Phonics is an essential part of the curriculum and if planned well can provide the children with a chance to self learn through inquisitive, exciting and engaging exploration. Schools use different phonics schemes which normally provide an outline of the order in which the curriculum should be taught. Below are some top tips to help use these phonics schemes to create a successful phonics learning environment in your classroom.
The number of phonics lessons taught depends on the year group that you are teaching but normally they are every day for reception, 2/3 times a week for year one and once a week for year two upwards. Each lesson should be around 30 minutes long and follow a similar structure as outlined in this lesson plan:
1) Write a number of different graphemes (written representation of a sound) on the board which the children already know and ask the class to say the corresponding phoneme (verbal representation of a sound) as you point to the grapheme. Ask the children to say them normally or as a princess/frog/soldier etc. Ask the whole class to say them or the girls/boys/front row etc. Repeat with different variations.
2) Write new grapheme on the board and ask the children whether they know the corresponding phoneme. Practise saying the phoneme as a class.
3) Write some words which include the new grapheme on the board. Ask the children to come up to the board and draw sound buttons (a dot underneath one letter that makes one sound) and sound bars (a line underneath two or more letters that together make one sound e.g sh). Then practise decoding the word by saying each phoneme and then blending the phonemes to say the word.
4) If appropriate introduce 1 or 2 high frequency tricky words that don’t follow the normal pattern and remind the children that these are words we just have to learn.
5) Tell the class what main acitvity each group is going to do. It is up to you how many groups you have. Ideally all main activities will be supervised by an adult. If there are not enough adults available then they should supervise one/two activities whilst the other/s are completed independently. Then in the next lesson the supported groups should complete an independent activity and the independent groups should complete the supported activity.
6) Recap the new grapheme through sharing of the independent groups learnings.
There are a wide range of different games that can be used for the main part of each lesson.
To help children cement their knowledge of phonics newly learnt sounds and concepts can be incorporated into other aspects of the weekly planning for example:
- Including words that contain phonics sounds covered that week in handwriting lessons
- Directly linking phonics, spelling and handwriting
- Sending home phonics words as weekly spellings
- Having one group exploring outdoor phonics* during each English lesson
- Encouraging the use of phonics mats when writing
This phonics screening clearly shows the children’s phonics knowledge and can be used as an ongoing assessment.
*The outdoor area should be set up prior to the lesson. The children should initially be shown how to use the different areas that are set up. Then the children should have the freedom to explore the phonics activities each week on their own. They should be prompted to explore the area using the sounds that have been taught that week. Allow them flexibility to adapt/develop ideas and activities as they go, promote exploration rather than correctness.
Whether or not your school promotes homework or home learning sending spellings home is a good way to encourage parent involvement and to get spelling words learnt. Spelling words should be a balance of age appropriate words and gap filling words unique to each child.
One suggested spelling system:
- 5 spelling words linked to the phonics teaching (same for everyone)
- 5 spelling words taken from the high frequency spelling list and then once they know all of them 5 spelling words taken from the children’s English books (different for everyone)**
** When marking the children’s books highlight yellow the incorrectly spelt words that you most want them to be able to spell correctly. Then choose 5 of these words each week to send home as spelling words.
Test the children on these words once a week. Phonics words will change each week. Personal words should only change once they get them correct.