Tips for successful phonic teaching
1. One sound at a time
Introduce one sound at a time. For example, the sound /ei/, as in rain, train, Spain, can be practised before moving on to other sounds.
Introduce each sound in a simple context that the children will understand. If the context is too complex, children will struggle to understand and their attention will be divided.
3. Model the sounds
Always say the sound and not the letter name when teaching phonics.
Some sounds are short eg ‘t’, so it is a good idea to repeat the sound a few times so that the children can hear it properly: ‘t, t, t, t’.
Some are long eg ‘ffffff’. We can stretch these sounds out as we model them.
4. Use simple examples
After the introduction of the sound in context, show a selection of images that contain the target sound. Point to each one in turn, naming as you do so and encourage the children to repeat after you. Don’t show the words for these images at this stage. Emphasize the target sound in these words. Use vocabulary items the children are familiar with.
5. Review all the sounds you have taught before introducing a new one.
Stick the grapheme cards you have introduced so far on the board and point to each one in turn. Make sure the children are confident in making the sounds before you move on.
6. Blending and segmenting
Once you have introduced the first two or three sounds, show the children how to blend them together to read words. Start by pushing the graphemes together to form two letter words eg i-t it, a-t at and move on to cvc words eg sat, sit, pat, pit. Use word cards containing only the sounds you have introduced and encourage the children to blend these sounds for reading. Show them how to segment by saying words and teaching the children to separate them into individual phonemes. For example, tell the children you are going to say some words and they have to listen and tell you the sound at thebeginning, middle or end (use your arm to demonstrate)
T: tin (segmenting and blending with your arm as you do so). Repeat, encouraging the children to join in
T: Which sound is at the beginning (t) / in the middle (i) / at the end(n)? (use your arm: touch your shoulder / elbow / hand)
tin pat ant sit pan pin tap sip tip nan pip
Introduce a variety of games for the children to start to discriminate between sounds.
- Sound and action
Materials: grapheme cards
Hold up the graphemes one by one at random. Have the children say the sound and do the action in quick succession.
- Pick a sound
Materials: sound cards (one for each child) in a box
Sit the children in a circle and give the first child the box. The child picks a card from the box, identifies the phoneme (eg ‘p’) and thinks of something beginning with that sound (eg ‘pig’). Pass the box to the next child and repeat.
Practice makes perfect, so once you have taught the first six sounds, introduce the children to captions and mini-stories that contain only the sounds they have learnt so far, eg sit in a tin / pat an ant. The children will begin to gain confidence and realize that they can read on their own.
Some sounds require extra teaching as they have multiple graphemes. Sounds such as ‘c’, ‘k’ and ‘ck’ will require 3 or 4 separate input sessions. Children will quickly begin to read words containing the three different graphemes, but extra work will be required to help them determine when to write each one. If you have mini-whiteboards, short dictations can help as can activities that encourage the children sort and classify words according to spelling.
If you are using a multi-sensory method where you introduce the letter sounds accompanied by an action, this will aid children’s memories and serve as a tool to help them read more difficult sounds where there may be interference from L1. This way, instead of reading the word for the children when they get stuck, use the action to remind them of the sound to get them back on track.