Believe it or not, there really is a system linking English spelling and pronunciation together and phonics teaches children that system. Rather than teaching them letter names, phonics teaches them the different sounds that individual letters and groups of letters make when they’re written down so children can blend the sounds together to read whole words. By the end of primary school, children who learn to read with phonics can attain a reading age 3.5 years ahead of those who do not.
Phonics may seem a bit overwhelming but the best way to help your children is to learn with them. Check which sounds they’ve been learning in class and start by watching some phonics videos online with them. This will refresh their memories and show you what and how they’ve been taught. The Alphablocks is an excellent BBC series of phonics videos available on YouTube as is Geraldine the Giraffe.
After watching a video, set your child a task to help them practice using their new phonics knowledge. First, they need to practise saying the sound and identifying words that contain it. You could send them on a treasure hunt where they have to find things around the house that begin with or contain the correct sound. For example, if they’re practicing /p/ as in paper you can ask them to find five things that begin with the same /p/ sound. As they collect items, encourage them to say what they are to check if they begin with the correct sound. You could also ask them to draw five things or to make five models out of Playdoh of things that begin with the sound.
After saying the sound, children need to practice writing it, it’s important to refer to the written form as a letter shape rather than using its letter name. So, you might say something like “Can you write the /p/ letter shape?” while making the /p/ sound - as in the beginning of the word paper. A variety of arts and crafts activities can make this stage fun and stimulating. For example, you can use a glue stick and some dry rice or glitter and ask your child to write the letter shape with the glue stick then sprinkle on the rice/glitter to reveal it, or you can fill a tray with shaving foam and ask them to write the letter shape using their fingers. Equally, you may want to make letter shapes that you can keep so that you can help your child to practice reading simple words when they reach that stage in their phonics journey.
If your child enjoys technology, you could download some phonics apps onto your smartphone. Both Jolly Phonics (the British state school standard phonics system) and the Alphablocks have fun and well-designed phonics apps. If you are not familiar with the letter sounds yourself then these apps can help you to learn phonics skills as well.
So, learn with your children, get creative and try to choose practice activities that your child will enjoy. Good luck!
Your child can learn phonics at British Council. For more information, visit our website at www.britishcouncil.my