How Important is Learning Phonics?

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Most people don’t hear the word ‘phonics’ until their first child starts school. Most of us don’t even realise why it is important or how it is relevant to us and our children.

 

Phonics is the first step in learning to read. It is the most effective way of teaching children to read quickly and skilfully. They are taught to recognise the sounds that each letter makes and identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make and blend these sounds together to make a word. Children can then use this knowledge to ‘de-code’ new words that they hear or see.

Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment. This includes children who find learning to read difficult, for example those who have dyslexia.

There are many helpful reading programs taught in schools like Jolly Phonics, Read Write Ink and Letter Land for children aged 5 to 7. They start with the easiest and most often used sounds such as ‘S’ or ‘A’ and progress through to the most complex ones like ‘sh’ or ‘ou’.

So how can we prepare children to recognise the sounds that letters make? It can be a bit tricky when you have just turned 5 years of age. First we play with environmental and instrumental sounds. Children naturally use their eyes, but these games gently encourage them to use their ears. It can be a great fun guessing what is hiding in a ‘Listening Bag’. Is it a snapping twig, a bunch of keys or a crunched up piece of paper? Most children will recognise objects but can they say the sound they make? Do they know what makes a ‘tic-tock’ or a ‘nee-naw’ sound? There are plenty of games to play such as matching a sound to an instrument or adjusting to the volume. Or harder games such as guessing the missing sound.

Research shows that nursery rhymes improve the ability to hear, identify and manipulate letter sounds. Rhyme is also a great way of learning phonics skills. When a child recognises that ‘fox’ rhymes with ‘box’ it will prepare them to be aware that they often have spelling sequences in common too. Old favourite games like ‘I spy’ and ‘Simon Says’ not only improve thinking skills but also their behaviour. Examples of this include waiting to have a turn, concentrating longer on a task, working in small groups or responding to spoken instructions.

Children in the UK start school really early compared to some other countries where they begin at the age of 7. Our 4 year olds in nursery are tested on whether they show awareness of rhyme and alliteration; link sounds to letters; name and sound the letters of the alphabet, hear sounds in words, blend and segment sounds in words.

In the UK, teaching is differentiated into three ability groups (high, middle and low). Children are assessed soon after beginning school and are subsequently placed into one of these groups. Most parents don’t realise why their children’s “take off” with their literacy is vital. Once a child is in an ability group, he or she is likely to stay there throughout their education with little chance of moving up.

The foundation for literacy skills are laid in the first years, months and even weeks of life. Most children start learning phonics in Reception Class, some start much earlier

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Gabriella McAdam

My name is Gabriella McAdam and I am a Hungarian national. In 2001 I qualified as a professional primary and nursery school teacher and subsequently began my career working as a nursery teacher in Hungary.

Soon afterwards I decided to travel to England where I have continuously worked in various educational roles i.e. nursery nurse, teaching assistant and teacher in primary schools. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of these roles and I have experienced what it is like to teach children from the age of 3 up to 11.

For the majority of the time I have spent in England I have worked as a supply teacher and attended a large number of schools in Surrey and South West London.

I have seen first hand the difference of how much a good pre-school education makes to a child’s ability to learn throughout their school life. I have also seen how tricky it can be for a summer born child to keep up with others within the same class.

I have therefore started my own private classes to help pre-school children obtain the necessary listening and reading skills required to meet the national curriculum standard for when they begin their education. I believe by helping in this way it can give children the confidence they need to achieve from the start.

If you would like to find out more about my Phonics classes you can contact me on 07577 968909 or at soundboxphonics@gmail.com

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