Phonics can be quite daunting for parents at first. There’s a little bit of jargon to get your head around and then there’s the worry that you might not be pronouncing all the sounds correctly. Even when I was teaching phonics I had to correct my own pronunciation at times, I’d often have to stop myself from extending the puff of air ‘p’ sound into a very long ‘puuuh!’ It’s easily done.
The main thing you need to know when supporting your children with phonics at home is what Letters and Sounds phase your child is on (there are 6 in total), which their teacher will be able to tell you. Then you can look for games and resources to support that phase.
Along with sound or ‘phoneme’ recognition, your children will learn how to blend and segment in order to read and write words. Blending involves reading the individual sounds in a written word and then merging them together to read the whole word. Segmenting is hearing a full word and then breaking it up into the individual sounds that make up the word. Blending is a key skill for reading and segmenting is a key skill for writing and spelling.
Here are some simple ways you can support your children with their phonics learning at home.
Sound Mats and Flashcards
Having the sounds at hand to practise regularly is really going to help your child learn them. A sound mat has all the sounds on one sheet for a given phase and flashcards will have one sound on each card. You will find plenty of each online, or you could make your own.
Play Buried Treasure
Playing games is a great way to learn and practise phonics. A favourite of mine (and the children’s) in the classroom was Buried Treasure. You’ll need a pile of words from the relevant phonics phase, some are real and some are rubbish words, then as children read them, they sort the real words into a treasure chest and the fake ones into a rubbish bin. Sites like Twinkl have Buried Treasure packs by phase that you can download and print off, or you can just make your own. There is a fun interactive game of Buried Treasure on a site called Phonics Play, which many teachers use in the classroom.
Picture and Caption Matching
Picture and caption matching is a great activity to support comprehension. Children read a caption or sentence and match it to the corresponding picture. Again, Twinkl is a great site for this activity.
Look, Cover, Write, Check
Look, Cover, Write, Check is the perfect game to practise writing tricky words (or sight words as they are sometimes called). Tricky words are not phonetically decodable, meaning that children can’t use their sounds to blend or segment, they simple have to remember what the word looks like. It’s a simple game and as the name suggests, they look at the word, cover it up, they write it and then they check it.
Refer to Digraphs and Trigraphs as ‘Friends’
Some sounds contain more than one letter and can be tricky for children to spot. Although it’s absolutely fine to teach them the words ‘digraph’ (sounds with two letters like ‘ee’ and ‘ay’) and ‘trigraph’ (sounds with three letters like ‘ear’ and ‘igh’), I would recommend referring to them as ‘friends’ that are stood together or holding hands. If they are struggling to spot such sounds you can help them by saying, ‘look for the friends.’ This also works very well for split digraphs, such as ‘a_e’ and ‘o_e.’
I found this approach very effective when teaching phonics in school.
Regular reading is incredibly important, the more they read the more practise they get and the more exposure they have to a range of different words.
I hope these tips are useful. Little and often is the perfect approach for practising and supporting phonics at home. And as with any home learning, make it fun!