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Oh my, learning to read got sooo complicated!
Most of us mums learnt with “look & say”.
Very old school!!
So, whether our kids are beginning school or we’re teaching them at home, all this phonics stuff can be super confusing!!
I went searching for phonics apps for my 4 year old a few months back and just didn’t understand most of the lingo :-/
But, having put myself on a beginners crash course in everything phonics, we finally chose a program – We plumped for Reading Eggs – and we’re loving it!
Once you’ve got your head round the basic phonics lingo it’s really not too complicated. And it’s then easy to access loads of brilliant phonics games and other materials on Pinterest and sites like Teachers Pay Teachers.
So here’s my super quick beginners guide to phonics to get you started!
Beginners Guide to Phonics
English has 44 basic sounds made up of 1 or more letters.
The 44 sounds are typically taught in the following order: s a t p i n m d g o c k/ck e u r h b f l j v w x y z qu ch sh th ng ai ee igh/ie oa oo (short as in book) oo (long as in cool) ar or ur/er ow/ou oi air ear ure
Sounds are not syllables. Syllables can be made up of more than 1 sound.
Sounds are also known as phonemes.
Some sounds that frequently go together e.g. br appear to be phonemes, but are actually consonant blends of two separate phonemes, i.e. b and r, because the mouth makes two separate shapes to say them.
Graphemes are the actual letters which represent a phoneme or sound.
Children learn to read with phonics by blending sounds together in order to make words.
Blending is usually known as synthesising in the UK.
Decoding is the ability to read a word regardless of whether you know what it means.
7. Word Families
Word families are phonemes or sounds that frequently go together e.g. at, ot, it.
Some phonics experts warn about rushing too quickly into word families as it means children do not get enough practice blending their separate sounds.
Others say they keep early readers motivated by moving quickly on to words & sentences.
Segmenting is breaking words into sounds to work out how to spell them when writing.
9. Nonsense Words
Some phonics programmes include made up words to help kids practice segmenting words. Some teachers say they confuse more able readers who put a high value on meaning
10. Long Vowels
Vowels that sound like their capital name e.g. A in bake or E in bee.
11. Short Vowels
Vowels that sounds like their lower case name e.g. a in cat or e in bed.
12. High Frequency Words
Words that occur very frequently in English e.g. the, a, it. Children will read more fluently if they can recognise these quickly as whole words.
13. Sight Words
Words that children recognise quickly as whole words. Includes high frequency words but also other words. Children may learn irregular words that can not be sounded out as sight words.
As their reading progresses children recognise by sight words they previously blended.
14. Blended Phonics / Synthetic Phonics
An approach to phonics that focuses on blending sounds and segmenting words rather than context and meaning of words. Some teachers who support a whole language approach to reading are critical of the lack of attention given to context and meaning and believe phonics should not be used exclusively.
Synthetic phonics is the nationally recommended approach to teaching reading in the UK.
15. Dolch Sight Words
A list of 220 words that Dr Edward Dolch thought were most frequently used when teaching in the 1930s. The list was created before the development of phonics and some teachers are sceptical about its value.
16. Fry Sight Words
A list of 1,000 words Dr Edward Fry thought children should learn by sight to be fluent readers.
A sound or phoneme made up of one letter
A sound or phoneme made up of two letters e.g. ck, qu, sh, ch, th
A sound or phoneme made up of three letters e.g. igh, air, ure
C-V-C words are simple words made up of consonant-vowel-consonant sounds.
C-V-C words with an e on the end which turns the vowel into a long vowel e.g. cake.
A sound pattern in which the e after the consonant lengthens the previous vowel e.g. delete.
23. Variant Vowels
Variant vowels are vowel sounds that can be spelt differently e.g. ow in cow and ou in house.
24. Look and Say
A traditional approach to reading where children recognised whole words shapes and learnt them by sight. Words they could not recognise they broke down into syllables.
Luci is the founder of Mums Make Lists. She has written about all aspects of organising family life for ten years. Her main areas of expertise are family finance and budgeting, simplifying housekeeping and family admin and kids’ party planning. Read more.