Before we begin teaching letters (graphemes) and their sounds (phonemes), we begin by playing games and activities to build phonic awareness.
Games like “I went to the market and I bought…” (…a sausage, a spider, some soap, six spoons etc.), Silly Soup (“I’m making ‘c’ soup and putting in… a cat… a kite… a car… etc.) and I-Spy (with letter sounds rather than letter names) are good for helping your child to hear and identify sounds in words.
Each letter has a name (a=‘ay’, b=‘bee’ and so on) and a sound (a=‘ah’ b=‘buh’). Letter sounds are taught first because these are more useful for learning to read and spell.
Try not to add too much ‘uh’ to the end of letter sounds; sounds blend more easily into words without it. Here you can listen to how the sounds should be made:
https://www.oxfordowl.co.uk/for-home/reading-owl/expert-help/phonics-made-easy (scroll down to Phonics audio guide: how to say the sounds)
The BBC Alphablocks Guide to Letters and Sounds:
We use the Department for Education’s Letters and Sounds guidance as a basis for our phonics teaching.
Your child will be given a sounds book to bring home at the start of Term 2. Please keep this in the book bag and ensure it comes to school every day. If possible, go through the sounds book once a day to see if your child can remember the actions and associated letter sound. Don’t spend too long on this, a minute or two at the most. Celebrate your child’s successes rather than dwelling on any sounds not yet known.
Once your child knows a few letters we can begin making words by blending. Blending, or sounding-out is the process of pushing sounds together to read words:
c–a–t = cat m–a–n = man
This is why learning the pure letter sounds is much more valuable than learning letter names and essential for sounding-out. Letter names will be taught towards the end of Reception.
Not all words can be sounded-out. These are tricky words and just have to be memorised – for example: I, to, the, no, go, into.
Not all words can be sounded at this stage. For example, the word shop, because although your child may know s and h, they have not yet learned the digraph sh.
Digraphs are a sound made up of two letters (such as ch, sh, th, ng, ai, ar, ee, or, er, oa, oi, oo, ou) where the individual letter sounds cannot be heard separately. Some digraphs and trigraphs (igh, ear, air, ure) will be taught later in the Reception year and continue into Years 1 and 2.
The Twinkl Phonics Suite is a really good all-round phonics app. The free version gives a flavour of the activities in the full version.
Each phase has links to the DfES (what is now the Department for Education) Letters and Sounds guidance, with example lesson videos.
Your child has already started bringing home a class picture book for you to share together. This book is of your child’s choosing and there is a daily opportunity to change it. Your child is not expected to be able to read these self-chosen books independently, but can be encouraged to predict what might happen next, or discuss what is happening in the pictures.
Your child will be given a reading scheme book (we use the Oxford Reading Tree scheme) from Term 2 onwards, when we feel he or she is ready.
More detailed information on helping your child with reading will be sent home when your child starts on the reading scheme.
Please avoid the temptation to buy reading scheme books. The reading scheme is the bread and water of learning to read, real books are the nutritious, balanced meals.
Try to read with your child daily, either the class picture book, reading scheme book or perhaps a favourite book from home. This time should be a pleasurable experience for you both! Between five and ten minutes is fine, make yourselves comfortable and turn off the television or radio. Enjoy reading to your child and looking at books together. Talk about what you have read; can your child remember the story or recall the sequence of events? Let your child see you read and that you need to read.
If your child is reluctant to read, don’t push them. Read to them, help foster a love of books and stories. Buy comics or magazines which tap into your child’s interests to help motivate them to want to read.
Children learn a lot about writing simply by seeing language around them. They are surrounded by print on road signs, food packets, in books, magazines and catalogues.
We learn to talk by joining in with words as we hear them used. In the same way, especially in homes where people write things down, children learn a lot about writing through joining in and having a go.
Writing might seem easy to us as adults, but there are lots of elements to it beyond handwriting, spelling and punctuation.
First attempts at writing will probably take the form of squiggles and marks before moving on to any recognisable letter shapes.
Scribbling, drawing, tracing and colouring-in all help to develop the hand control skills needed to develop good handwriting. Bad handwriting habits easily become ingrained and difficult to change, so encourage your child to hold writing and colouring implements using the tripod grip.
If your child is reluctant to draw or colour, try printing out pictures of characters from your child’s favourite films and television programmes for them to colour. If they are reluctant to hold a pencil, anything fiddly will help to contribute to the muscle development necessary for good handwriting; squeezing and rolling playdough, Lego, doing up buttons and zips, holding a knife and fork, screwing lids on and off containers, cutting and sticking. Large movements also help; sweeping, climbing and balancing. We do lots of ‘moving from the shoulder’ exercises in class for this reason.
Your child will learn to write their name in lower case with a capital letter at the beginning. Only when your child can independently write their name with the correct pre-cursive formation do we teach them how to join.
We teach a pre-cursive script, with lead-ins and flicks out. As a general rule, all lower case or small letters begin on the line and start with an upward movement (a whoosh!); all capitals begin at the top and start with a downward movement.
Your child will have an Alphabet Sheet in class to help learn the correct sequence of movements to form each letter.
Unfortunately, it can be easy to spot mistakes in writing, so parents often worry when spellings are ‘wrong’, work appears untidy or a full stop is missing. Your child, particularly in the early stages, will find it difficult to focus on everything at once. Remember to praise all attempts.