• Kate reading story

Our first blog - an insight into phonics!

Welcome to February's blog (2021) and our very first blog here at Great Wood Farm!  My name is Kate, I am the nursery manager here, and type this nervously as this is a new world I am dipping my toes into.  We had a meeting yesterday to reflect on the content of our website and this was something I agreed to try.  That makes it all sound like we work very official, however in reality the meeting was with my mum Kathryn, and sister Charlotte, and I sat cross legged with my shoes off in the nursery office, the joy of working with family!  Anyway here goes, the first blog...

I have spent a lot of time this February half term reflecting on group times with Kindergarten Room Leaders and our Early Years Teacher and how we deliver phonics.  We have a phonics group time at 11:30 every morning, the children have had a wonderful morning being supported doing planning in the moment and as they have to stop and tidy up for lunch, we find children are ready to sit and focus on a group time at this time of day.  Phonics is that scary word which intimidates both staff and parents and thought it might provide a great starting point to delve further into on here and how and why we start phonics at nursery.

Phonics simply put is the way we teach young children to read and write.  I think it is more scary for adults as it is a different way to how we learnt at school and we have to learn this approach ourselves in order to help teach children in setting or as a parent at home.  Hopefully breaking it down here will help you rethink of it differently.

Phonics begins by developing early listening skills, even babies and toddlers are starting their journey with phonics.  Listening and joining in with nursery rhymes, hearing the differentiation in pitch and rhythm, listening to a special adult reading a story, hearing the sounds and rhyming in words, the description of noises, Room on a Broom is one of my favourite books for its wealth of phonics included within. 

The first stage of phonics is called Phase 1 and is split up into seven aspects. 

  • The first being where children learn to hear environmental sounds, for example able to differentiate birds singing, the leaves whistling or an aeroplane flying over whilst out on a walk. 
  • The second aspect is instrumental sound, I'm sure as parents you know any child loves to make noise and doesn't have to be with real instruments.  You could try filling a cardboard tube with dried peas and shake these loudly or softly as you go marching, skipping or stomping. 
  • The third aspect is body percussion and can be achieved though action rhymes such as 'Wind the Bobbin up', clapping beats to songs and music or listening to the sounds your feet make when walking slowly or fast, stomping hard or tiptoeing.
  • The fourth aspect is rhythm and rhyme and can be learnt through lots of wonderful nursery rhymes and books.  I recommend singing the same few nursery rhymes and giving into your child by reading the same story over and over to the point where you know every word, as this will help your child get to learn rhythm and rhyme; going deeper into their learning than a child does with a new book or rhyme.  This is why we now give out our nursery rhyme booklets of our ten favourite rhymes at Great Wood Farm.  Try also making up rhyming strings, even making up nonsense fake words can be good fun and beneficial.
  • Alliteration is the fifth aspect, words that begin with the same sound and can be a lot of fun to play around with, for example you could make up sentences and silly stories 'Mummy munches muffins', 'Daddy is doing the dishes.' - (one can hope and dream!)  Rhymes such as  ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.' are helpful too.  You could also role play shopping, adding to a basket 'a tall tin of tomatoes' or a 'lovely little lemon'.
  • The sixth aspect is voice sounds, this starts with a baby by repeating your child's vocalisations as a way of interactions and valuing those sounds.  Reading stories it is important to vary pitch and tempo, making different voices for different characters, modelling all this really helps children learn how they can use their own voice.
  • The last aspect is oral blending and segmenting, this is all verbal and we would not expect your child to be able to match a sound to the correct letter at this stage.  The emphasis is helping children to hear the separate sounds in words and to create spoken sounds.  You can segment a word 'c-a-t' which can be blended together to make the word 'cat'.  Being able to oral blend and segment means your child is getting ready to learn the next stage of their phonics journey, starting to read and write sounds and words in Phase Two of phonics.

So there you have it, in reality Phase One is good listening and attention skills and a lot can be achieved through sharing nursery rhymes and stories with your child.  It is all things children naturally enjoy doing in their early years and staff and parents do it all the time - see I told you phonics isn't as scary as it sounds, so congratulations on doing phonics with your child from a baby!  The key is not to give your child pressure and go at the pace that is right for them.  I have three young children myself and they have all gone at different paces with length of stories at bedtime and so forth but they will all get there and learn when they are ready.  I really believe it is important to follow the children's lead, tune into what is right for them following their interests and learning styles.  When your child is ready to learn sounds it is important you learn how to correctly say the sounds so you don't teach your child 'bad habits', this link on youTube is fantastic for demonstrating this: 

Finally well done for reading to the end of this first blog, hope you found it interesting, I would love to hear any of your comments on it.