sheet that shows the flicks on the letters. No letter starts at the bottom.
c a d g o q
r n p m h b
i f l t k j
x v w z
u y s (e starts in the middle)
Blending is when you say individual sounds within a word. If you want to spell cat you would put c-a-t together. You would say cuh- ah- tuh. Each letter needs to be said softly. Check with staff if you are unsure about some letters. Segmenting is when you take a word apart. (A bit like the segments of an orange,) So to read the word hat you would split the word up into the three letter sounds- huh-ah-tuh. Once your child has learnt their first six letter sounds there are many words that you can read and write together. See how many you can make together. Make some letter cards and have fun as a family.
- Your child will first sound out the word by saying each letter sound.
- Then your child may silently sound out the word in their head and then say the whole word.
- After awhile your child will just say the whole word. They will then start to see other words with the same letter patterns. Eg: cat, mat , sat, bat, fat
This is a technique that every child needs to learn. Practice makes a child more confident. Some children take a long time so be prepared to be patient and encouraging. Say the first letter of the word slightly louder then follow with the other letter sounds quickly. Staff will send home suitable words for you to practise with your child. It is better to practise a little and often. Make a game of it at home. Ask your older children to help and have fun as a family.
Remember later on that some sounds are represented by more than one letter. For example: sh is not suh and huh together. It become shuh as in shop or ship.
These sounds are called (digraphs). So your child will eventually say: sh-o-p or sh-i-p.
So train would be read as tr-ai-n and stool as st-oo-l. Reading these words will take time and practice. Later your child will start to naturally read these sorts of words by ‘sight’ as well.
Some words in English cannot be read by blending letter sounds. These are words such as said, walk, was, one. Often the first part can be sounded out but there will be a tricky bit. These words are best learnt by sight. You can make word cards to play snap, lotto and pairs. Some children have a good visual memory and prefer to learn words this way. Ask staff after awhile about your child’s strengths and preferences when reading. It is always better to use a combination of methods to become a good reader.
Remember that enjoyment of books can take place anywhere. Books can become one of your child’s best friends. Take a look at the photos below to find exciting places to read and share stories.
IDENTIFYING SOUNDS IN WORDS.
The easiest way to know how to spell a word is to initially listen for the sounds in the word. Even some of the tricky words can have some regular spellings in them. Help your child by playing the following games at home:
- Play I spy together as a family. Say I hear with my little ear something beginning with cuh.
- Put a few objects on a tray and play the game again but say: I hear with my little ear something ending with t. This is quite hard and will need practice.
- Show your child a picture of an object. Clap together how many sounds you can hear. So c-a-t would have three claps. Sh-i-p would also have three as sh goes together.
- Play a picture pairs game to find pictures with the same sounds. Mat /hat and dog/ log.
- Play a word making game with cards. Have the six letters s,a,t,p,i,n. Start by making a word. Make pit. Now say a new word like pat. Ask your child to change one letter.
SPELLING THE TRICKY WORDS.
There are several ways to learn tricky spellings. Look, cover and write is still popular. Look at the word, say the word, cover it and write it. Say the word again. Look for regular patterns within the tricky words. Look for words within words. Look for similar words with the same pattern. eg: night, light, fight. Make a rhyme up to spell the word. Said: Sally Anne is drawing. Because: big elephants can always understand small elephants. Ipswich: I put some water in Charlie’s hat.
Ask staff for ideas as your child develops confidence.
Just remember your child is never too young to start looking at books. The love of books and stories will last a lifetime. Join your child’s class for workshops and drop in sessions to help your child become a confident reader.