Teaching phonics - the basics

Don’t over-teach

Don’t over-teach, keep lessons well paced, interactive and personally relevant. Teaching that is too pedestrian and earnest lacks impact. Short, well paced and frequent phonics inputs have more impact than longer, drawn-out sessions. It is important to link new sounds to those that children already know, but if lessons lack variety and if whole class teaching means that children have to re-visit and re-explain old ideas too often, they become bored and switch off. Multi-sensory approaches that include visual, auditory and kinaesthetic ways of learning are important. Jolly Phonics is all of this. For example, letters can be said, chanted and sung about, their shapes can be created through body and hand movements and they can be seen in different fonts and sizes. Multi-sensory teaching supports all learners, including dyslexic children. Such approaches help secure learning in long-term memory and support learners in making that learning ‘automatic’. Varied resources such as wooden, plastic and magnetic letters in an alphabet arc promote graphemic and phonemic awareness.

It is also important to consider the social and emotional dimension of learning. For adults, a letter is simply a letter and a sound simply a sound, but young children are different. Some letters, and some sounds, are far more important and salient than others, and the most important of all are those in their own names and in the names of those they love. Many phonics schemes advocate a teaching sequence based on introducing the most useful, high-frequency phonemes first and in fairly quick succession to allow children to combine and use them in writing and reading. This is why the first 6 sounds in Jolly Phonics are s, a, i, t, p and n.