Phonics makes up the backbone in the process of learning to read. As children learn to sound out letters they begin to make the connection between how a letter looks and how it sounds, then how a word looks and sounds.
As adults with already fully formed reading skills, phonics have become second nature to us. But we are using the skills we picked up in primary school all the time - you are even using them right now as you read this article! Phonics are essential to anyone learning the English language.
Generally, children are expected to understand phonics accurately by the end of Key Stage 1. Here is a list of tips and resources for teachers and teaching assistants to make sure your students get phonics under their belts.
Tips for Teaching Phonics to Kids
- Make sure that children are sounding out phonics properly from the start. It’s easy to start adding an ‘uh!’ sound at the end of each phonic but this isn’t how all phonics sound, and can make blending words difficult. For example, ‘c’ makes a ‘cuh’ sound but ‘m’ doesn’t make a ‘muh’ sound, rather it should be a longer ‘mmm’ noise. When you listen to children sounding phonics ensure they sound certain letters out correctly and don't get into this habit.
- Use blending to start joining words together. Blending is when students fluently join letters in a word together phonically so that they begin to sound out the word as a whole. Encourage children to start out blending a word slowly and then try again, quicker each time until the word smoothly forms. A fun visual way to help children understand blending would be to use a letter concealer like our CVC Crunchers which can be used to hide and reveal letters in certain words and are available in four levels depending on the child’s ability.
Springboard Supplies CVC Crunchers
- Include spelling as part of reading activities. If you regularly include spelling tasks in reading time children will naturally start to look for and notice phonic spelling in their own work and their own reading sessions. Make sure your classroom reading corner is stocked with books to help children practice phonics skills. Our Phonics Readers bundle of 12 is a great starting point.
Springboard Supplies Phonics Readers bundle of 12
- Connect sounds with actions to help children associate the new information with something familiar. For example, use the shushing motion of putting your finger to your lips to remember the ‘sh’ phonic.
- Create a rhyme to help children remember certain phonics. Have them look at a list of all the phonics and sound them out, then ask them which ones rhyme with which. Help them come up with a word that rhymes with each to create a little poem or song they can remember the phonics by. You could turn this into an even more interactive game with our Phonics Cubes which children can take in turns to roll like dice.
- Approach phonics little and often. Learning phonics is a big step for children, and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. The best way to embark on phonics is in short bursts, with frequent repetition and connection. For example, you might want to have children sound out the names of things they learn in other lessons, to keep their minds engaged in this way of thinking.
Teaching Phonics: Resources for the Classroom
Free to access since January 2021, PhonicsPlay is a website filled with teaching ideas, computer games, exercises, and printable worksheets aimed at helping teachers and parents teach children phonics. The website is organised into phases 1 to 6 so it’s easy to navigate to resources for the level you’re currently teaching at. Activities focus on the main building blocks of phonics like blending sounds, recognising graphemes, and practising segmentation.
As any teacher knows, turning lessons into games makes children more motivated to participate and helps to stimulate their brains to engage in learning. Teachwire offers a list of games to get children actively thinking about phonics.
Teachwire’s phonics games can be created with household items like rice, balloons and chalk and might even have you thinking up some versions of your own, or new games altogether. Games like the ‘Noisy letter jump phonics game’ and the water balloon game encourage children to get moving and active when solving phonics puzzles which can help create memorable associations between phonics sounds and actions.
If you’re interested in taking phonics lessons outdoors then Pentagon Play is a great resource. Bringing phonics outdoors is a chance to keep lessons fresh and stimulates children to incorporate other sensory elements into their learning. You might want to consider getting the children to close their eyes and listen to the noises around them, then compare these with the sounds of phonics.
Pentagon Play suggests creating a phonics box that contains equipment you can use to teach phonics outside so that a lesson can be easily transported outdoors when the moment (or weather) takes you. Our Letters & Sounds Phase 1 Kit includes multisensory letters and sounds toys and props that support forming, manipulating, and recalling different sounds.
We also stock an Outdoor Freestanding Washing Line perfect for clipping up letters and phonics that the whole class can see if you’re teaching outside.
If you’re looking for quick activities to help extend a lesson or fill in gaps in your lesson, Rasmusen has a long list of ideas to choose from. Each of the activities listed here aims to break the pattern of conventional learning to keep kids minds awake and active.
Exercises include a ‘mystery bag’ game in which three items that have names starting with the same letter are put inside a bag and the child has to take each one out and then guess the letter. A slightly more advanced version of this game could involve only putting their hand inside to feel the object and then guess what each is along with the letter.
Awards-winning Phonics Books assists children in developing their reading skills using phonics. On the website, teachers can find an extensive supply of free resources to support phonics lessons.
Resources include a vast range of different printable phonics games, infographics and posters that can be downloaded to put up on the classroom walls, word charts, worksheets, and more.
The website also includes a section on advice for teachers about how to approach phonics with students and ways to help them provide a more valuable learning experience.