How to teach letters and sounds (Phonics) at home

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If your child has just started school or is due to start soon, you may want to give them a headstart by helping them learn their letter sounds (phonics).

The way letters and sounds are taught in school is very different to going through the alphabet from a-z.

What is Phonics?

Phonics is a way of teaching kids how to read and say words. It helps them learn the sounds that letters and letter combinations make. With phonics, children connect the spoken sounds of words to the written letters, making it easier for them to read and spell. It's like a fun puzzle that helps kids understand how letters and sounds work together in reading and writing.

How is Phonics Taught in Primary School?

Phonics is taught by helping children learn the sounds that letters and groups of letters make. The focus is on connecting these sounds to reading and writing. Teachers use games, activities, and books that emphasise these letter-sound relationships.

Children in school follow the Letters and Sounds phonics programmes. Teachers provide daily speaking and listening activities at school everyday. The children are split into groups according to their ability and knowledge of phonics.

The Letters and Sounds programme is split into 6 Phases. Each phase aims to develop speaking and listening skills, and prepares children to become fluent readers by the age of 7 by developing their phonic knowledge and skills in a systematic way.

Children start by experiencing a wealth of listening activities including songs, stories and rhymes. They can be divided into seven aspects, including environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body sounds, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds, oral blending and segmenting.

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Letters and Sounds Phonics Explained

The Letters and Sounds phonics program is a widely used approach in primary schools in the UK to teach children how to read and spell. The program is divided into different phases, each building on the previous one. Here's a general overview:

  1. Phase 1 (Reception): This phase focuses on developing children's listening skills, sound discrimination, and oral blending and segmenting. It involves activities like playing with sounds, rhyming games, and identifying initial sounds in words.
  2. Phase 2 (Reception): This phase introduces the first set of phonemes (sounds) and their corresponding graphemes (letters or letter combinations). Children learn to blend sounds to read simple words and segment words into sounds for spelling. Common high-frequency words are also introduced.
  3. Phase 3 (Reception): More phonemes and graphemes are introduced, including digraphs (two letters making one sound) and trigraphs (three letters making one sound). Children continue to practice blending and segmenting and learn more high-frequency words.
  4. Phase 4 (end of Reception/beginning of Year 1): This phase focuses on consolidating children's knowledge and fluency in blending and segmenting. It involves reading and spelling more complex words and sentences.
  5. Phase 5 (Year 1): This phase introduces alternative spellings for the sounds children have already learned. It includes more complex graphemes and additional high-frequency words. The goal is to develop more advanced reading and spelling skills.
  6. Phase 6 (Year 2 and beyond): This phase focuses on further developing spelling rules, prefixes, suffixes, and understanding more complex word structures. It aims to make children confident and accurate readers and spellers.

Teachers use a variety of resources, including books, games, and interactive activities, to engage children in learning phonics. The approach is often systematic, and regular assessments, including the Phonics Screening Check in Year 1, help identify and support children who may need extra help. The ultimate aim is to equip children with the skills they need to become fluent and confident readers.

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