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At MFS we teach phonics every day in Reception and part of Key Stage One. If children practise it at home as well, we find they learn to read and write much faster than children who do not read much at home.

What is phonics?

Phonics is one method of teaching children how to read and write. It’s all about sounds. There are 44 sounds in the English language, which we put together to form words. Some are represented by one letter, like ‘t’, some by two letters like ‘ck’ in duck and some by three or more letters like the sound ‘air’ in the word chair. Children are taught the sounds first, then how to match them to letters, and finally how to use the letter sounds for reading and spelling.

Help your child learn to read with phonics

Parents helping their child learn to read with phonics often ask why it uses letter sounds and not letter names? Letter ‘names’ don’t always sound the same as the actual ‘sound’ that the letter makes For instance, the letter name for B is pronounced with a long -ee sound after the letter sound: we say ‘bee’, but that’s not the same as the letter sound (it sounds more like ‘buh’) Many children find this difference confusing. So, instead of trying to teach the two at the same time, it is helpful to focus on teaching the letter sound first.

Steps to take when practising phonics at home:

Sounding out words is at the heart of phonics, and it is therefore a simple and straightforward way of teaching that you can use confidently at home. You could introduce the sounds one at a time. As soon as your child has learned the first four sounds, they can start to read. Using phoneme cards can be a helpful way to introduce the sounds. Show a card to your child and say the sound. Ask your child to say it as well. This will help to build a link between a letter and its associated sound.

Using the sounds to read (blending)

You can teach your child to ‘push’ (or blend) the sounds together to make words by saying each of the sounds in the word and then pushing them together to say the word.

Using the sounds to write (segmenting)

Encourage your child to use their new-found knowledge of sounds to begin to spell, by working out the individual sounds in a word and matching these sounds to the letters. Say a word and ask your child to break into its individual sounds. For example: pig = p i g. This technique is known as oral segmenting. When your child is ready to write the word down, encourage them to tap out each sound before they write it. This helps children to maintain the correct sequence of letters.

Tricky words

Encourage your child to read the ‘tricky words’. Tricky words contain letters that don’t represent their normal sounds and these are taught separately as they can’t be ‘sounded out’ with phonics. Children can use their phonics to help them read part of the words, but tricky parts will need to be learned by sight (e.g. words like ‘the’ can’t be sounded out using phonics and are therefore a ‘tricky word’)

For more information, have a look at phonics videos online or click on: