Why is phonics the best method for teaching children to read?
Phonics makes learning to read easier, simpler and crucially gets children reading quicker. This helps to increase a child's confidence and instil a love of reading from an early age. Rather than memorising 1,000's of words individually, children are instead taught phonics. A strong phonic knowledge helps children work out how to read 95% of the English language.
If you didn't learn to read using phonics it can seem very complicated, but once the concept of words being made up of just 44 sounds is understood, children are able to make remarkably quick progress in their reading.
What is phonics?
Each one of the 26 letters in the alphabet has its own ‘sound'. This is very different to how a letter is ‘said' in the alphabet. There are more than 26 sounds in English language, in fact there are 44 sounds in total. Some of these sounds are made up of 2 or 3 letters. 2 letter sounds are called digraphs and three letter sounds are called trigraphs. It gets a bit more complicated than that too! For example the 'n' sound, like in 'nail' is also spelt ‘kn' like in ‘knot’ or ‘gn' like in ‘gnome’. The sound that children struggle to spot the most when breaking down words into its individual sounds is the 'split digraph'. Like a normal digraph, this is when two letters work together to make one sound, however with a split digraph, they are separated and have a letter in the middle. Fortunately ‘split digraphs' always end with an ‘e' which does make them a little easier to spot!
You may hear your child talking about the following;
- Phoneme - a sound as it is said
- Grapheme - a sound that is written
- Digraph- two letters that work together to make the same sound
- Trigraph - Three letters that work together to make the same sound
- Split digraph - Two letters that work together to make the same sound, separated by another letter
How do we teach Phonics
At Hazel Leys, we use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised scheme which is a complete systematic synthetic phonics programme (SSP) developed for schools by schools. Based on the original Letters and Sounds, but extensively revised to provide a complete teaching programme meeting all the expectations of the National Curriculum and preparing children to go beyond the expectations of the Phonics Screening Check
What is the Phonics Screening Check?
The Phonics screening check is a compulsory assessment that all children in Year 1 in England must take. It is used to assess children’s phonic decoding skills. To pass, a pupil must correctly read around 32/40 words correctly. The 40 words in the check are split into sections progressing from simple word structures to trickier words with five or six letters.
The often confusing thing about the screening check is that 20/40 of the words that children are expected to read are ‘nonsense words’, alien words that have no meaning. This is so that the check tests a child’s ability to phonetically decode words and to ensure they don't just know the word in the check already. The aim of the check isn’t to test how many words a child can read, but to ensure children have the phonics skills they need to learn new words in the future.
The check is administered by your child’s teacher during the designated phonics screening week. The words are the same all across the country. Schools are sent the screening check through the post in a sealed box and teachers are not allowed to open the test until the start of that week. Your child will be scored against a national average which has been 32/40 since 2012. The mark will be told to schools at the end of June and results are shared with your Annual Report.
To find out more detail about the screening check click here
To find out more about Little Wandle Letters and Sounds click here
Supporting your child with reading
Although your child will be taught to read at school, you can have a huge impact on their reading journey by continuing their practice at home.
There are two types of reading book that your child may bring home:
A reading practice book. This will be at the correct phonic stage for your child. They should be able to read this fluently and independently.
A sharing book. Your child will not be able to read this on their own. This book is for you both to read and enjoy together.
Reading practice book
This book has been carefully matched to your child’s current reading level. If your child is reading it with little help, please don’t worry that it’s too easy – your child needs to develop fluency and confidence in reading.
Listen to them read the book. Remember to give them lots of praise – celebrate their success! If they can’t read a word, read it to them. After they have finished, talk about the book together.
In order to encourage your child to become a lifelong reader, it is important that they learn to read for pleasure. The sharing book is a book they have chosen for you to enjoy together.
Please remember that you shouldn’t expect your child to read this alone. Read it to or with them. Discuss the pictures, enjoy the story, predict what might happen next, use different voices for the characters, explore the facts in a non-fiction book. The main thing is that you have fun!