What is Phonics?
Phonics teaches the child to tune into the sounds that letters make; to enable the child to decode words and to break words up if they wish to spell a word. Phonics involves teaching how to connect sounds of spoken English with letters or groups of letters (e.g. that the sound /k/ can be represented by c, k, ck or ch) and teaching how to blend the sounds of letters together to produce approximate pronunciations of unknown words.
Phonics is therefore an auditory skill!
The modern world of televisions, computers etc. tune children into images and soundtracks are lost to children. Therefore, for a child to be successful at learning to read they must be able to tune into sounds. Nursery rhymes, songs, old television advertisement jingles, repetitive patterned language/stories are ideal ways of tuning a young child’s ears to the sounds of speech.
Children go through a number of developmental stages when developing their phonological awareness.
- Awareness of words as units of sounds. In language rich homes and in ‘years gone by’ this occurred naturally within the first couple of years.
- Awareness of syllables.
- Awareness of rhyme.
Learning to Listen
In terms of education and literacy, the most fundamental skill of all is LISTENING. In our increasingly noise-filled world, children’s listening skills are being steadily eroded. Televisions, computers, DVDs, MP3 players flood our homes with noise.
Developing Auditory Memory Skills
Some games which are great for developing auditory memory skills are:
- sound lotto games
- musical statues
- ready, steady, go games
- toss the beanbag- each child is given a number and when they hear their word they toss the beanbag into the bucket.
- shooting stars- line up some chairs with one spare chair. Give each child a name/number and as soon as they hear that name/number they have to quickly move to the empty seat.
- copying sequences of musical instrument sounds
- shopping bag- we went shopping and we bought a ……. (keep adding an extra item to the list each time)
- Make a picture like mine (talking- no looking!)
- Make Mr. Potato Man like mine (verbal instructions whilst hidden behind a screen)
Music, Movement and Memory
Young children who are naturally able to sing and keep time have a maturity and language competence beyond that of their peers. Nursery rhymes, songs and clapping games play a very important role in early pre-reading skills.
- try using pan lids to tap out the names of toys
- playground clapping games like ‘A Sailor went to sea, sea, sea…..’ and dipping rhymes which exploit rhythm, nonsense syllables and rhymes such as ‘Ee-ny, mee-ny, Mi-ny, Mo’
- clapping/tapping beats to rhymes/songs on your knees
- clapping syllables
- clap rhythms for children to copy
- use instruments to shake out the names of familiar words
- sing songs such as ‘Wind the Bobbin up’, ‘Row, row, row your boat’, ‘Polly put the kettle on’, ‘She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes’ and ‘There were 10 in the bed’ etc.
Words that rhyme sound a little bit the same.
- Sing lots of nursery rhymes.
- Say silly names- ooly, pooly, dooly, wooly!
- Easy, peasy, lemon, squeezy!
- Rhyme detection games- Does cat sound like hat? Does hat sound like tat? Does tat sound like dog?
- read lots of rhyming stories eg. ‘Each, Peach, Pear, Plum’ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
To be able to blend letters into words, children need to develop;
- an awareness of rhyme
- an awareness of compound words
- an awareness of syllables
- auditory memory for 1 sound, then 2 sounds, then 3 sounds and so on
At Oxclose Nursery, we do all of these pre-reading activities before we introduce letters to the children.
When the children have the four elements above, they are ready to be introduced to letter sounds.
Miss. O’Keeffe , and her friendly puppet Fluffy, start to introduce the children to letter sounds in the Spring term. This is done very informally and in a fun way- a bit like a puppet show.
You can help your child by playing these auditory games at home. Miss. O’Keeffe will hold a phonics workshop for parents in the Spring term.