• Phonics

    At Northowram Primary School, we use a structured programme (letters and sounds), to teach children to read and write the sounds and letters in the English language. Every day in Foundation Stage and KS1, children have a fast paced daily opportunity to build up their phonic knowledge.

  • Phonics for Schools

  • Helping your child at home

    An activity guide to support Early Reading in the Foundation Stage

    Fostering a love of reading

    Sharing books – Always remember that we teach phonics to help our children learn to read and write and in order to do this successfully they need to love books! The best way to help your child is to read as many books as possible. Read anything that your child is interested in (including magazines, menus, etc). You don’t have to read all (or any) of the words each time. Remember to use silly voices, make sound effects, pull faces, act things out, talk about what you can see, talk about what you both think and feel and have fun!

    Develop speaking and listening skills – Children who are good communicators make better readers. Encourage your child to tell you what they have done at school today. Sharing new songs and rhymes is something that you can easily do when you are busy with something else e.g. cooking, cleaning, driving in the car.

    Give everything a name – Build your child’s vocabulary talking about interesting words and objects. For example, “Look at that aeroplane! Those are the wings of the plane. Why do you think they are called wings?”

    General tips to support reading

    Once is never enough! – Encourage your child to re-read favourite books and poems as well as their school reading scheme book. Re-reading helps children read more quickly and accurately.

    Dig deeper into the story – Ask your child questions about the story you’ve just read. Say something like, “Why do you think he did that?”

    Take control of the television – It’s difficult for reading to compete with TV and video games. Encourage reading as a distraction free activity.

    Be patient – When your child is trying to sound out an unfamiliar word, give him or her time to do so. Remind to child to look closely at the first letter or letters of the word. You can always sound the word out for them and ask them to blend it (remember to use pure sounds).

    Pick books that are at the right level – Help your child pick books that are not too difficult. The aim is to give your child lots of successful reading experiences.

    I read to you, you read to me – Take turns reading aloud at bedtime. Kids enjoy this special time with their parents.

    One more time with feeling – When your child has sounded out an unfamiliar word, have him or her re-read that sentence. Often, children are so busy figuring out a word they lose the meaning of what they’ve just read.

    Games to play with your Nursery child

    Toy sounds – When your child is playing with their toys encourage them to make the right sounds. Farm animals, train sets, vehicles, dolls etc are great for this. Help your child to notice these sounds around and about. E.g. Listen to the sound that cars, trucks and fire engines make in the street. Practice making these noises, then use them with car, truck and fire engine toys.

    Big ears – Cup your hands around your ears and listen to sounds all around. Talk about what sounds you can hear. Try doing this in the house, in the street, in the park, on the beach etc. Talk about the sounds: Are they loud or quiet? Are they short or long? Can you make a similar sound with your voice?

    Shake it all about – Make simple shakers by filling plastic bottles or tubs with rice, pasta, pebbles etc. Play with them and talk about the sounds that they make. Are the sounds soft, sharp, smooth, jiggly, scratchy?

    Tap it out – Use the shakers above or use drums (pots and pans and wooden spoons are perfect) to play along with songs, rhymes and the radio. Try making the loudest sounds that you can then the quietest sounds that you can. Tap out simple rhythms. Can your child repeat the rhythm back to you?

    Interesting instruments – If you see or hear instruments being played either in real life or on TV, talk about the sounds that the instrument makes. Which instruments does your child like the sound of best? Can they tell you why? Can they imitate the sound with their voice?

    Song time – Sing your child’s favourite songs, ones they have learnt at school, songs you remember from childhood or songs on CDs you have at home. Encourage children to use their bodies to make sounds to go along with their singing – stamping, clapping, patting knees etc.

    Sound effects – Read stories and encourage children to make sound effects with their body – stomping, knocking, clapping, scratching etc.

    Rhyming books – When children are really familiar with a particular book, try pausing before the rhyming word. Encourage your child to fill in the missing word.

    Clap it out – Encourage children to think about the rhythms in words. Say simple nursery rhymes and clap along with one clap for each syllable. Repeat with knee taps, head pats or stamps.

    Talking about toys – Talk about your child’s toys and say something about them that alliterates. It doesn’t have to make much sense.

    Thomas the train travels on the tracks.

    Lion likes to lick lollies.

    Can your child make suggestions? This is a tricky skill and it will take time. Praise them for trying and making suggestions even if they don’t alliterate.

    Quick draw – When drawing together, try drawing a snake and a sock. Point out that these things both begin with a ‘s’ sound. Make the hissing s sound. Add some more ‘s’ pictures e.g. snail, spider etc. Your child may be able to suggest some ideas as well.

    Voice play – Encourage your child to use their voice to make a wide range of sounds. E.g. At the park:

    Going up a ladder – clunk, clunk, clunk

    Coming down a slide – whoosh

    On a roundabout – wheee

    Bouncing a ball – boing

    Pulling faces – Play around with moving your mouth in different ways e.g waggling your tongue, opening as wide as possible, smiling wide, frowning, blowing lips etc. You may want to do this to music or it can be a fun bath time game. Make a range of sounds e.g oo, ee, sh, th. Exaggerate your mouth shape while you are doing this to encourage your child to copy your mouth shape. It can be fun to do this while you are both looking in a mirror.

    Games to play with your Reception/Key Stage One child

    Oral Blending games

    Robotic talking – Words are made up from sounds and children need to be able to hear these sounds individually. Sometimes when you are playing you can say words as if you were a robot (saying the sounds separately) and see if your child can work out what you are saying. Stick to short simple words that only have a few sounds in them. Make sure you are saying the letter sounds (p-i-g) not the letter names (pee-eye-gee). E.g.

    Pass that p-i-g to me.

    Sit d-ow-n.

    Point to your t-ee-th.

    Hop like a f-r-o-g.

    As your child becomes familiar with this robot talking, see if they can say words in robot talk themselves?

    I spy – Say the rhyme ‘I spy with my little eye something beginning with ______’ allow your child plenty of opportunities to guess what you have chosen, for example, ‘something beginning with t’ could be a tree, toy, tent or train.

    Point out print everywhere – Talk about the written words you see in the world around you. Ask your child to find familiar words on each outing such as ‘McDonald’s’ or ‘Coke’.

    Playing with words – Encourage your child to sound out the word as you change it from mat to fat to sat; from sat to sag to sap; and from sap to sip.

    Phoneme recognition games

    Looking for letters – Ask your child to look for letters whilst you are out and about. Can they find letters from their own name, letters they have learnt in school or letters that specific words begin with?

    Fast letter sorting – You will need:

    A large piece of paper with three hoops drawn on (see example)

    12 small pieces of card with letters written on (4 sets of 3 letters)

    Choose 3 sets of letters – 2 which the child knows and one new one. Spread the letter tiles out on the table making sure they are all the correct way up. Encourage your child to sort the letters into the correct hoop using both hands, saying each letter as they move it.

    Letter discrimination – You will need: A 3×3 grid (see example)

    Write the letter you are learning with your child onto half of the spaces (for example c). Fill the rest with other letters. Ask your child to cover all the c’s with a counter as quick as they can.

    Ladder letters – You will need: A ladder template (see example)

    Make a pile of letter tiles (use a mixture of known and new letters). Place a counter at the bottom of the ladder and move up a rung for every letter they can read correctly. This game can be changed to covering spots on a ladybird, petals on a flower – go with your child’s interests if possible.

    Letter sound bingo – You will need: A 3×3 grid for each player (see example) & counters or coins

    Write some of the letters into the spaces on each card, making each card slightly different. The ‘bingo caller’ says each letter in turn and the players cover the letter up. The winner is first to fill their board. To make this game easier for new readers, show them the letter for them to match.

    Tricky word games

    Bingo – You will need: A board for each player (see example) and counters or coins

    The list of words your child is currently learning, for example any phonics/spelling words sent home.

    Write some of the words into the spaces on each card, making each card slightly different. The ‘bingo caller’ says each word in turn and the players cover the words up. The winner is first to fill their board. To make this game easier for new readers, show them the word for them to match.

    Matching pairs – You will need: Small pieces of card or paper with the words your child is currently learning written on each. Each word will need to be written twice so you can search for a matching pair. Turn all the cards face down on the table. And take turns to turn over two. When a matching pair is found that player can keep them. The winner is the person with the most pairs at the end of the game.

    Snap – Make a set of cards with words your child is learning written on. Ensure that each word is written ion two separate cards. Shuffle up the cards and share them out. Each player takes turns to turn over their card, put it down and read the word. If it matches the previous card played, the first person to notice shouts ‘snap!’ and wins the pile. This game is best used to practise words your child knows fairly well, rather than new ones, as it’s quite fast-paced.

    Once your child knows a word reliably, you can take it out of the current pack of cards and bring in a new word. Every so often, play a game with the ‘old’ cards, so that your child doesn’t forget them. It’s a good idea to try and discard a known word and add a new word every day, once your child is getting the hang of learning new words.

    Further ideas…

    Be your child’s #1 fan – Ask your child to read aloud what he or she has written at school or for their homework. Be an enthusiastic listener.

    Create a book together – Fold pieces of paper in half and staple them to make a book. Ask your child to write sentences on each page and add his or her own illustrations.

    Make up stories on the go – Take turns adding to a story the two of you make up while riding in a car or bus. Try making the story funny or spooky.

    Reading books your child will bring home in Reception

    Library Books – The children are encouraged to choose a ‘library book’ to bring home every Monday. These books are intended to be read to (not by), and shared with your child. This is a great opportunity to immerse your child in story language and receptive phrases and to look for sounds and words they know as they learn to read. Model talking about the pictures, make predictions and share your opinions about the story so that your child learns, from an early age, that learning to read is so much more than just decoding the words, comprehension skills are just as important.

    Individual Reading Books – Your child will read with a teacher once a week at school. It is vitally important that your child reads regularly with you at home. We find that the children who read at home regularly (the same book again and again) and return their reading book to school make the most progress. To support you with this, we have provided a ‘reading diary’ for you to record in every time your child reads. 

    Picture Books – Initially your child will bring home a picture book (book without words). These books teach the children to develop awareness of what is happening in the pictures which will enable them to use contextual knowledge to decode words later on. Therefore, the more detail and descriptive language the children use at this stage, the more developed this key reading skill will be later on. You can also encourage your child to make predictions, offer opinions and make links between similar stories and characters within books. These books will continue to be sent home until your child has learnt a range of sounds and can blend them to read simple words such as c-a-t, cat.

    Early Phonics Books – Once your child knows some sounds and can blend them to read simple words they will be given a reading book that contains words they can sound out and read. These books might only have a few words and phrases in them but it is imperative that the children are given the opportunity to re-read these books every night as this builds fluency. Without this regular opportunity to practice their reading remains at the sounding out, stilted stage, and the children can quickly lose interest. We find that the children who re-read the same book daily make much quicker progress with their reading.

    Further Reading Books – As the pupils phonics knowledge progresses the children are taught to use a range of different strategies to read unknown words and sentences and the books they are sent home with require a combination of these strategies. These include:

    Tricky Words – These are words that can be sounded out when they develop the required phonic knowledge but, at this stage, they cannot so we teach the children to recognise the whole word on sight. We practice these words with the children on a daily basis.

    Picture Clues – Often, there are clues within the pictures that will help the children to ‘guess’ what an unknown word might be. We teach the children to think about what word might ‘fit’ using the picture clues and the knowledge of what might make sense within the sentence they are reading. Ask the question ‘Does that make sense?’ to support this understanding. If the children do not read on a regular basis at the picture book stage they can struggle with this element of reading.

    Re-reading and Missing Words Out (using contextual knowledge) – Once the children are reading texts with several sentences on a page, their understanding of the story as a whole becomes more important. When the children come across a words they can’t read they are encourage to miss it out and read to the end of the sentence to help them work out it might be. They are also taught to go back to the beginning of the sentence and re-read up to the word, again to help them work out what it might be. They are also encouraged to think about if their reading makes sense and ‘self-correct’ if it does not.

  • Developing readers and writers in Reception year

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