Teaching phonics - the basics

Don’t assume children understand the words you use

It seems obvious to check that the children know what you mean when you use terminology such as ‘word’, ‘letter’ and ‘sound’. Young children may not have had a lot of previous discussion about the mechanics of print and may not be completely secure about what these terms mean. Even experienced teachers can make assumptions about the vocabulary and experiences children bring.

Words such as ‘beginning’, ‘middle’ and ‘end’ can also cause confusion. Some children may still be struggling to use ‘beginning’, ‘middle’ and ‘end’ easily when talking about physical objects that they can see and touch. Spoken words are far harder – they are transitory; they cannot be seen and they cannot be touched. When children first learn to talk, they think of words solely in terms of what they mean: for a young child ‘ice lolly’ is often one word (because it relates to one thing) and it means, quite simply, an ice lolly. It must seem very strange to children unused to thinking of words as a sequence of sounds or articulatory movements, to suddenly hear their teacher talking about an ‘ice lolly’ as two words, each with a ‘beginning’ and an ‘end’.