How To Get Started With Phonics

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Phonics is everywhere, right? As a parent, it seems we can’t get away from it! And yet, there seems to be very few places to actually learn about it! So, I have put together this article to hopefully help you understand not only what phonics is, but how and when to get started!

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Photo by @sensorywithsoroya

What is phonics?

First up, let’s talk about what exactly is phonics? 

Well, phonics is a method of teaching reading and writing in which sounds are associated with letters or letter combinations.

Phonics is all about matching the sounds of spoken English (in other words, the sounds we make when we say words out loud) to the individual letters that make up the words.

 For example, the sound ‘K’ can be spelled as ‘c’, (cat) ‘k’, (kiss) ‘ck’ (back) or ‘ch’ (chord) depending on the word. All of these words have a ‘K’ sound when spoken out loud, but are written in completely different ways. Phonics helps children to identify these so they can read fluently and later for spellings, too.  

When should my child learn phonics?

Every child is different and will learn phonics at their own pace. Officially, most children will learn phonics in reception (ages 4-5). This is because phonics provides the foundation for reading and writing skills, and it is important for children to develop these skills early on.

However, some children may be able to start learning phonics earlier than others, depending on their level of development. If you are planning to introduce phonics at a younger age, it is especially important to do so through practical and fun games.

 If you think your child might be ready to start learning phonics, there are many resources available online, such as The Little Learning Hub, that can help you teach phonics to your child at home.

How do I get started with phonics? Which sounds do I choose first?

 

Before I can answer this question, it’s important to note that every primary school uses a different phonics scheme and each scheme will have different strategies for starting sounds. If your child is already at school, or they have an older sibling who is, then I recommend you ask which scheme they use, so you can follow the sequence of sounds your child will actually experience in school. 

Sadly, this means I can’t give you a definitive answer to the question ‘which sound do I choose first?’, as different phonics programmes start with different sounds. However, many teachers and many phonics schemes will start with these sounds first: s, a, t, p, i, n. 

Photo By @jenniedancer81

But remember – other phonics programmes may start with different sounds, so it is worth doing some research to find out which programme will best suit your child’s needs.

Activities To Get Going With Phonics

There are lots of phonics games that can be great fun for your child to play. If you’re a Little Learning Hub member, you’ll find a ton of ready-to-go activities under the ‘Literacy’ tab in ‘Resources By Subject’. 

There are many different ways to incorporate phonics. One way is to use phonics books or games that focus on specific letter sounds. You can also integrate phonics into your everyday reading and writing activities. 

For example, when you’re reading a book with your child, point out words that start with the same sound or have the same letter pattern. As you read, say the sound of each letter in the word. When you’re writing with your child, have them sound out words and write them down phonetically.

There are also some great activities you can do listed below.

– Sound Collector: This is a game where you (or your child) write down several letters on a piece of paper. You then take a journey through your house or outside and find things for each sound you’ve written down. For example: if you find a sock, you can cross off ‘s’.

– Post it splat: Write several letters on post-it notes (or use chalk outside). Call out different sounds and ask your child to swat the correct letter. 

– Basket Hunt: Put a letter into a basket and set a timer for 1 minute. Ask your child to race around the house and gather as many things as they can to match that sound. For example: t – toothbrush, truck, train, t-shirt etc. 

– Word Search: This is a game where you hide sounds or words around the house or garden and your child has to find them. You can make it easier or harder by hiding more or less difficult words. For example: you could hide the letters c, a, t and give your child a clue ‘meow’ and see if they can find all the sounds they need! 

– Sound matching: In this game, you write down a list of words with the same sound (e.g. ‘cat’, ‘hat’, ‘bat’) and your child has to match them up. This is a good way to help them learn about rhyming words too.

– Word building: This is where you give your child some letter cards and they have to make as many words as possible with them. You can make it harder by only giving them certain letters, or allowing them to use the letters in any order.

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Playing phonics games is a great way for your child to learn about sounds and how they combine to form words. It’s also a lot of fun! Which activity are you going to try? 

Leave a comment and let me know below! 

And don’t forget, if you’d like to give your child an extra phonics boost (and many other subjects for that matter!) check out the Little Learning Hubs monthly membership where you can find a ton of done-for-you resources and activity ideas every single month! Click here to find out more. 

A few final thoughts...

There are a few technical words you might hear associated with phonics. I have tried my best to outline these below, so you can save this blog post and refer to it when you need to! (They’re in alphabetical order). 

blend – blending means putting (or merging) sounds together to form a word. For example, the word cat has three sounds c-a-t and when we blend them together, we get the word cat!

digraph – two letters that join together to make one sound. For example: ‘ee’ in ‘sh-ee-p’ or ‘oa’ in ‘b-oa-t’.  

grapheme –a grapheme is a written letter (or set of letters) that make a sound. For example: ‘s’, ‘ck’, ‘igh’. It sounds complex, I know, but really it just means the written letters that make up each word.

nonsense words –  these are used by some phonics schemes. They can also be referred to as alien words. It is when children are given fake words to read in order to test their phonic understanding. For example: can you read the word Zilck? 

phases – the phonic sounds children learn are broken up into phases. As children progress and gain confidence, they will be moved through the phonics phases. There are 6 phonic phases altogether. The first phase is used in preschool and usually involves singing songs and identifying sounds in the environment. Phase 2 will be the first main phase children come across as they begin reception. They will progress onto phases 3 and 4 usually also in reception, although this can vary by scheme. Phase 5 is the main focus of year 1 and children in year 2 will focus on phase 6. 

phoneme – this is a letter (or group of letters) that makes a verbal sound. It is the verbal version of a grapheme (written). So boat has three phonemes – b-oa-t. 

pure sounds – this is a term referring to how a sound is pronounced. Instead of saying ‘pUH’ with an ‘uh’ sound at the end, keep the sounds ‘pure’ by explicitly saying ‘p’. 

segment – segmenting a word is breaking it apart into the individual sounds that can be used for reading and writing. This is the opposite of blending. Children will be encouraged to segment words in school. For example, if they wanted to spell the word fish, their teacher will say ‘let’s segment it! First we can hear f, then i, then sh.’ The child will then write these letters and form the word!

tricky words – these are words that do not necessarily follow the typical phonics rules. For example, if we read ‘the’ using our phonics knowledge, it sounds very different to the word ‘the’ as we know it. Tricky words require children to learn them separately as they cannot apply their phonics knowledge in the same way. 

trigraph – trigraphs are three letters which make one sound, for example ‘igh’ n-igh-t. 

Comments on How To Get Started With Phonics

  1. Emily Armstrong says:

    This is so useful! Thank you Kim! 🙂

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