Introduction to Teaching Phonics

What is phonics?

Phonics is the system of ‘blending’ sounds together to read, and ‘segmenting’ sounds to spell. They are both complimentary and interlinking skills that are taught together. You may hear your children use some vocabulary that you are not familiar with that they have learnt in their phonics lessons.

A phoneme - is the smallest unit of sound that we use in the English language. A phoneme can be made up of one letter as in the alphabet sounds – s, a, t, p, i, n etc, or two letters (a digraph) as in sh, ch, th, ay, ar, or three letters (trigraphs) as in air, ear, ure. Phonemes can not be broken down into separate sounds.

A grapheme - is the way we spell a phoneme. A phoneme may have only one grapheme for example ‘b’. Or may have several different spellings –for example or can be spelt ‘or’ in torn, ‘aw’ in claw, ‘au’ in naughty or ore in more. The children will initially be introduced to one common grapheme for each phoneme, but as they progress through the school they will taught the less common spelling alternatives and encouraged to try and choose the correct grapheme for a particular word they are trying to spell.

Consonant blends - are made up of two or three phonemes blended together quite quickly as we learn to read. Examples are sc, sm, bl, pr, str.

Short Vowel Sounds - are the vowels saying their sound as ‘a’ in c a t.

Long Vowel Sounds - are the vowels saying their name as ‘ay’ in day, ‘oa’ in boat or ‘igh’ in night.

How do we teach Phonics at our school?

Phonics lessons are taught daily in every class for approximately 20 minutes. We use a mixture of different resources and teaching styles to engage and motivate the children, including magnetic boards and letters, whiteboards and pens, games, flashcards and a lively visual program Jolly Phonics on our Interactive whiteboards. We have phonic based guided reading books for teachers to use with groups when teaching reading and there are some phonic based home readers in all book boxes.

How can you help your child?

Children working in Foundation use the basic code of phonemes to help them identify the correct spelling patterns (graphemes) when writing. During year 1 and year two they will move onto using the advanced code which shows them an increased range of different spelling patterns for each sound. It will be useful to revise the phonemes your child has learnt that week at school and also later to go over some from previous weeks to reinforce their learning. It is also very beneficial to point out some phonemes when reading at home with your child, particularly those recently learnt. Key words will be sent home as cards in Foundation classes and later written in reading records for year one and two children to learn. Please help your child practice recognition of these as this is another important skill to master.

Further Information on Phonics

The Department for Education website has a lot of additional information on Phonics. To find out more, please click here.

There is also a 3 part leaflet that can be read in conjunction with this page. Please click on the leaflet titles to download them. The leaflets are in .pdf format and may not be viewable on some devices. Leaflet Part 1; Leaflet Part 2; and Leaflet Part 3.

Useful web-sites.

BBC web-sites have a great range of activities
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/wordsandpictures/longvow/poems/fpoem.shtml
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/wordsandpictures/phonics/index.shtml
http://www.phonicsplay.co.uk/
http://www.topmarks.co.uk/Interactive.aspx?cat=40
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