Phonics in the Early Years

What is Phonics?

Phonics is the most popular way of teaching children how to read and write in English. Through regular and effective teaching of Phonics, children will quickly develop the skills needed to hear, identify and apply different phonemes (units of sound) and correspond them to graphemes (units of writing) in order to help them decode words. When learning how to read, effective Phonics enables children to blend sounds to read words. When learning how to write, effective Phonics allows children to segment words into individual sounds in order to spell words.

Watch this video for a sample of a Phonics lesson at Mount Kelly Hong Kong:

Why is Phonics important?

The English language is one of the most confusing and difficult languages to learn due to its complex set of grammar rules, spelling structures and contradictions in word meanings. For example, there are 44 phonemes (sounds) but over 250 ways of writing those sounds (graphemes). A solid phonetic understanding is therefore important to give children the skills and knowledge to be able to decode unfamiliar words when reading and spell them when writing.

Phonics at Mount Kelly

Early Years Phonics at Mount Kelly

At Mount Kelly International Preschool, we begin our Phonics journey in the first year of the Foundation Stage by following the UK government recommended scheme called ‘Letters and Sounds’. It is a 6 phase teaching programme that we follow before moving onto the through-school ‘Read, Write, Inc’ Phonics programme.

Phase 1 of “Letters and Sounds” covers the building blocks needed for future phonics learning. It covers aspects such as the ability to talk about and hear the difference between sounds in the environment, instrumental sounds and vocal sounds. It also includes alliteration, rhyme and rhythm. These aspects provide children with the necessary skills for coping with the next stage of Phonics, which is learning initial sounds taught in the order provided by the ‘Read, Write, Inc’ programme. When the children know these initial sounds, they are provided with opportunities embedded in the classroom environment to practise their skills, alongside teacher-led activities.

Phonics at Mount KellyPhonics at Mount Kelly

When the children are ready, the teacher will move onto the next set of sounds, continuing to follow the ‘Read, Write, Inc’ programme. This stage of the programme will equip the children with not only the knowledge of initial sounds but also raising their phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to understand how words are formed and to break them down into individual sounds, helping children not only with reading but also with spelling and writing.

At Mount Kelly International Preschool, we embrace the fact that all children are individuals with unique learning styles. We, therefore, make sure that our Phonics programme is part of a complete, well-rounded reading programme that focuses on book handling skills and book exposure. Our goal is to instil a love of reading and books in our students and to encourage them to want to read for themselves. We put our efforts into making sure they develop a love of books, as well as providing the skills that the children need to be able to read.

Progression into Key Stage 1

At Mount Kelly School Hong Kong, children begin to deepen their phonemic awareness and start to apply their knowledge, skills and previously learnt sounds to improve their reading fluency and accuracy. Using the Read, Write, Inc. Phonics Programme children are exposed to and learn alternative spellings of previously taught sounds. By using differentiated reading books, the children progress through the progressive reading programme not only improving their reading fluency and accuracy but also deepening their understanding of comprehension. “Read, Write, Inc” is a collaborative scheme which encourages teamwork and aims at developing speaking and listening skills. The programme is holistic as it also involves writing activities targeted at improving the children’s vocabulary and knowledge of grammar. By the end of Key Stage 1, we aim to have developed confident, fluent and accurate readers who have the skills to tackle any reading text as well as independently write for different purposes.

Phonics at Mount KellyPhonics at Mount Kelly

How can I help my child with phonics?

One of the biggest misconceptions when learning to read and write is that learning the letters of the alphabet will help your child. In fact, the opposite is true. Children should be taught the individual sounds that graphemes make first, before identifying which letter that is.

To fully support your child with Phonics, you must be consistent with the phonics programme your child’s school uses. At home, you should try to model using the same vocabulary and using the same teaching methods to minimise any confusion for your child.

There are many excellent online resources, such as:

Phonics at Mount KellyPhonics at Mount Kelly

June 2020, written by Nathan Beaumont (Phonics Lead) and Laila Joubert (EYFS Phase Leader)

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