Phonics is the skill of segmentation (for writing) and blending (for reading), knowledge of the alphabetic code and an understanding of the principles which underpin how the code is used in reading and spelling. Phonics is an essential (but not the only) strategy which supports children to become fluent readers and writers. Because our writing system is alphabetic, children must know how the letters, singly or in combination, of the alphabet represent the sounds of the spoken word.
Teaching and Learning: We use the government program of Letters and Sounds Phase One to form the basic graduated approach to the teaching and learning of phonics in our school. The program follows progression in developing children’s speaking and listening skills, phonological awareness and oral blending and segmenting. Each aspect is broken into three strands: Tuning into sounds (auditory discrimination); Listening and remembering sounds (auditory memory and sequencing); Talking about sounds (developing vocabulary and language comprehension). It is important that teachers and practitioners facilitate each of these strands within every aspect of the phonics curriculum.
The discreet teaching of phonics may be done in a whole class or in small groups in or out of the class environment. The cycle of teach – observe and assess – plan is essential within a systematic approach. Teachers and practitioners therefore use carefully mapped out assessment documents to support them. It is also vital that children are learning phonics within a language-rich provision, recognising the importance of play and following their interests. As children develop their vocabulary it is important they comprehend the words they are using. Key features of a language rich curriculum:
- children are listened to and encouraged to extend their speaking skills in a sensitive and relevant manner
- the power of storytelling, drama and song are used to fire children’s imagination and interest encouraging the use of new and exciting language
- reading non-fiction texts to enrich language as well as fiction
- interesting investigations, explorations and experiments engage young children and particularly support boys’ progress
- relevant print in the environment and children’s voice are recorded so children make the link between the spoken word and written text
- a multi-sensory learning approach is vital within the teaching and learning of Speaking, Reading and Writing.