A Parent’s Guide Series
EYFS Phonics Booklet
Learning to read and write: Helping your child at home
Parental support is important to all children as they benefit from plenty of praise and encouragement whilst learning.
You should be guided by the pace at which your child wants to go. If your child loses interest or is distracted, leave the learning for a while and then come back to it later. Remember: not all children find it easy to learn and blend sounds. Regular practice will lead to success and fluency in reading and writing.
British International School of Kuala Lumpur we follow a phonics programme of teaching called At The Read, Write, Inc. The core of this programme is lively and vigorous phonics teaching. 1. Learning the letter sounds Children should learn each letter by its sound, not its name. For example, the letter a should be called a (as in ant) not ai (as in aim). Similarly, the letter n should be nn (as in net), not en. This will help in blending. The names of each letter can follow later. There are 42 main sounds (phonemes) of English, not just the 26 letters of the alphabet. The letters have not been introduced in alphabetical order. The first group (s, a, t, p) has been chosen because they make more simple three-letter words than any other six letters. The letters b and d are introduced in different groups to avoid confusion. The sounds are taught in the following order; m,a,s,d,t,i,n,p,g,o,c,k,u,b,f,e,l,h,r,j,v,y,w,x,z,sh,th,ch,qu,ng,nk (set one) ay,ee,igh,ow,oo,ar,or,air,ir,ou,oy. Some sounds are written with two letters, such as ee and or. These are called digraphs. oo and th can each make two different sounds, as in book and moon, that and three. To distinguish between these two sounds, the digraph is represented in two forms. Sounds that have more than one way of being written are initially taught in one form only. For example, the sound ay (day) is taught first, and then alternatives a-e (gate) and ai (rain) follow later. When children know all set one letters (as above), they will bring home ´Ditties´. These are short, simple texts with no more than 10-20 words made up of set one sounds and some common words. (Please refer to the section on Blending). Children will also bring home lists of common words (ten at a time) to learn by sight.
2. Learning letter formation Learning the correct formation of letters should start by the child using their ‘magic finger’ and writing the letter in the air – big movements help the child to orientate the letter correctly. Talk your child through the orientation of the letter as they write in the air; “start at the top, come down and back up, almost to the top, then go over the mountain and down to the bottom” – the letter
n. By making big (gross) movements in the air and gradually reducing the size of these movements will improve your child’s co-ordination skills and later greatly help their letter formation. Encourage your child to write using their ‘magic finger’ on different, multi-sensory surfaces like, smooth windows, rough sand paper, a tray of sand, in the steam in the shower, in a tray of shaving foam. Pencil grip: It is important that your child holds their pencil in the correct way. Help your child by correcting their pencil grip every time they use a writing implement e.g: pencil, crayon, chalk, paint brush. Children learn by observing role models – are you using the correct pencil grip when you write: your shopping list, telephone message, entry in your diary?
The grip is the same for both left- and right-handed children. The pencil should be held in the ‘tripod’ grip between the thumb and first two fingers. If a child’s pencil grip starts incorrectly, it is very difficult to correct later on.
Often your child’s first experience and motivation to write is to write their own name. The letter c is introduced in the early stages of emergent writing as this forms the basic shape of many other letters, such as a and d.
Particular problems to look out for and correct are: for the letter o (the pencil stroke must be anticlockwise, not clockwise), for the letter d (the pencil starts in the middle, not the top), there must be an initial down stroke on letters such as m and n. A good guide is to remember that no letter starts on the baseline.
3. Blending Blending is the process of saying the individual sounds in a word and then running them together to make the word. For example, sounding out d-o-g and making dog. It is a technique every child will need to learn, and it improves with practice. To start with you should sound out the word and see if a child can hear it, giving the answer if necessary. Some children take longer than others to hear this. The sounds must be said quickly to hear the word. It is easier if the first sound is said slightly louder. Try little and often with words like b-u-s making bus, t-o-p making top, c-a-t making cat and sh-e-d making shed. Remember that some sounds (digraphs) are represented by two letters, such as sh. Children should sound out the digraph (sh), not the individual letters (s-h). With practice they will be able to blend the digraph as one sound in a word. So, a word like rain should be sounded out r-ai-n, and feet as f-ee-t. This is difficult to begin with and takes regular practice.
4. Segmenting The easiest way to know how to write (spell) a word is to listen for and identify the sounds in that word. Even with the tricky words an understanding of the letter sounds can help. Start by having your child listen for the first (beginning) sound in a word. Games like I-Spy are ideal for this. Next try listening for the end sounds, as the middle sound of a word is the hardest to hear. Begin with simple three-letter, CVC (Consonant, Vowel, Consonant) words such as cat or hot. A good idea is to say a word and clap out the sounds. Three claps means three sounds. Say each sound as you clap. Take care with digraphs. The word fish, for example, has four letters but only three sounds, f-ish. Rhyming games, poems and songs also help tune the ears to the sounds in words. Other games to play are: a) Add a sound: what do I get if I add a p to the beginning of ink? Answer: pink. Other examples are m-ice, b-us etc. b) Take away a sound: what do I get if I take away p from pink? Answer: ink. Other examples are f-lap, s-lip, c-rib, d-rag, m-end, s-top etc.
5. Spelling the tricky words There are different ways of learning tricky spellings: 1. Look, Cover, Write and Check. Look at the word to see which bit is tricky. Ask the child to try writing the word in the air saying the letters. Cover the word over and see if the child can write it correctly. 2. Check to make sure. 3. Say it as it sounds. Say the word so each sound is heard. For example, the word was is said as ‘wass’, to rhyme with mass, the word Monday is said as ‘M-on-day’. 4. Mnemonics. The initial letter of each word in a saying gives the correct spelling of a word. For example, laugh - Laugh At Ugly Goat’s Hair. 5. Using joined-up (cursive) writing also improves spelling. Children will learn to recognise (and therefore read and spell) high frequency words by seeing them regularly. Help your child to learn these words in small groups (10 at a time) rather than a long list of words. Follow the teacher’s guidance to reinforce the learning of the words being looked at in class. Play games to recognise and match up these words to picture cards with regular, short bursts of practise. Print these words out and stick them on the walls in prominent places around the house / bedroom.
6. Emergent writing For children to successfully learn how to write, they first need to practice pre-writing skills using “pretend” writing. This pretend writing is called emergent writing. Pre-writing skills include developing good sensory awareness, good hand-eye coordination and the strength and dexterity required to effectively use a pencil. These skills will naturally develop as children take part in a range of everyday play based activities. For example, climbing on playground equipment will develop shoulder, arm and wrist strength. Threading beads or dry pasta onto string will develop hand-eye coordination.
Children start to use emergent writing when they have developed the above skills. There are several stages of emergent writing that children will then move through; starting with random scribbling, moving onto zigzags and circles and then forming some mock letters or mixed letter shapes. Children will then start to copy words and use some of their phonic knowledge to have a go at spelling words by themselves.
It is very important that you support your child´s emergent writing at home. You should provide them with a range of toys and activities that will develop their gross and fine motor skills, as well as providing exciting mark making opportunities. You do not need to rely on traditional paper and pencils. How about using damp sand, a tray of corn-flour mixed with water or shaving foam spread over a tabletop.
Finally Once your child is motivated and confident with a few letter sounds, you will notice that they are doing actions to letter sounds, singing letter sound songs, playing letter sound games, identifying letter sounds in words you say and signs and labels they see. They will be motivated and excited to demonstrate their ability to read and write. Encouraging them to have a go at both reading and writing will enable them to grow in confidence and become successful readers and writers very soon. We want your child to enjoy learning phonics through a fun, multi-sensory play based approach and hope that you will join them on this exciting journey. If you have any further questions regarding ‘Phonics in Early Years Foundation Stage’ at BSM, please contact your child’s teacher or a member of the EYFS team.
Here are some websites you could use at home with your child: www.phonicsplay.co.uk www.crickweb.co.uk www.busythings.co.uk www.letters-and-sounds.com www.starfall.com www.jollylearning.co.uk www.sparklebox.co.uk www.twinkl.co.uk
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