Phonics and Reading
Phonics at home: Reception
A quick guide to how your child is learning to read and write in Reception and what you can do to help at home
Children in Reception have a phonics session on a daily basis. These are brief, fun activities that aim to equip children with the basic skills required to read and write independently. This letter should give you a bit more information about how we teach letters and sounds to Reception children, as well as some hints and ideas for how you can help your child at home.
Phonics: What do we do? – Twinkl phonics programme
We teach children to recognise phonemes (sounds) and graphemes (letter or group of letters that represents a sound).
The difference between letters and sounds often confuses children initially, as many are used to singing or reading the alphabet and need to get to grips with the difference between letters and sounds. The following song helps with both the letter and sounds of all letters of the alphabet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PmB3SIjNdQ
For guidance on pronunciation of all phonemes, please see the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCI2mu7URBc
We are following Twinkl phonics, which advocates the fast and fun teaching of phonics in an engaging and interactive way. Our daily phonics sessions are supported by the skills of blending (merging sounds together to make whole words) (Sammy the Seal) and segmenting (breaking whole words down into individual sounds to read unknown words) (Metal Mike). There will be plenty of opportunity for children to practice writing letters and begin using their phonic knowledge to attempt to spell words by blending sounds. We are learning a set of 4 letters and a few high frequency and ‘tricky’ words every week. We will continue to revisit letters and sounds to cement the particularly difficult sounds, and support children’s fluency in reading as they progress.
What you can do at home
There are plenty of fun things you can do at home to support your child’s recognition of letters and sounds.
Playing games such as ‘I hear with my little ear, something starting with…..’ can really help children to pick out the starting sounds of familiar words. As they become more confident they can begin to segment the whole word into individual sounds, e.g. c-a-t and f-i-sh. It is important that sounds practiced in isolation reflect the sounds we hear in whole words. For example, ‘p’ rather than ‘puh’ and ‘rrr’ or ‘mmm’ rather than ‘ruh’ or ‘muh’.
Rhyming songs and games
Playing with word sounds and singing rhyming songs really helps your child to hear the different sounds in words. For example, making up nonsense words that rhyme with names or familiar objects is a good way of supporting your child’s sounds. It may sound silly, but it’s something everyone can join in with and it’s great fun!
Handy hints for recognising letters: - Playing ‘I spy’ with printed materials such as newspapers, books or comics can help children recognise starting sounds in unfamiliar words. - When you are out and about, encourage your child to pick out letters/sounds that they know from signs, place names, supermarket aisles, menus, car plates, etc.
Writing at home
Giving children opportunities and purpose for writing at home will help to reinforce their learning in the classroom. Here are some simple things you can do to support your child: -
- Ask for help writing shopping lists or messages
- Encourage them to write their name on any work that they do
- To increase confidence, use whiteboards or magnetic letters which can be easily erased
- Make cards or address envelopes to post to friends or family and help your child to write a message or address
- Children love post-it notes! If you leave some lying around the house you’ll soon find little messages stuck all over your house!
- Encourage your child to write a caption with pictures that they draw.
- You can always write in yellow pencil, or dots for them to trace over to build up confidence
- Magnetic letters on the fridge or radiator can really encourage your child to experiment with arrangements of sounds
- Have a ‘Writing Book’ for your child to record their ideas and just ‘have a go’ at mark-making. It helps them feel grown up!
All mark-making, or ‘pretend’ writing, should be encouraged—it is a great way of building confidence and practicing holding a pencil.
It is really important that children begin to form letters correctly as soon as they start writing. There are lots of ways to improve confidence and work on handwriting at home.
Practice gross motor formation (large scale) to build confidence in letter formation. Try using big paint brushes and water with a splash of food colouring on the wall or floor. Or write letters in the air with ribbons on sticks or sparklers.
It helps if you can encourage your child to write lower case letters rather than capitals, except at the start of names. This is what they will be seeing in the classroom.
Tape paper to the underside of a table and let children experiment with writing using big chalks and crayons.
Glossary of Terms
- Phoneme—any sound made by a letter of combination of letters
- Grapheme—a letter or combination of letters that makes 1 sound (phoneme) e.g. ai and ay are different graphemes, but they make the same sound
- Blending—putting sounds together to read a word
- Segmenting—sound out a word to spell / write it High frequency words—any word that children are encouraged to recognise by sight in order to aid reading fluency
- Tricky words—words that cannot be sounded out (i.e. they are not phonetic)
- Gross/Fine motor control—large/small scale movements
- CVC words—words made up of a consonant-vowel consonant (e.g. ‘cat’, ‘pot’, ‘duck’)
- Caption—a group of words that are not a complete sentence (e.g. ‘tools in the shed’) these usually go with pictures.
Games to help with letter recognition, rhyme, initial sounds and word-building:
- www.phonicsplay.co.uk (Phase 2, moving onto Phase 3 and 4 when ready)
- www.bbc.co.uk/schools/wordsandpictures/cvc/whirl/index.s html
- www.familylearning.org.uk/phonics_games.html www.letters-and-sounds.com/phase-2-initial-sound-game1.html