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Guest Cath
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Hi! I'm just wondering if anyone can give me ideas on the best way/order to introduce letters to children in the foundation stage (I am a Reception teacher in a Foundation Satge Unit). This is my 4th year of teaching Reception now and I have introduced the letters in so many different ways that I've started to coinfuse myself!

In my first year I focused on 1 letter a week. The children from the Nursery had learnt LetterLand and I did feel as though I was 'weaning them off it' as some children (as I have read other teachers on this site have found just associate the letter with the characters' name not the sound it makes). I then went onto introducing 5 letters a week-one a day (as I read so many articles about 'faster phonics')

Both Nursery and Reception have started following 'Jolly Phonics' but I must admit, if taught properly, Letterland can still be beneficial as the child really does remember the grapheme so it helps with writing.

Basically, I would like to know how many letters a week other teachers introduce and the ORDER in which they teach them-alphabetical/shape-eg all curly ones/order as suggested in Jolly Phonics.

Maybe I worry too much?! At the end of the day it is all about the children having fun while they learn isn't it?

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Hi Cath and welcome on board. Phonics is not my real strength so you will get more sensible advice from others. We use Jolly Phonics but not in nursery. By the way, you say you work in a unit- how long have you been wotrking that way and do you prefer it?

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Hi Mundia,

We've been working as a unit since September. Last year I took my Reception class over to the nursery (its not part of same building) in the afternoons-we did creative/K&U activities and outdoor play. We did this in response to OFSTED saying we didn't work closely enough together. It is a 60 place unit (that will be the max in Jan in the mornings only though) and we have 2 teachers, 1 NN and 2 TAs. Whilst I'm on I might as well waffle on a bit as I have a few quieries about FS units myself!...

There are some really postive points to working this way. The children are far more settled, N-R transition is not a problem (I obviously know all the chn already) and there is so much more they can do (my previous classroom was mostly carpeted-no good for water/paints etc). I don't know if its just this co-hort but they are such creative chn, always designing and making things by their own free will-eg kites! This kind of freedom wouln't have been possible in the constrains I had previously. However, it is very early days yet. We are being supported by our LEA but its not easy. We don't get enough time to plan as a team so it ends up being just me and the nursery teacher. We've not got on top of EVERYTHING eg assessment but I suppose everything takes time. Has anyone else got a 'milk bar' (in other words the children can come and have a drink of milk at any time and not a set snack time)? We were advised to do this as it is supposed to work really well. However, we have tried really hard to train the children how to use it for a half-term but we're not that keen. They have their name/picture on a tag and have to put this tag in a tub and their milk carton in the bin when they have finished. As you can imagine, the 5 year olds are great a this but the 3 year old find it really difficult. I know everything takes time but to be honest, I'm starting to think that I quite like the idea of chn all sitting down as a group to have milk-its good PSE. I'd be interested to hear what other people are doing and also as to whether staff have a morning break? We've been told that its assumed that staff in the Early Years don't take breaks.....

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Hi Cath,

 

We certainly have a break, although when I worked in Nursery many years ago I don't remember doing so but we did get coffee ta least twice during the session and were able to pop out to the toilet at any time!

 

My head is adamant that we must all have a break but when timing was bought into question she was also adamant that she could take it away too!

 

How long is your session?

 

I use Jolly Phonics and this term am introducing all the letters as suggested in their programme. We aim for 4 letters a week though, not 6. Had previously used Jolly phonics order but not double phonemes except as indicated by NLS. We find this works for our children.

 

Susan

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Hi Susan.

Our morning session is from 8.55-11.55. We have an hour for lunch. I'm sure that lots of people work through their morning breaks as we certainly do (and much of lunch as well). If this is out of choice that's fair enough, but when you are working with young children you sometimes just need 'time out' even if its just 5 minutes don't you? I wouldn't like to stop any of our staff having a coffee or cigarette if they needed one. So when you said you had coffee twice when you worked at Nursery how long were your sessions then?

(I can't believe I'm coming on an educational website asking people how many coffees they have a day!!! :o )

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Hi Cath,

Quickest reply ever here! You've made me chuckle :D with your coffee observation. Its quite a pertinent question though, working routines & relationships within a team are important for quality of input aren't they?

 

The sessions were 2.5 hrs, as it was a nursery school. The caretaker always made us coffee before she left at 9am, as children were arriving! and we used to have a coffee around 10.30. We didn't actually stop, only the person on coffee rota took time out to make it!

We also had some sort of drink during the afternoon session but I don't remember when.

 

I am talking along time ago! but I know when I visit our feeder Nurseries, I usually get offered a drink at some point! Again 1 individual making for everyone.

 

Susan

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Thanks for your reply susan. What a nice Cartaker-I'll hae to let ours know that tomorrow (only kidding!)I agree, its one thing having rules like 'no set breaks' if their is a valuable reason for not doing so but staff relationships and making each other coffees are far more important!

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where I work now is the first school Ive ever worked in (and thats a lot!!) that has breaks in the nursery. I dont take one myself nor does my partner, although I can take 5 munutes out to pop along and see someone/go to the loo which is a trek across the school if I need to. But we do timetable nursey nursers and other support staff for 15 mins morning and 10 in the afternoon. They often dont take it because the staff room is too far away (by the time you get there, you need to come back) and we dont have our own quiet area, not even a kitchen (we are bursting at the seems) so we tend to plough on.

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I teach in a reception class and we use the Jolly phonics letters... but also a scheme called synthetic phonics.

We aim to get through 3 sounds a week and also have a guided reading and a guided writing session each week.

The good thing with the Jolly phonics is that it is a multi-sensory approach to learning so allows for chldren with different learning styles. The synthetic phonics allows the children success in reading and spelling from the second sound they learn as they are able to beginning blending letters together to read and put letters together... spelling. We also teach them tricky words... those which are not phonetically regular and can not be sounded out. This is very successful and my children have only just started full time and are able to read and spell simple cvc words.

 

The teaching order we use starts s a t p i n c h e ....

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Hi there,

 

I posted on here months ago with queries about teaching children to read as I didn't feel I had all the knowledge and skills I should have. I didn't get many replies so I was comforted that perhaps I asn't the only one who was just about managing.

 

Since then, after much more reading, I too have discovered Jolly Phonics and it has made such a difference to me and my class. Finally I feel like I know what I am doing - and the children seem to have a real grasp and ownership also.

 

The order of letter introduction is such that common and frequent words can be blended as sson as the children have learnt the first 6. This makes so much sense - they are actually using their knowledge for reading and writing words as a whole rather than phonics supplementing other, ineffective strategies or geing a hlaf-hearted effort leaving huge gaps in their knowledge.

 

I thought about adapting it at first as the method seemed beyond what I thought would suit my class i.e. the speed and the double vowel letters but figured the authors knew what they were talking about, so went for in its entirity.

 

And it's fantastic - the speed is fine: it gets the knowledge into the children quickly so they can USE it and this is what is motivating and enthusing. Because you keep using previously learn letters wiht the new ones to make words, there is constant reinforcement. And who says children can't learnt double vowel letters? Right from the start we looked at how the number of letters in the alphabet is far less than the number of sounds so we would have to mix and match to write all the sounds down. As they knew right from the beginning that some sounds would be shown with two letters, it has never been a problem.

 

So yes, I introduce 6 letters a week and have so far done:

s a t i p n

ck e h r m d

g o u l f b

j ai oa b ee and or

 

so as you can imagine, the range of words the kids can read and write is quite phenomenal!

 

I would recommend this approach to everyone.

 

By the way, I believe this is a synthetic phonic approach like Lorna mentioned.

 

Jasmine :)

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Hi Jasmine,

just acknowledging you this time, I'm sorry if you thought we had ignored you before!

I'm sure it wasn't intentional but guess from your date of joining we were preoccupied with profiles at the time!

However that's no excuse so glad to see you again!

 

Yes, I believe Jolly Phonics is a synthetic phonics approach & we are using it successfully in our school (majority EAL) although we have previously adapted it to fit NLS, this year we are going for the programme in its entirity as I have also done some research over the summer and decided this was the way to go. At the moment due to my own ill health I haven't progressed far but am aiming to move fast over the next few weeks to get through by Christmas.

 

I'd be interested in hearing exactly how you are offering the blending etc as my own phonic experiences as a child make this quite difficult for me. everytime I sit down to do this, I'm uncertain how to begin!!

 

I'd also be really interested, Lorna, in what you are doing. I thought "synthetic phonics" was a generic rather than specific term?

 

Susan

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Hi there Susan,

 

Thanks for your reply! We were all quite pre-occupied at the time and I myself had little time to revisit the site to be honest, although now I have done some extra reading about phonics and teaching reading I feel I would love to share what I have discovered.

 

My phonic experiences at school were limited to a sound or blend a week and were nothing like what I think must be a much more effective way in the Jolly Phonics method. So I tried to forget what I had done at school and just concentrate on what the Handbook and research suggested.

 

First thing that was hard was pronouncing the sounds correctly which I have found really hard compared to what I have been used to but I have found it much better for children's auditory skills to hear sss-u-nnn rather than suh-u-nuh. I has taken a while to get used to it though, I still sometimes say e.g. fuh rather than fff by mistake.

 

Blending happens on a daily basis as a whole class and as paired games and individual practice. I use flashcards and pictures for the children to read and match. I do lots of modelling and getting the children to copy so those having trouble with the auditory side get lots of practice hearing it and trying it with adult support.

 

It is working really well and most of the children have picked it up really easily and are enjoying their success so much. I would advocate perseverance - the children's motivation spurs you on and you do get the hang of it.

 

I've also found it doesnt fit in with the NLS at all if you do it properly and I am convinced that the JP approach will be more successful so I am ignoring the Word Level section of the NLS at the moment.

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Blending happens on a daily basis as a whole class and as paired games and individual practice. I use flashcards and pictures for the children to read and match. I do lots of modelling and getting the children to copy so those having trouble with the auditory side get lots of practice hearing it and trying it with adult support.

hi Jasmine,

 

canyou explain in more detail, as I'm not sure how exactly to proceede with this

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Hi Susan,

 

sorry for the delay in replying - I don't get online often.

 

Also sorry for not being clear enough but hope this will illustrate things some more. I have really got on board with this segmenting and blending thing - it makes so much sense to me! I have been adapting things as i go along and as I see how the children respond. So what I meant was this:

 

Blending happens on a daily basis:

whole class - start with words and phrases on cards, perhaps focussing on word families e.g. 'ai' words: rain, wait, paint etc or pen, hen, den, then etc. I get the children to say the sounds and I repeat them so they can hear them blended together more fluently. For children who have trouble hearing the words, I have found using continuous sounds e.g. s, n, f, l better for making words than the abrupt sounds like p, g, b, d so 'sssunnnn' is easier to hear than 'pig'. With words with initial and final consonant blends, i demonstrate the 'st' together instead of s-t as in 'stop' and get the chidlren to repeat it.

paired games - bingo games where they have to pick a picture card and can cover the matching word card on their board when they can read it

individual practice - drawing a picture to illustrate a word or phrase read e.g. 'a pig', or 'a red flag' etc or matching words/phrases and pictures on velcro cards.

 

I do whole class daily and groups do paired or individual work once a week and their are activities available during child-initiated time as well.

 

Hope this is a little clearer.

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:oxD Thanks Jasmine,

I don't think you're doing anything different to me after all! :D

We've covered about 19 individual sounds and I have begun to start blending by putting the sounds on a washing line. Or the word & segmenting it to hear the sounds.

My children are EAL and have very little concept of a word but I keep repeating "letters make sounds and together they make words".

I never got on with Phonics as a child, so am a bit nervous of the teaching but Jolly Phonics has made it so much easier and the children respond so well. :D

 

Susan

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  • 1 year later...

When you introduce 4 or 6 sounds per week, do you also do the handwriting?

 

If you do 4 or 6 per week, how do you manage to observe each child individually so they do the correct formation from the beginning they learn that sound?

 

I suppose you observe each child each day. Right?

 

Do you have TA's? I am alone in the class and I find it difficult.

 

I divide the groups in groups of 3 or 4, depending on how independant they can work... but with all the other areas to cover, it takes me all the week to cover just one sound! Some children just need an example and then they work by themselves, but others need a one-to-one supervision.

 

Please can you share with me some ideas :o ?

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I teach 3 sounds a week but only do one letter for handwriting, so although we have covered the whole alphabet, all the JP digraphs and are practising blending consonant clusters, we haven't yet completed the alphabet handwriting sheets!

 

I'm not worried at all - the children practise air writing all the letters with me when we write class sentences and there are always plenty of self-selection handwriting activities available. I also have alphabet handwriting prompt sheets available at all times which show correct letter formation.

 

Incidentally, I don't follow the JP letter order for handwriting after the first few sounds because I prefer to teach in handwriting families and can start this quite quickly once the children have covered enough sounds :o

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:D Oh, boy! What a relieve! I was going nuts :o for nothing!

 

I thought I was going to ruin the process if I did it otherwise. I also prefer the handwriting families :) , starting with the curly caterpillar family.

 

We do air writing and I provide differente writing resources for their CI activities, but there are some children who seem to have difficulties to follow the correct formation. They are eager to come to the Big Books and trace the letters. They love anything of JP xD !

 

Thanks, ASPK, for your kind help.

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