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Mixed Age Teaching
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Branching out and growing together
Phonics are a key part of early reading. There are so many easy things you can do to help support your child’s phonics learning. Here are a few ideas:
1. Talk, talk, talk!
As a parent, you are the model of good speaking and listening. Regularly introduce new words (vocabulary). For example, for the word big you could also introduce large, huge, or enormous. Encourage them to say the word too. This is not about reading the words but about your child hearing and saying them.
2. Read to and with your child
This models good reading skills and promotes reading enjoyment. Have a special book box or bag where your child can keep the stories and any other texts, such as comics or non-fiction books, you’ve read together recently. Re-read these so that over time your child builds up their stock of stories and texts they know well.
Ebooks are another lovely way to share a story or non-fiction book together. Just make sure eBook reading is balanced with reading hard copy books so your child experiences all the different skills required for reading from a page and reading from a screen. Oxford Owl has a free eBook library where you can read together online.
Teach nursery rhymes and songs and make lots of opportunities to sing and recite them.
4. Pronounce words and sounds clearly
In all games and activities make sure you pronounce the speech sounds clearly and as short as possible. Do not make them too long. For example, the letter ‘m’ has a short /m/ sound not a continuous /mmmmmmm/ sound. Try not to add an extra sound onto the speech sound too. For example, the sound is /m/ NOT /m-uh/.
How to pronounce the pure phonics sounds
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We want children to learn the letter names and sounds but what's the difference? Letter names are what we say when we recite the alphabet or when we spell a word for someone. It's important children learn these and we start to teach them the alphabet from Reception.
What's more useful is the letter sounds. When you know the letter sounds you can begin to sound out and blend (put together to read) words. The most important thing is to say the sound quickly without adding an ‘uh’ sound after them.
Here is a short video explaining how to say the letter sounds correctly and why we start with s, a, t, p, i, n.
How you can help with
Of course, letters make different sounds in different words. Take the letter 'a' for example. Look at the different sounds this letter makes in the following words:
cat fast pizza
We teach children that letters usually make a certain sound but that there are always exceptions. This way when they come across something that doesn't work they know they can try other sounds.
Rhyming games and activities
These kinds of games are fun to do and will support your child in hearing speech sounds that are the same and that are different. For example:
Into the pot: Model the phrase ‘into the pot goes’ while placing objects that rhyme into a pot/bowl (for example, a bat, a hat, a cat, a mat). Ask your child to repeat with you. Do this lots of times and then see if they can do it independently. You can then vary this; choose objects so that they have to decide which will not go in the pot e.g. a cat, a rat, a hat, a bird.
6. Play phonics games
lay simple phonics word games based on the sounds your child is learning and has learned at school. If you are unsure what sounds your child has been learning in school then do ask the teacher. They will be happy to share this with you. Schools often inform parents about the phonics programme they use and the order in which they teach the sounds.
7. Model blending
Start off using just the speech sounds and then immediately say the word. For example, At the shop I will buy a… /m/ /a/ /p/ – map, a /b/ /e/ /d/ – bed, a /d/ /u/ /ck/ – duck. Encourage your child to join in with you after you have this modelled for them. Then say the sounds and ask your child to say the whole word.
8. Wizard’s Magic River
Prepare a box/tray with small objects or pictures from around the house (for example, a peg, a bag, a cup, a pen). Say the words, ‘Wizard, Wizard can we cross your magic river?‘ Ask your child to repeat this to memorise the sentence. You are now the Wizard!
Then they say the sentence to you and you reply saying the sounds in order. For example, ‘only if you give me the…‘ /p/ /e/ /g/. Develop these games further by using word cards instead of objects so your child reads the words.
9. Play ‘Speedy Speak’
Make or buy small flashcards with the speech sounds on them. Keep a set in your bag to play while waiting for a sibling, or going to a café. Using the timer on your mobile phone, select the sounds and letters you child has been taught so far. Place them in a pile. Start the timer (set to whatever time you wish – for example, 30 seconds).
Ask your child to turn over the cards one at a time and say the sound clearly. (If they get to the end of the pile before the timer stops, they keep turning over the same cards.) Count how many times they say a sound correctly. Keep a note and next time tell them that you’re going to see if they can beat their record!