Using phonics is an essential ingredient in learning to read. This begins at an early age and continues right throughout primary. It runs alongside other methods of teaching reading such as word recognition.
What is 'Phonics'?
Phonics involves recognising each of the sounds that individual letters (s) or groups of letters (sh) make. These sounds are called phonemes, which go together to make up words.
How to begin?
Phonics are learned in Phases, beginning in Phase 1 with the development of listening skills.
This may seem like obvious advice, but talking and reading to your child, sharing rhymes and songs, and listening to different sounds around you will help with the learning process.
Phase 2 onwards involves recognising each written letter by its sound (phoneme). You can help enormously by practising at home. Maybe you could make matching cards for quick recognition, find objects beginning with a certain sound, play games like i-spy.
Encourage your child to look all around for letters and their sounds that they have learned: on cereal packets, in the street, in books.
Don't force the issue: let most of it come from your child.
By the end of Phase 2, children should be able to recognise most individual letter sounds (not j, v, w, x, y or z) and begin to join them together to make simple cvc (consonant vowel consonant) words such as d_o_g = dog and vc (vowel consonant) words such as i_n = in.
Remember: children learn the basic sounds the letters make.
If your child is in school, talk to the teacher. Find out which order the phonemes are being taught.
You could also use some practice books such as the Letts Phonics Workbooks. They are bright and colourful whilst also reinforcing what is being taught at school.
You can have lots of fun setting cvc words for your child to read and give the opportunity for him/her to test you! It's all good practice of reading and writing skills. You can also make matching pairs of cards and play games like snap.
Once your child has become confident of these phonemes and can blend them to make words, they are ready to move on to Phase 3, the rest of the individual letter sounds plus some with two (For example ck, ng, ee, ch, ar, th) or three (igh, ear, ure) letters.
Phases 4, 5 and 6 involve learning more consonant and vowel blends, reading words of more than one syllable, learning spelling rules.
What about all those tricky 'high frequency' words?
Many words are not 'decodable'. That is, they can't be worked out purely by using phonics. Some examples of tricky words in Phase 2 are: 'the', 'go' and 'of'. Examples in later Phases, are: 'would', 'laughed', 'other'. Children need to learn them by recognition alongside the teaching of phonics.
And finally... .
Always remember: praise and encouragement are essential ingredients in helping your child with phonics as s/he learns to read.
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