How to: Help your Y1 class pass the Phonic Test

How to teach phonics effectively so that your children pass the Phonic Test and still love reading!

My advice: teach your class so well that no one can fault your teaching, even if you haven't got the right percentage over the recommended score. Ideally you will do if you teach well - without resorting to 'teaching to the test'. It is more than possible - in fact most of your children will be well beyond that test. Aim for your children to love reading - as that is the main aim of teaching by phonics: to set children free to be able to learn from their reading - not to pass the Phonic Test!

Read on to find out HOW!

See our range of phonic worksheets in TES or TPT

Take your eyes off of the test - do not teach towards it

Now I know that teachers are anxious about the Phonic Test and getting a good score...My answer is, that I WILL NOT risk my children's education in order to satisfy some inspector who does not have the needs of my set of children at heart and does not understand them. My children have the rest of their lives ahead of them and their success depends on my teaching THIS YEAR. I can not justify spending time worrying about an external test - let alone spending precious weeks practising nonsense words! If I am a good teacher then it will be evident in my childrens' ability. If it isn't, then teacher - you need to take stock and review your teaching methods. I do not give room for anyone to say 'Phonics does not work', or 'Some children in my class cannot learn with phonics'. The bottom line is that phonics does work, but in cases like these, the teacher does not understand the subject sufficiently well to make it work for every child. There are a few - a very few children who cannot hear the sounds - but even these children respond well to being taught reading and spelling in a structured manner, even if it does mean they learn the words by heart.

For your class to become excellent readers - you must not rely on a programme. You must understand the process each child must go through to become an excellent reader. You must study phonics for yourself.

Of course - theory is one thing and putting it into practice another.

Ideally, headteachers should keep teachers teaching Year one long enough for them to become experts in Year 1.
If this is not the case in your school you will have to do your best - but don't despair - with these guidelines you can do better than you would do otherwise.

Aim to understand what is needed - then study your children as they learn.

Ask questions:

How can I get him /her to understand this? What practice can I give? What examples will help him/her to grasp this concept?

You must also decide for your self about common objections to phonics to quell the negativity in your mind as it will stop you from throwing yourself behind teaching in this way and leave your teaching ineffective as you try and merge several methods.

Here I will just say that those who say that phonics only promotes decoding at the expense of meaning cannot be further from the truth. In all my years teaching phonics, meaning has been central. Meaning is at the bottom of communication and we all strive to understand what we hear and read. Of course you will have a literacy based environment: you will read excellent examples of good language to your children in the form of good story books and poems; you will see the whole day as literacy lesson - in every subject where you read/write with the children you can be alert for opportunities to apply those skills you have been teaching or that certain children need developing.

You SHOULD NOT need an external test to tell you what each of your children is capable of ...

  • You should know each child inside out: what they know and what they are weak on, so that future teaching can address those gaps.
  • Biggest tip: you have got to see your class as 30+ individuals and teach that way rather than groups of abilities. Young children are best taught individually - and if that is not possible, as it really isn't in a classroom, then you have to have that mindset. The lower third particularly will need YOUR assistance daily to move them on.
  • Undertake your own regular individual tests. This is essential. The children in my classes were used to testing. In fact - they enjoyed the challenge, as tests correctly used can motivate children.

'Let's see how many of these sounds you know.' Well done - look , last time you only knew these - see what you know now! Well done! 

Testing allows you to really know where the gaps are in a child's knowledge/ability and to tailor make individual programmes of study. Of course - if you find several children with the same weakness, you can work with them together, but still knowing exactly which question to frame to each individual child to bring them on. During whole class time - maybe in another subject - if you come across an opportunity to reinforce a point you know a child is weak on, then without naming the child, simply draw the classes' attention to that point and ask the child with the weakness to help you read/spell the word.

My bestselling resource for the Phonic Test provides plenty of worksheets that can be used for practice/revision and assessment all through the year, but especially at revision time - helping you to hone each child's skills before the big day - but not just for the big day but beyond into adult life. 

Find this book in TES or TPT

What do I test:

Initial sounds - regularly until I am absolutely sure that each child knows the letter name, corresponding sound and can both give the sound on seeing the letter and write the letter given the sound. Make a game of it - the alphabet games on this site make great testing tools.

The 2/3 letter combinations as taught - I sit with a child at a time with a pile of flashcards and go through the ones taught to see which ones are known, marking them off on a checklist. This cannot be done in groups - I must get each child on his/her own.

Free-writing tests can be given to the whole class - these are exciting. Give the children a piece of paper each, a simple, accessible topic to write about (what you did at the weekend) and give them ten minutes to write freely. From age five upwards these will give a real insight as to how each child has internalised your phonic teaching. Remember - just because you have taught a child something, doesn't mean it will necessarily use that knowledge immediately - it has to be 'taken in'. In then takes a bit of trial of using the skill to eventually use it correctly. Take powerful 'e' for example. We all know that children will often start sticking 'e's' on the end of every word as they learn to use the knew knowledge. It will take several weeks reinforcing the correct usage before the skill is internalised and used correctly.

Reading: using the Schonnell reading test. I use this once in the Autumn term and again in the summer term to give an indication of a child's progress throughout the year. Crude, yes, but it gives you a bench mark as it were, if you follow the testing procedure carefully, which is easy.

I never use Literacy time to test - that precious time in the morning when the children are at their most alert for learning knew things is for normal teaching. I test in the afternoons. I set up the afternoon activities, and my classroom assistant helps, while I quickly spend time, either testing, but mostly taking the those children that needed hearing reading daily. I'll write another post on what we read from! Those that are romping away I hear less regularly, or entrust to classroom assistants who I have carefully trained to my ways of working.

You have to be organised - to know which children you will target in which way each day. Time is a precious commodity in an KS1 classroom, bu the need is urgent - see it that way and you will succeed.

Above all you will create an environment... which your children know they will learn to read and write, expect and feel themselves making progress, trust you to know exactly what they need to help them to that end. Success will be celebrated - genuinely. Better still, the children will feel their success and it will motivate them to move forward enthusiastically in their learning.


Is it too late???

I realize that if you are reading this part way through the academic year, you might be tempted to think it is too late. Well, yes, in a way, it is better to start right at the start of the school year - but it is never too late for your children as everything you do for them matters. Remember - the test is not what matters - it is your children. Start to change the way you teach now and you still have half the academic year to make a difference. Enjoy seeing your children respond to your teaching. Enjoy reading together! Do a Schonell test now on each child and again in July just before term ends. Then evaluate your teaching in time for next year.

Should I practice nonsense words with my children?

To be honest - I think that is just falling into 'teaching to the test' trap'. Forget the test. Nonsense words just prove that those setting them do not understand phonics or young children, feeding the opinion that phonics only focuses on decoding and not meaning - in my opinion. The Schonell test would be my indicator of my children's reading ability and the progress they have made from the start of the year to its close - along with samples of their written work. In year one I have easily had somesof my more able childrenome reading to a reading age of 10 or 11. The whole class had a RA at or above their CA.

How to: get the best from Letters and Sounds

Hello, today we continue our posts looking at teaching phonics looking specifically at making Letters and Sounds work effectively.
Although as we have already said, Letters and Sounds is built on sound principles, it does have some weaknesses which you would do well to know about.

Weakness 1: Going too quickly

In its attempts to be rigorous, Letters and Sounds tries to attempt too much too quickly. Most Reception children will not cover the ground suggested to be covered in this year. In my experience in a London Primary school, it was probably fair to say that the eldest Reception children, those who turned 5 in the Autumn Term, were able to learn the initial sounds and start to blend CVC words by the end of the year. Now obviously, there are always going to be exceptions to this, but generally the children seem to need time to settle and get used to school life and then the maturity to make use of the teaching given. The younger Reception children often do not get much further than learning the initial sounds. But do not lose heart. Once these children enter Year 1, then work can really begin. For me, year 1 is the year for the most rapid progress in phonics. So, if you have a group/class of children who are going great guns, then fine, go for it! But if not, do not panic: aim to get the initial sounds learnt and at the very least the ear trained to hear CVC words, and the children will do just fine in year 1.

Weakness 2: Expecting children to learn the technical language associated with phonics

Young children need very little 'technical' language to describe word building. They do not need to  distinguish say between phonemes, digraphs for example, In fact - nor do the teachers: this just serves to make phonics seem needlessly complicated. Children do need some simple terms of reference. I list them here:

consonants (or for the very young 'leters that are not vowels'

Using these four words you can teach a whole phonic programme.

If you are teaching 'sh' then you can simply say, these two letters go together to make a new sound 'sh'. It will not delay a child's progress in reading or spelling if they do not know the 'proper' term for this combination. Bear in mind that phonics is a means to an end: once children can read and spell they will forget HOW they learnt as it will quickly become so automatic to them - like when you first learnt to drive a car. At first its hard work thinking through every manoeuvre, but soon you cease to stop and think about it any more as it is so familiar.

Weakness 3: Introducing consonant blend words with a short vowel at Stage 4 (CVCC)

To me, this is unnecessarily late. My order of teaching word building is to teach CVC words followed by CVCC with a short vowel sound. However I do not wait for a child to be proficient at CVCC word before moving on to introducing other letter/vowel combinations as I know that they will receive plenty of practice as we go along. If this is done as children start Year 1, then it gives the whole of that year to practice words with and without consonant blends, rather than spending most of the year teaching the stage three sounds of Letters and Sounds, only to have to recap them all in Stage 4 to add in words with a consonant blend. It also gives a longer period for the lower third of the class to securely grasp CVC words before the more complicated sounds are taught.

Let's see how this works in practice. If you follow the Letters and Sounds programme you would teach:

ai:  rain  pain  tail   wait    with no consonant blends and then you would have to go back later in stage 4  to teach consonant blends so that you can add in: brain  train  trail  snail  drain 

Available from TES or TPT

From the Alphabet Game Pack - great for assessment of initial sound recognition
Free on this site

Now had you have taught the children consonant blends before starting to teach 'ai' then you could have taught them all in one go. The more able in your class would streak ahead in reading and spelling leaving you free to give support to those that need it. You would not have to go back over the Stage three sounds again - so wasting valuable time and at risk of boring your more able children.
from my personal experience this would boost your reading scores with less effort. For me personally, year one was the catalyst: most children made more progress in reading and writing that year than any other. In fact - that was my main aim for Year 1 - to get every child as proficient in reading and spelling as I possibly could.

Available from TES or TPT

Weakness 4: Introducing the sound 'ure' in Stage 3 - especially when this is recommended for the reception year!

'Ure' is a complicated sound to learn. In many words it does not give a pure sound: think of the word 'picture'. Or think of the word 'sure' which is included in the Letters and Sounds word list - the 's' is saying 'sh' - now teaching that at Stage Three is just asking for trouble!!!
This sound would be best left until Year 2.

Teaching this sound in Stage 3 is likely to have the effect of confusing many of your class - and their parents - and make them think that this phonics is too difficult. It is not the phonics that is difficult - it is the teachers/'professionals' who make it difficult. In theory it is the most easy and natural way to learn to read. Keep it that way! If need be, put 'air' and 'ear' to one side until later as well. Teach all the main 2 letter combinations, plus most children can cope with 'igh'.

Weakness 5: Undue worrying about the Phonics Test

Now I know that teachers are anxious about the Phonic Test and getting a good score. My answer is, that I WILL NOT risk my children's education in order to satisfy some inspector who does not have the needs of my set of children at heart and does not understand them. My children have the rest of their lives ahead of them and their success depends on my teaching THIS YEAR. I can not justify spending time worrying about an external test - let alone spending pracious weeks practising nonsense words! If I am a good teacher  then it will be evident in my childrens' ability. If it isn't, then teacher - you need to take stock and review your teaching methods. You SHOULD NOT need an external test to tell you what each of your children is capable of - you should know each child inside out: what they know and what they are weak on, so that future teaching can address those gaps.  As you can tell, I feel quite strongly about this.

 See our range of phonic worksheets
             in TES or TPT

My advice: teach your class so well that no one can fault your teaching, even if you haven't got the right percentage over the recommended score. Ideally you will do if you teach well - without resorting to 'teaching to the test'. It is more than possible - in fact most of your children will be well beyond that test. Aim for your children to love reading - as that is the main aim of teaching by phonics: to set children free to be able to learn from their reading - not to pass the Phonic Test!

See my next post for my advice to help you teach your children so welll that they pass the test without you having to 'teach to the test' and still come out loving reading.

My bestselling resource for the Phonic Test provides plenty of worksheets that can be used for practice/revision and assessment all through the year, but especially at revision time - helping you to hone each child's skills before the big day - but not just for the big day but beyond into adult life.
Find this book  in TES or TPT

My Recommendation:

If you have to use Letters and sounds, then tweak it. Make it fit your children not your children fit it!

Help! I don't understand Phonics!

Phonics is the main way that children are taught to read and spell in UK schools. However, many parents are at a complete loss when it comes to helping their children, as they do not understand what phonics is or how it works. Their children come home making all sorts of strange sounds, and these parents are bewildered. Help is at hand!

Maybe you are like the dad I saw at the supermarket last week. He and his little lad (no more than age 5 if that) were coming our through the automatic doors. The little lad saw the sign saying 'AUTOMATIC DOORS' and went up to it with great enthusiasm. 'Look dad!' he said, this says 'a', 'd'.
His dad pulled a face showing his confusion and then said rather irritatingly ' It says automatic doors - now come on!'

If the lad's teacher had been there she/he would have been delighted. This little lad was beginning to take notice of print in his environment and apply what he had been taught - always an encouraging step. No doubt he had been taught the initial sounds that each letter of the alphabet stands for and now he had seen them for himself. He wasn't worried that he was only looking at the first letter - he could see letters with which he was familiar. Had his father have understood what was happening, he could have said 'Oh, yes, you are right!'. If he was a little more aware, he could have maybe gone a step further and said 'Look - 'd' for door. This other word says 'automatic' - you'll learn to read that one soon! In this way, the lad would have felt that he really was making progress: he was starting to decipher words for himself!

Okay - so what was happening here?

Let's first think about what happens when we talk. Words are made up of different sounds. We learn these sounds when we are babies - when we learn to babble. The young child says 'mmmmm' or 'ddddd'. Then as speech devlops further, the young child puts two sounds together 'da da da da'. As it develops yet further, they utter a word - or a close approximation to it. 'Ah' we say s/he's saying _______!' Later on one word becomes two, then three until whole sentences are formed.
and so learning to read and spell is just like that. Sounds first - then words.....a bottom up approach.

Likewise, learning phonics means becoming aware of the individual sounds that make up words first, and then learning to put them together to make words. That is the way our brains learn best.

Children need to learn to hear the sounds and to be aware of where the lips, tongue and teeth are as each sound is made with the mouth. Think of it as a code - first the code has to be learnt, and then it can be used to decipher anything written in that code - in this case 'English'.
Some people do fine with the first stages - the intial sounds and combining them into words like
 'c - u- p' or 'v-e-s-t'. but struggle with anything beyond that.

So let's have a closer look!

First, indiviual sounds are learnt - starting with one sound for each letter of the alphabet. Children are taught to listen carefully as a word is spoken. Listen as you say each word. Say it gently, and then see if you can just pick out the first sound - start to say the word - get your tongue/teeth/lip ready and then gently say the first sound and STOP! This is the initial sound.

These sounds all need to be known very well, so that the child can give the sound instantly on seeing the letter and also match the right letter to a given sound. The Alphabet games on this site have been written to assist in this step.

Once the child knows these well, then s/he can begin doing what we call 'blending' them. This simply means, putting them together to make words. 

Just like learning to talk, children start with simple words - like these with only 2 letters:

Then in reading and spelling they progress to simple words with three letters and then with 4 - all made with initial sounds only - so no words like 'tar' as in this word the 'a' is not saying 'a' for apple. Only words like those in the box below - listen to the vowels sounds 'a' - apple, 'e' - egg, 'i' - insect, 'o' - octopus, 'u' - umbrella. 

Once children can do this, the most difficult stage of learning with phonics is over. Now the fun begins! Seeing as there are 44 different sounds to learn (including the initial sounds) and that some sounds have one or more ways to write them, the child has much to learn. But with careful teaching and games and activities to help along the way to give practice, they are soon learnt in most cases. 

This does not mean that the child cannot read until all the sounds have been learnt - far from it. The teacher will make sure that the child is given little sentences that the child can read for themselves using the sounds they have been taught so far. This may mean that for a while, the teacher does not send home a reading book. At this stage, practising the sounds being taught in class and looking out for them in the home (on packaging etc..) and in the street (shop signs for example) will be a great help. Oh the look of pure joy on the child's face when it realises that s/he can read signs without and adult to tell them what it says first! What freedom! What a sense of achievement. This sense of progress motivates the child to keep learning. 

Progressing on:

In most phonic teaching programmes the child will soon be introduced to two consonants together making a new sound - there are not many of these and they are quickly learnt, but now the child can read more words - like the examples in the box below.


So once children can blend using the initial sounds, they begin to learn other ways of making the vowel sounds followed by a simple way of making other sounds. You will recognise these letter combinations, but you may not have realised the sound they were making!
Spend a while thinking of a word with each group of letters in:

Listen to these words:

Take each one like this:
ai    train. Dissect the word into the four sounds you hear:  t   r   ai   n.
Notice how we do not say all of the sounds seperately, as we did for  c a t :  as in   r  a  i  n
That would make 5 sounds! But 'train' only has four. Why? because the a and i are togther making one sound ... ai (pronounced ay).

Different programmes introduce the sounds in different orders - but there is no right or wrong order - although some make it easier for the child to organise his/her learning than others.
What is important, is a child should not be asked to read a word for which s/he has not yet been taught the sounds to enbale them to decode it.

Some programmes stop at this point as once children have got the idea, they very often then progress onwards, working out the code for themselves and are soon reading well. Some children do benefit from going more thoroughly through the remaining sounds and rules as they will not pick them up for themselves. All children benefit though, from moving on to look at more complex sounds and longer multisyllabic words as this ensures good spelling too. This may take several years. 

Here are some examples of more complex sounds:
Hopefully I have helped you to understand phonics and how your child is being taught - but if you have any questions, please do ask!

Initial Sounds Workbook for the Younger Child

I am glad that so many of you are finding our resources helpful! It inspires me to keep writing!

This week we have for you the first in a new series - FREE mini workbooks to help younger children to learn to read and spell with systematic phonics. As usual they have been written to correspond with Reading Made Simple, our FREE programme for teaching reading and spelling to anyone, using synthetic, systematic phonics.

This first book is to help teach the initial sounds.

There is one page each for each letter of the alphabet. The child has to simply say the sound at the top of the page, and then colour the objects that begin with that sound. You will find that on each page there is an 'odd one out'. this object should not be coloured. Having done that, the sound that each object begins with should be carefully written on the line under each picture. Except on the letter 'a' page, the child should also write the sound of the 'odd on out' as this will have been learnt in the previous lesson. This acts as revision.


  •  Give the child a suitably sized pencil for little hands - this big chunky one does the job well.

  • Seat the child at a table that is the right height for him/her. A table too high or too low will not help the child to write well.                                                                                                                                                                      

Have you seen these other FREE downloads to help you teach the intial sounds?   
(Click the writing under the picture)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
FREE Alphabet Games
Alphabet Game Pack

How to Teach Reading and Spelling
to Anyone!

Download by clicking HERE

If you like what you see, please tell others! If you think there is something we could improve, please tell us!

ai/oa Game

Hello once again!

I hope that you are enjoying using our games with your pupil/s! They have been designed to be fun, minimal prep. and no fuss games that you can get on with playing and your pupil can learn from, without knowing it! (Such are the benefits of a good game!) Don't forget though - that for your pupil, the best part will be having your undivided attention for a few moments. Oh how rare that is these days, but oh how precious to a young child. Enjoy these sessions - savour every moment! Play together, laugh together and learn together! Your child will soon grow up and forget the process of learning to read - but those precious times with you will not be so easily forgotten. So what are we waiting for - turn off that phone, or put it right away where it can't distract you and let's play!

This page contains affiliate links.

ai/oa Game

Before playing this game, please make sure that your child knows these two sounds.
 'ai' makes an 'ay' sound in words, listen: tr ai  n.
'oa' makes a long 'oh' sound: b oa t. Two letters, but one sound! Now that's simple and clever - so now we can make lots of words, for example:

boat: loaf  toast, coat, road, toad
train: tail, drain, nail, rain, maid

Simple to make! 

  • Just download and print the game pages. 
  • Find a small box/bag or purchase a blank die.

  • Cut out the letter and words cards.
  • Laminate the pieces for extra durability
  • And you are ready to go!

Simple to Play!

This game involves listening and reading to give practice in hearing the ai/oa sounds and recognising them in words. there are no complicated rules - so you can be ready to play in no time at all!

Other items you may like:

30 Free phonic worksheets!
or/ar Game

Download the ai/oa Game here!

Download ai/oa Game Here!

Teaching Phonics - Five steps to better practice

In this post we are begining some posts specifically looking at the UK Government Letters and Sounds phonic teaching programme which is in use in many schools in the UK. This programme has reportedly made great improvements in the teaching of reading and spelling, resulting in higher levels of pupils achievement.

It has several good points:

  • It is synthetic - it builds words up from the smallest components of the English Language - namely letters.
  • It is systematic: it builds on itself from the first stages of learning individual letter sounds building up to learning digraphs (two letters representing one sound) and trigraphs (three letters representing one sound).
  • It takes a phonics first approach - seeing phonics as not one of many methods, but the main method of teaching reading and spelling.
  • It takes a  rigorous approach. 
  • It expressly states that school should not use reading books that encourage whole word recognition and/or guessing.

These are all things that one would look for in a good phonic programme.

Today we will look generally at things to bear in mind however you are teaching phonics. 
From my many years of teaching synthetic systematic phonics, having developed my own programme - Reading Made Simple, which incidentally teaches both spelling and reading, well, together, and having experience of Letters and Sound, I bring these practical suggestions which I hope will be helpful to some.

1) Any phonic programme is only as good as the teacher using it.

In other words, in order to get the best results from ANY programme, you must have got 'inside' it as it were, understand the process that your children will go through, and be able to support them through it - as opposed to just delivering what is in front of you to deliver.
In the cases where I hear a teacher saying 'S/he can't learn by phonics!' in most cases I see clearly that the fault has not been with the child, but with the teacher. Don't be one of them. Make it a mindset to want to make phonics work for every child. There is only a very small percentage of folks who cannot hear phonetic sounds - it is rare. These children however will still learn best with a structured approach. Study the subject - learn with your children. Watch how they learn as this will help you become a better teacher. Remember  - the best teachers are learner too!

2) One third of your class will learn by any method

Realize that about one third of your class will learn by any method. Do not base your assessment of your class on these children. Look to the lower two thirds - particularly the lower third. These are the children that will be most helped by phonics teaching. Phonics gets all children reading! Do not think of the lower third as remedial - they are not! Don't let them become so. Make it your responsibility to do all that you can to help them to read well. By the way - the lower third are not necessarily the least able - history testifies that some extremely bright people were late readers! Among this group may well be dyslexic children, yet to be identified. Good phonics teaching is the best way to teach these children and actually to minimize the effects of the dyslexia on the child's future ability to read and spell - it can almost be eliminated. I hear of too many cases where a teacher lets these children 'drop through the net' as it were and say to the parent 'Don't worry! S/he'll catch up!' These children are not for the remedial class - they can be taught by you. They will be in the remedial class by Y3 if you do not do your job properly! The games and worksheets on this site have mainly been developed  through working with such pupils.

 3) Do not see reading and spelling as something you need parental help with. 

No child should be disadvantaged because of a lack of parental help. It is your responsibility to make sure that every child can read and spell to the best of their ability. By all means send reinforcement activities home - but they should be just that - reinforcement - and you should NOT expect parents to help with them. In this way you will not be disappointed and the child not disadvantaged. The sending home is purely to encourage the parent to help, not as a valid part of the child's education. Never send home work/activities that the parent may have to help with - unless you have carefully explained what the parent should do to the parent before hand, otherwise the parent may inadvertently and well intentionally confuse the child. The best use I have ever made of 'homework' is to send home a book the child has already read well to me, to celebrate success - the child wanted to share it with the parents. You might guess, but homework and young children is something that I feel quite strongly against. Again - I sent home spellings - but only because it was school policy. I sent home a list of words with the sound we were working on, in the hope that some may get a bit of extra practice - but in all honesty it was usually the children in the top two thirds that benefited from this practice. Be careful what you send home. Have regular parents meetings to keep them informed - but don't let any child be disadvantaged if mum/dad can't come because they are working, or do not understand.

4) Understand the learning process.

Learning is never forward in a straight line - and this is so of phonics, for both reading and spelling. If you have ever learnt a language for yourself as an adult (unless you are a 'language' person), you will know that as a new piece of information is introduced, just for a while, some of what you thought you knew becomes uncertain as you learn the new rule and how to apply it. This is evident in phonic teaching, when for example you have teach that powerful 'e' changes a vowel to say it's name; you will soon see that children are putting 'e's' everywhere, until you have repeated the idea several times and helped them to see that all the words with a short vowel sound do not need an 'e'. I call this 'wobbling'. Learn to expect it - and not panic and think the children have gone backwards. Continue to move steadily forwards, giving lots of support. The upper third will grasp the new concept quite quickly, so devote your energies tot he lower tow thirds and especially the lower third. It will take them a lot longer and they will need a lot more support. These groups particularly respond well to the games on this website. Worksheets have a place, but sometimes a bit of light relief helps to 'oil the wheels' as my mother always said.

5) Learn how best to cope with different ability levels in the same class.

 This is one of the biggest problems. We all love to have the child that can already read proficiently age 5, but how to meet that child's needs while teaching the others children in the class is not always easy - you risk making them feel different, set aside doing different work during the phonic time. The last thing we want is for any child to get bored through lack of challenge. How you cope with this will differ from school to school. Some split children into phonic groups from year 1. I have operated this way myself in the past. I offer this suggestion:
Make sure that you, the class teacher, teach the lower group in your class. The upper third that learn by any method will thrive being taught by someone else. The lower groups need the continuity - you, the class teacher, with them all the time. It is absolutely crucial that you know exactly where these children are in their phonic development. Phonic teaching should not just take place for half an hour each day and then be forgotten. The diligent teacher will know each child inside out. If an opportunity arises during another lesson to reinforce the bit the child is struggling with, then the teacher can use it to 'plug' the gap. This constant revision and reinforcement it vital to the success of these children. Sometimes it will be a group of children that you know are struggling with a particular sound, or you have been trying to help a group learn a new 'tricky' word. In the geography session, later that day, you meet a word with that sound, or that tricky word. do not think to yourself 'This is geography not phonics!' Young children learn holistically, not in discreet subjects, so just take a second or two to briefly point it out to the child/children, before moving back to geography.

5) Never undermine all your hard work by using a reading scheme that is not tailored specifically to your phonic programme. 

Better to not give the children books to send home at all, than give them ones that work against what you are doing. So many school fall down on this one point and I do appreciate that actually there are very few schemes that use phonics properly. Most will encourage whole word recognition and using 'context' (a nice way of saying 'guesssing'! My best advice - write your own! Mine do not fit with Letters and sounds, but rather with my own programme Reading Made Simple - however they show how simple the books could be. See them here.

6) Realize that some of the parents today are hampered themselves by the poor educational practises prevalent in KS1 classes 20 -25 years ago.

These were days when teachers were trained in increasingly progressive methods - which have been proved many times to fail many children. Most schools had progressive reading schemes, like the Oxford Reading Tree books. Many parents at the time thought that their child had 'problems' because they didn't learn to read. Dyslexia clinics country wide were flooded with anxious parents - who in the end were told 'There is nothing wrong with your child, they just haven't learnt to read!' Many of the present parents of KS1 children feel inept when it comes to reading and spelling - they are acutely aware of their own deficiencies. Be aware of this - you could make a real difference by teaching the parents along with the children.

In my next post we will look more specifically at Letters and Sounds and how best to teach the programme.

FREE or/ar Games

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Once more we have two games for you to download and print free,  to give children practice in blending - this time with the sounds or and ar.
By the time pupils reach this stage, they should be becoming quite fluent at blending one syllable words, but they will need plenty of practice in first of all recognising new blends as they are taught and then applying their knowledge while reading texts.

Our first game will give help with the former: hearing the sounds 'ar' and 'or' in words and knowing which letters to use to represent those sounds.

Our second game will give practice in using the new knowledge when reading short sentences and phrases.

Which sound can you hear? Game 1

Sound cards

This game - like all our games, is simple to play. You will just need a little box to put the sound cards in, or a feely bag.

 A base board is chosen (blue or green) and the player takes a sound card from the box/feely bag. The player can then choose a picture with that sound in to place on his/her board. Play continues until both boards are completed and the winner is the first to fill his/her board.

Matching phrases to pictures Game 2

 This game is a simple matching game- and can either be played with two players, or as an assessment activity for one child. If the latter is chosen, then please watch the child as s/he works, so that intervention can be given if need be to ensure success. By watching the child, the parent/teacher can also gain valuable insight into the strategies the child is using - to make sure that s/he is using the phonic knowledge s/he has, rather than resorting to guessing, if the child happens to think the activity too hard for him/her.

I hope these games are helpful to you. Please let me know how you get on and if you have nay questions, please ask! Also, if your child has something they are really struggling with, I may be able to devise a game to help them.

If they are helpful -please tell others. If not - tell me!!

Other resources you may like:
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Phonic Worksheets

oo/ee Game

ck Game

Sh/ch Game

Resources to help you make your games

Download the games!

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Which sound can you hear? Game

Sentence Game