What is phonics?
Phonics is the link between the written shapes of letters on the page and the sounds that you hear. Children can learn to read and spell using different methods, but the teaching of phonics in Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 has been shown to be a fast method that works for most children.
In some languages, each letter has one sound so learning to read and spell is quite easy. English is a much trickier language because different letters can make the same sound - c and k - also, the same letter can make different sounds - yes fly happy
There are actually 44 different sounds in the English language - called phonemes. When you write down the sound a phoneme makes, it's called a grapheme. There can be different ways to write the same sound in English - wait and weight, dear and deer, so children have to learn the different possibilities and combinations of letters.
How do we teach phonics?
Phonics is usually taught daily in the first two years of school, and it starts with careful listening. Children listen to themselves and adults saying the phonemes that make up words. Some of the phonemes are short, clipped sounds; others are extended or buzzing. This sounds complicated, but the children quickly learn how to blend sounds in speaking and then go on to recognise letters, and link them with the sounds. We practise reading words on cards, on classroom whiteboards, in special phonics reading books, and in other daily tasks in school.
Is phonics the only thing that children need to read?
No, there are many irregular or tricky words in English and these have to be memorised - for example said, Mrs, the. Also, phonics does not help children understand what they are reading, so we often send home a phonics book and another 'sharing' or reading book that will develop understanding of books and stories.
Do children have to do phonics?
The government introduced a phonics screening test at the end of year 1 to check that pupils have learned how to read real and nonsense words using phonics. The nonsense words in the test need to be decoded using phonics because children will not have seen them before - for example squip, taiber, spunting. Occasionally children do learn to read at a very early age by having a great memory for words. These pupils would still take part in phonics lessons as it helps with spelling patterns and enables them to tackle new or nonsense words.
What about dyslexic children or those with special educational needs?
All children are entitled to high-quality phonics instruction when they start school. Some pupils may not pass the phonics screening test at the end of year 1 and will have further instruction in year 2 before re-taking the test. In Key Stage 2, phonics is only used in some spelling lessons, or for those children who have not yet become fluent readers. Occasionally, there are pupils who cannot hear how the phonic sounds link to words and they may be taught to read or spell using an appropriate combination of methods. If you have concerns that your child is not making progress with reading the words on a page, please discuss it with the class teacher. Sometimes, we ask our Special Educational Needs and Disability Co-ordinator (SENDCo) to do further assessments on a pupil.