Last Updated 06 Jul 2020

How Does Phonics Develop Early Reading?

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How does phonics develop early reading and how should phonics be taught? The most important skill any child can leave primary school with is the ability to read independently and effectively for meaning. ’ (DFE National Literacy Strategy) Reading has become an integral part of our lives; within the world we live in today we rely heavily on information and environmental text. It is important that from an early age Children are immersed in books everyday.

With parents reading short stories to there children daily it will be inevitable that those children will stand a better chance at becoming stronger fluent readers. However distractions at home can have a detrimental affect on children’s development in reading as parents may not have enough time to help this. Many subjects rely on access to texts and an holdup or absence in basic literacy skills will effect progress in these areas. Phonics is “a method of teaching people to read by correlating sounds with symbols in an alphabetic writing system. (Oxford Dictionaries) Phonics is not something new and has been used in schools to help children learn and read since the “mid nineteenth century” (Browne 2011, 27) Although it had become less significant within schools during 1950’s it has continued to appear in practice within schools since. Within this essay I will be looking into the role of Phonics within teaching children to read while also looking at the different phonic systems in place and choosing the most effective one.

I will be talking about the theory I have learned as well as my experience in schools while on placement with my foundation two class. There are two methods of teaching phonics in the classroom both Synthetic Phonics and Analytical Phonics. I will be concentrating more on Synthetic Phonics as it is considered to be “the best method for teaching reading. ” (DfE 2010, p11) Children are taught to read and spell during the same period. They are taught the individual correspondences between sounds that are known as phonemes and written letters, which are known as graphemes.

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An example of this would be h-a-t = hat. They can also use this technique to pull apart those sounds that would help with spelling of words. For example hat = h-a-t. (Rowlingson) Whereas Analytical phonics is the complete opposite as they will start with a whole word and analyse a part of it. “In English there are 44 sounds (Phonemes) which are written using 26 letters of the alphabet” (Browne 2011, p27) There are many more Graphemes than Phonemes with most phonemes being represented by a number of different graphemes. Synthetic phonics can be taught in many ways.

The Primary Framework for Literacy (DfES, 2006a) gives a progressive plan on how to teach phonics. I found during my time with Foundation year 2’s the teacher I was working with concentrated on implementing four new letters every week as well as recapping what they had learnt from the previous week. I asked her if it worked well and she certainly seemed to think so. Before she would be doing a new letter a day, although this would allow her to teach at a good pace she noticed the children were struggling to remember all the letters and sounds they would learn.

Because of this she had to revise the way she was teaching the phonics to go at a pace the children were comfortable with. She revised her plan so that every day her children would recap over the letters they had previously been taught. I noticed that however much planning was in place that it was always best to go by how the children would cope and over time you will become familiar with the class you are working with and this will come naturally.

Once the alphabetic code has been taught you will advance to more complex graphemes and simple consonant-vowel-consonant words to much more complex CVC words. This will give the children a good understanding of being able to read and write these. It also allows them to then combine what they have learnt from the sounds into whole words. This however doesn’t always work with all words that are known as ‘phonically irregular’ also known as ‘tricky words’ as they do not comply to the phonics rules that are being taught.

An example of this will be l-i-g-h-t, which clearly won’t make much sense when viewed from a phonics point of view. These words will be learnt by rote, which is a memorizing process using repetition where the teacher feels appropriate based on how successful the child is at reading. By understanding these procedures of reading it is possible to decode entirely unfamiliar words. From my experience within my Foundation year two class I learnt that it was important to keep the phonics lessons short, with around thirty minutes a day dedicated to this.

Some people may believe that because it was only a short period of time to cover phonics the lesson will be very restricted with the children having to take in all the information they are being given by the teacher with no participation. While being on placement I witnessed first hand exactly what happens in the typical Phonics lesson; it would start with ‘Fast phonics first’ where the children would watch a musical animation of the alphabet being sang out with the children engaging and singing along.

The lesson then covers what the children had learnt the previous week in a short recap while then covering the new letters. This can be done in many ways. The teacher often puts the new letter on the interactive board and plays magic finger which sees the children watch the letter being drawn in the air with her finger and gets the children to copy this and then write this down on there own individual whiteboards which keeps them involved.

This way it allows the children to experience an engaging lesson that they will remember, its also important that the teacher recaps on the letters the following day so that the children will keep the letters in there minds much longer. Over my six weeks I saw that the lessons would get gradually harder which follows what The Primary Framework Literacy (DfES,2006a) plan states.

The diagraphs such as consonant diagraphs where two consonants join together to produce a single sound the most popular being “ch” “sh” and “th” Vowel diagraphs can also be used such as “ai” “ea” and “oo” etc by using these as well as CVC words it will help with the children’s understanding and knowledge of reading. A structure is very important when teaching Phonics and in Jim Rose’s independent review of the teaching of early reading many people agree with this. The review itself was conducted during 2005 with Jim Rose publishing his discovery early the following year.

He talks about how phonics should be taught at the age of 5 years from foundation until year 2 and beyond. It should be Systematic carefully planned and progressive which fits well to my observations while on placement. It should also be taught discretely daily at a brisk pace with the main point being that children are learning to decode and encode print. The key point from this Rose review however is that “it is part of a broad, rich curriculum” Meaning it should be used in all areas of teaching the children and not something that is separate.

Another scheme would be that of Michael Gove Secretary of state for education who stated “A solid foundation in reading is crucial to a child’s success as they progress through primary school, into secondary school and then in later life” (Michael Gove 2012) He talks about how expected reading levels of ages 7 and 11 are simply not achieving with the government are looking to raise the standard of reading in the early years of primary school, his idea is that he wants children to read to learn information rather than reading to learn to read. We are determined to raise literacy standards in our schools, especially of those not achieving the expected level – a light-touch phonics-based check will provide reassurance that children in Year 1 have learned this important skill, will enable us to pinpoint those who are struggling at an early age and will give them the help they need before it is too late. (Michael Gove 2012) Systematic Synthetic Phonics is an extremely valuable program that works effectively within the reading and writing of children’s lives however It should be used alongside other strategies such as analytical I briefly mentioned earlier this is because every child is different and just because something works well for one child doesn’t always mean it’s the same for every child. With other strategies it will help every child no matter what the ability maybe. By using more than one program, most topics will be covered that suit the child. “Phonic knowledge can be taught in many ways” (DfES,2006a). Word Count - 1490

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