Phonics – Back to Basics!
We aspire to encourage all learners to develop a secure phonemic understanding, as this provides the foundations for their reading and learning journey. But, how do you recognise that pupils are developing good phonemic knowledge or identify those showing signs of a phonological deficit?
When is comes to developing a strong phonological awareness and phonemic understanding, there are some simple signs that parents and teachers can look for which suggest children are well on their way with the foundations of reading:
- They have a good and secure knowledge of the names and sounds of letters.
- They show an ability to “chunk” up words, in a variety of configurations individually and in clusters.
- They are confident with different sounds and are able to blend sounds together to make words.
- They can quickly figure out and pronounce new words.
- They can easily memorise new words and vocabulary.
- They can hear and appreciate rhyme as well as match with similar sounds.
However, some readers can have a phonological deficit, which is defined as ‘A difficulty in phonological processing, eg in segmenting and blending sounds or appreciating rhyme’ (Kelly and Philips, 2016). Whilst, there are many different manifestations of this ‘deficit’ there are again some simple signs teachers and parents can look out for.
- A basic and intrinsic problem sounding out words.
- Slow, laborious reading.
- An inability to consistently match letters and sounds.
- Only using the first one or two letters when sounding out words, then guessing the rest.
- Poor comprehension and recall due to the time and effort of sounding out words, the meaning of text is often lost.
The earlier phonological deficits are identified, the more support we can give to get pupils back on track with their reading and learning. Whilst there are lots of ways to support children with poor phonemic knowledge, here are a few simple tips from our Lexplore Analytics consultants.
- Make sure to check for visual difficulties and be aware of possible learning differences such as dyslexia.
- Consider changing the appearance of the written word, change the background colour, or use an overlay.
- Use a structured, cumulative, and multisensory approach to the teaching of phonics.
- Set time aside for exploring words beyond reading time. Look at every letter and sound to help children develop a ‘phonic dexterity’.
- Encourage learners to read the words they write to reinforce the sound of words in their minds.
- Use simple rhyming games to continue the learning process outside of the classroom.
- Makeup sentences where every word begins with the same letter.
- Nursery Rhymes and poetry can also help to build word banks and provide a steady stream of memorable rhyme.
- Use wooden letters, plastic blocks and multisensory materials to reinforce the alphabet.
Helping all children on their individual reading journeys can be difficult, especially when juggling all the day to day challenges of a primary classroom. You can find out more about different methods and ideas for supporting children in developing good phonemic awareness by watching the recorded version of our Phonics Webinar.