Academy help children to recognize some of their first letters and know their corresponding sounds
Click here to view the units in this Learning Element
This Learning Element is for 2s to 4s only. Children are not often ready to learn phonics earlier than this, although we do cover lots of the ground work in younger classes, such as good listening and sound differentiation, and having sun making oral sounds.
Phonics is the system that links letters to the sounds they make. Phonics is a key component to children learning to read and write. There are around 45 individual phonemes, or units of sound, in the English Language (it can vary slightly depending on accent), some of which are made up of more than one letter (e.g. ur, air, ght).
Learning the full phonics range take children many years. It usually begins when children are between 3 and 5 when they learn the initial sounds at the start of word, such as the first letter in their name. They also begin to recognise the shape of those first letters. They will probably only learn a few initial sounds at this stage and usually the ones that are easier for them to hear and say, such a ‘b’ or ‘m’.
When children enter school in foundation stage they begin to learn phonics in a more systematic way, learning all the individual sounds of the alphabet. By the time they are in Year One they are probably learning phonics on a daily basis. They will start to learn the sounds combination of letters make and that some letters can make more than one sound. They will learn to form the written letters and will also start to blend individual sounds together to sound out simple words. This is called synthetic phonics. Jolly Phonics is one such synthetic phonics scheme.
MAD Academy and Phonics
MAD Academy aim to introduce our children to the start of phonics. We focus on teaching children to identify the initial sounds of common, familiar words and to link that sound to a symbol (the written letter). We only teach children a small group of letters. It would not be possible, given our weekly class format, nor appropriate for MAD Academy to teach children phonics comprehensively or systematically. This is because:
- We only have a few minutes a weeks – it is totally unrealistic to teach more than one or two letters over half a term.
- The phonics system is extremely extensive and complicated. It is vital that we keep it very simple for both children and parents alike.
- Teachers at school are better able to teach the full phonics range to children at the appropriate age. We aim just to introduce preschool children to a few early letters in order to begin to raise their phonetic awareness just at the time as they naturally start to get curious about letters, words and writing around them.
This will help them to pick up phonics more effectively when they begin to learn it in a more structured way at school. Some children will be eager and quick to learn about sounds, others will not be ready, but will still enjoy the activities and songs we use in this Learning Element.
MAD Academy have chosen to introduce children to the letters:
We have chosen these letters as they begin many words which children are familiar with, e.g. ball, baby, balloon, bird, snake, swing, mummy, monkey, milk etc.
These are different from the letters that Jolly phonics start with (s t a p i n). As a synthetic phonics program, Jolly Phonics is all about teaching children to blend letters together to read simple words. They teach children to blend right from the start and so they choose letters to facilitate that. Therefore they include ‘a’ and ‘i’ as they are necessary letters to learn early as they appear in the middle of simple words. However they do not start many words that children are familiar with.
Teaching letter sounds
You should only use lower case letters when teaching the phonics Learning Element. All children will need to know both upper and lower case letters and most phonics system will introduce them together. However given the age of our children and the time we can devote to this Learning Element each week, there is not the scope to adequately explain to the children about upper and lower case letters and using both in our classes will result in confusion.
You can refer to the letter by its name. However we are teaching children the sound it makes, so it is vital that you use this far more than the letter name. For example, when introducing the activity you can say “Today we are going to learn about the letter S. This is the letter S and it makes a ‘ssssssssssssssss’ sound. Can you say ‘ssssssssssssssss’. Let’s find out what other words being with a ‘ssssssssssssssssssss’ sound. Can you find a ‘sssssssssssssssssssss’ sound?”
We focus on two letters only during the course of half a term. Depending on the ability of your children, you have the option to focus just on one letter. We do not teach more than 2 letters in a half term as we want the children to really learn each letter sound and become confident with them. Don’t under estimate how much there is for them to take in – the name of the letter, the sound of the letter, the visual representation of the letter, distinguishing the sound of the letter at the start of different common words. Once you introduce a second letter it becomes much more complex as they have to remember all this information about 2 letters and then be able to discriminate between different words and decide which group they belong to.
A child needs to develop phonological awareness in order to learn to read and write. Before they can learn about phonics (the individual units of sound and their symbolic representation) and learn to blend phonemes together to form words, there are some early phonetic skills they need to have. These include alliteration, rhyme and onset and rime.
Alliteration – this means that children can hearing the same sound at the start of words, e.g. they begin to recognise that ball, bat, bed and bath start with the same sound
Rhyme – this means that children can hear when the end sounds in two word are the same, e.g. king and ring.
Onset and rime – this means children are able to hear that a word can be split into its initial sound (onset) and the chunk of sound (comprising a vowel and one or more letter sounds) that come after it e.g. ‘b’ and ‘at’ for bat, or ‘ch’ and ‘air’ for chair.
For more details on teaching children rhyme, have a look at the following websites: