The new OFSTED framework shows that creativity is firmly back on the agenda as being at the heart of quality teaching and learning. Can this be applied to phonics? YES IT CAN!
Imagine a school where children learning phonics encounter Felicity the Phoneme fairy; who teaches the children their letter sounds, Bert the word –builder who shows the children how to build words using his bricks; and not forgetting the unforgettable Tricky Trevor whose job it is to teach tricky words to children!
This is exactly what children encounter at our school, Aldingbourne Primary School, in West Sussex, where we are the Head and Reception Class Teacher. We have worked really hard to create a curriculum in which literacy, including phonics, is bought alive and made lots of fun through a creative approach. Therefore, when we were approached to develop our approach to phonics into a phonics scheme for other schools to use, we jumped at the opportunity! Creating the ‘Song of Sounds’ phonics scheme has enabled us to share our hands-on, dynamic and multi-sensory approach to learning phonics that we know from first hand experience REALLY works.
We have both worked across KS 1 and 2 but our backgrounds are rooted in the reception classroom as we are both primarily reception teachers. Reception is undoubtedly where the phonics journey begins. We believe passionately that phonics should be delivered through a lively and exciting approach to engage all learners.
FELICITY THE PHONEME FAIRY
In their first few weeks at school, our reception class children meet Felicity the phoneme fairy (teacher in role). Felicity teaches the children what a phoneme is and then introduces the children to the first phoneme they will learn ‘s’. They learn to hear, say, recognize ‘s’ and then learn to blend words beginning with ‘s’. The children spend the rest of the session engaged in a range of fun filled practical activities - for example games such as ‘Sieve for s’ in the sandpit or ‘Search for a star’ in which the children have to hunt around the school for Felicity’s phoneme stars. Following the introduction of the first phoneme ‘s’, the class are then immersed in a world of phonics, learning a new letter sound every day. Our multi-sensory approach uses pictures, songs and actions to engage every different type of learner. Frequent visits from Felicity inspire the children to keep practicing their new skills.
THE WORD BUILDER
The results are amazing as the children make RAPID progress and soon the children are ready to begin to read and write. Help with this comes in the form of a northern builder with boots as big as his moustache (teacher in role). He arrives in the classroom wheeling a barrow of bricks, explaining to the children he is no ordinary builder, he is the word builder! His bricks are special bricks with letter sounds on and he shows the children how to build words using his bricks. The children learn to blend the phonemes together to read Bert’s word and segment Bert’s words into phonemes to write.
The children are then engaged in a range of multi-sensory activities including ‘Wheel a Word’, a game in which teams race with wheelbarrows to collect bricks to make words. They also play ‘Word Building’, a game using duplo bricks in which the children have to read the words on the duplo bricks and build the highest wall they can. However, they must watch out for the bulldozer which might knock their wall of words down!
The children progress along their phonics journey, encountering new characters and experiencing plenty of fun filled activities, all of which further develop their ability to read and write through phonics. For example they will meet a train conductor whose train has two carriages the long vowel carriage and the short vowel carriage. They would meet Sally Syllable who teaches them how syllables can help them to spell words, and Tricky Trevor who teaches them all about tricky words in a fun-filled and memorable way! All these experiences and more ensure that the teaching of phonics is an experience that children will definitely not forget!
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
At Aldingbourne Primary School the teaching of phonics is based around a whole school approach that captivates the children through lively teaching, visual props, games, and vibrant & purposeful classroom environments. At the heart of the whole approach however, is a song, hence the name of the scheme ‘Song of Sounds’ It is this song (sung to the tune of Skip to my Lou my darling) that underpins all of the children’s fundamental phonic knowledge. There are different versions of the song for reception, year 1 and year 2 and each song includes all the phonemes taught in that particular year group. The impact of the song is phenomenal as it is viual, auditory and kinaesthetic, therefore catering for every type of learner.
Our timetable is creative too. In addition to a 15 minute daily phonic session, we also teach phonics for a whole morning session, so this means that the children can be fully immersed in the learning and enables us to include all these exciting games and hands-on activities.
The impact of this type of teaching is huge. Our children leave the reception class with a firm grip on phonics, having already begun their reading and writing journey.
They continue this journey throughout the school, building on their word and sentence level skills and blossoming into confident readers and writers.
We believe that our cross-curricular approach to phonics which effortlessly blends phonic skills, fun-filled games and a creative approach is a more natural way for young children to learn. Moreover through this approach we find that we enjoy teaching phonics as much as the children enjoy learning about phonics!