As a teacher, one of the hottest topics in Key Stage One is phonics. As a parent it is one thing you can really support your child with at home. I think, particularly for parents in their 30’s, it can be tricky to know if we are ‘doing it right’ as we weren’t taught to read in the same way as our children. There are loads of interactive games on the market. In this post I will be talking about Read With Fonics, a phonics app which can add another dimension to developing phonics knowledge. I’ll also be sharing some really simple ideas for learning letters at home.
So, before we start…what are phonics? What does it mean? Well…in simple terms it is the sound that a letter, or group of letters make. At school, your child will be taught both the letter names and the letter sounds, but in order to be able to spell ‘phonetically’ they will need the letter sounds first.
A couple of words you might hear your child saying as they work their way through a phonics programme:
Phoneme: The sound a letter makes…
Grapheme: The symbol(s) you write for that sound (so, the letter/letters)
Blending: The ability to put a group of sounds together to sound out a word c-a-t is ‘cat’. You might also hear blends ‘in a word’. For example ‘br’ ‘bl’ ‘sh’.
The problem I have with most phonics toys and apps on the market is that they often use capital letters for the graphemes and they often don’t use what we call ‘pure’ sounds. The reason the former is a problem is that, well, it isn’t correct – we don’t write whole words in capital letters. At school, children are taught lower case letters first so they are able to write whole words correctly. An example of a pure sound is ‘mmmmm’ not ‘muh’ for the letter m. Lots of the games currently on the market don’t actually use the correct sound.
So, you can imagine my excitement when we started using the Read with Fonics app. All lowercase and really clear use of sounds. Whoop! This phonics app might just have converted me.
But the real acid test…I offered the game to my two year old. He is in the very early stages of letter recognition and probably knows around 10 letters (graphemes). He loves pointing out letters and numbers as we see them in shops etc and we are really lucky that he will sit and listen to stories until the cows come home.
What did he think? Well, he has a couple of different apps to choose from on the tablet and uses it maybe 2-3 times in a week. He enjoyed the games and was able to complete 2/7 of the tasks independently. The others I had to sit with him and we talked though them together. But, this was kind of a bonus as it meant he was also saying the letter sounds as we went through.
I like the positive reward system the game offers and the different ways the app challenges a child to think about each letter; from recognising the grapheme to putting it into a word. All in all, this phonics app is a really great addition to his other toys and games. Plus…the little alien dude is super cute!
Here are a couple more easy wins to support your child with phonics:
- Phrasing – so don’t pretend the letters don’t have a name…for example…my kid loves the Argos sign. I say “Look, there’s the letter A…it makes the sound ‘a.a.a.a.’
- Pure sounds…the best way to support early reading is to mirror what they are being taught. Try and remember not to put an ‘uh’ sound at the end of a word…so p…p…p…not puh puh puh…
- If your child is saying a sound incorrectly, model it correctly back to them…so if they are saying ‘fin’ instead of ‘thin’ show them with your mouth how to create a ‘th’.
And a few of five minute games:
- Sound tennis – You say a sound…can you child bat it back to you by repeating the sound? This is particularly fun with imaginary tennis rackets!
- Letter hunts are awesome! This is a game very much driven by my kid. He loves looking for letters he recognises. Also…if you are feeling brave you can hide letters in mud or water for them to find. Bit of mess never hurt anyone, right?
- Puzzles are ace and really easy to pick up second hand…try and look for lower-case versions if you can (not the end of the world or anything if it’s caps!) This one is from ELC and very cute!
- Magnets…stickers. Need I say more. My two year old is obsessed. Anything you can stick on a fridge, board or (turned off) radiator and he is THERE!
Most importantly…read, sing, talk. As much as you can. Read to them as much as possible…read letters with them in games like Read with Fonics…let them look at books on their own. Early literacy begins with an enthusiasm for reading. The evidence to support text and word rich environments being the best for children is overwhelming. The ability to read unlocks a whole world of creativity and imagination. Don’t underestimate the things you can do at home to support it.
You can play the games online at www.readwithfonics.com
The phonics app is available on Google Play https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=uk.co.fonics&hl=en_GB
It is free to download but there are in app purchases (Starting at £2.99 – I always think to myself with these…would I spend that on a decent toy for my kid? erm..yup! Justified.)