Teaching phonics - the basics

Be a ‘noticing’ practitioner

There is much emphasis on and encouragement for schools to introduce whole class phonics instruction as early as possible. For children who are able to hear and manipulate phonemes this appears be a good thing. However, some groups of children have particular problems with blending and segmenting sounds. These include children who stammer, children with ‘glue-ear’ and other types of hearing loss (temporary or permanent), as well as any children who lack the requisite level of phonemic or phonological awareness.

Younger children are particularly vulnerable in this respect. They will often benefit more from playful opportunities to share and enjoy the sounds and rhythms of language than from a highly structured and inflexible phonics programme at this stage.

Practitioners need to ensure that the relentless pace of whole class teaching does not put such children under undue pressure. It is important to quickly notice and respond to difficulties, and to recognize that support for such a child may involve less emphasis on a phonics programme and more emphasis on the alternative ways into reading and writing which are part of a broad literacy curriculum.