Don't forget these key strategies to fostering phonics success in Reception and beyond.
Every early years teacher wonders the same thing. Is there a formula? A secret formula to getting early reading right in Foundation Stage? We know the system is full of fancy phonics schemes and each one claims to be feeding the children in your class Wonka's finest golden ticket filled with synthetic and systematic phonetic gobstoppers. I'm not here to tell you which candy popping scheme is the best, but I am here to remind you of those basic strategies that will lead to immediate impact and, if we get it right, we can say goodbye to the intervention later on.
We talk about it endlessly at Inset meetings, during pupil reviews, in the staff room whilst waiting for the microwave to ping out last night’s veggie curry. If we all follow suit surely no-one will fall behind? Let's all have the same consistent approach and deliver it together. Depending on your school size, ensure you have structure and pace. Remember, aim high, shoot low.
The classroom is your Adventure Island. Fill it with wonders of the phonics world. For every activity set, ensure there's something linked to initial sounds within close reach. Make it colourful, multi-sensory, innovate and inviting. That's why we wanted to be teachers, right?
It's 2019! We don't expect every teacher to rack their brains for ideas on teaching Phase 1 phonics, especially with a scheme that has been around for a few decades. There are brilliant ideas waiting to be lifted from the internet. Use the government guidelines as your foundation blocks but look for your fellow innovate teaching peers around the globe who have used the Internet to promote their well-documented ideas through the development phases. Remember – use your professional judgement and choose wisely.
Repetition and modelling
This is the key to high-quality phonics. This is the start of purposeful learning. Encourage, embrace and burst into tune at any given opportunity. The more you model and repeat, the more children want to learn and recite just like you. Simple!
All you need to do is visit the Natural History Museum's ‘Human’ section to read in bold 'practise makes perfect'. I don't think we need to rely on Mary Poppins' magic here. Our children can produce their amazing outcomes if allowed to practise daily. And with phonics, it needs to be daily to have an impact.
Model for parents
They are our main resource for learning reinforcement. Invite them to phonics workshops at the start of the EYFS journey. Show and guide your parents on the school's methods used so they can adopt your classroom approach. However, be strict with attendance and make it work for them especially if they work full time. Offer multiple workshops and get your Head Teacher on side. This is essential to getting it right!
Reading really is the bedrock of the curriculum. It cements all the subjects, and without it the system would simply crumble into tiny titbits like the old chocolate chip cookie in your bag that's been there since 2018. Remember, as well as fostering phonics, to foster a love of books in your classrooms. Keep your expectations high for phonics, always have the end of year outcomes at the back of your mind and never lose sight of what's in front of you on your phonics journey together.
By Natalie Williams
Natalie is an FSF and Tapestry website contributor. She has experience as a teacher and Assistant Head, leading in raising standards in reading and phonics across a school. Natalie says: 'I’m mum of two little darling (and demanding) boys, Eden and Byron. Both insist that I pretend to be the big bad wolf multiple times a day or a human goalpost when the sun is shining. I work from home and live in Essex with my wonderful partner in crime, Dom. If I’m having a bad day, I remember Life is beautiful when you have running water at your fingertips!
Edited by Jules