Tips for Teaching Phonics at Home

Phonics plays such an important role in children’s school lives, especially if they are in KS1. They would usually take part in a daily phonics session with their teacher to help them to practise and consolidate their sounds. Phonics can be taught in a number of a ways and through a variety of schemes depending on your school’s preference, however the main schemes in the UK are ‘Jolly Phonics, ‘Letters and Sounds’ and ‘Read Write Inc.’ By practising the sounds and blending the sounds into words, children will begin to develop better reading fluency with the aim of becoming highly confident readers. Below are some ideas of how to support your child’s phonics at home as part of their home-school learning:

 

Become familiar with the sounds your child has been practising at school

At school, children will either be accustomed to learning their phase 2, 3, 4 & 5 sounds or their Set 1, 2 & 3 sounds. The ‘phase’ sounds are part of the ‘Letters and Sounds’ scheme. Whereas the ‘set’ sounds are part of the Read Write Inc Scheme. What’s the difference? The main difference is how the sounds are categorised, however the sounds that all children will learn across the country will be the same. If your child is learning phase 3 sounds, it’s important to keep going with these sounds during home-school learning so that they can begin to recognise them independently and blend them within words. If you’re unsure about which sounds your child might be learning at this point in time, your child’s class teacher should be able to support you with this or you can run through this checklist and discover which sounds your child needs to work on.

 

Use pure sounds

When first learning phonics, many children can fall into the trap of mixing the alphabet sounds with the pure phonics sounds. Children can also begin to stretch out their sounds with an elongated ‘er’, which can cause some challenges when trying to blend words. For a more comprehensive guide on how some schools teach phonics, here’s a guide according to Read Write Inc phonics on teaching the sounds at home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjlPILhk7bQ.

Using the pure sounds will help children to continue their phonics learning at home and support better reading fluency.

 

20 minutes a day

To keep phonics fun and enjoyable, it’s a good idea to keep daily phonics sessions brief. By limiting the phonics sessions to 20 minutes a day, children can recap on all of the sounds that they already know using flashcards and working on one sound a day. These videos demonstrate some children recapping the phonics sounds and can help with phonics pronunciation:

Set 1:

https://www.oxfordowl.co.uk/for-home/reading-owl/find-a-book/read-write-inc-phonics–1/phonics-pure-sounds-video

Set 2:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7hRbrpq5Bo

Set 3:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LbdLppyl6c

After recapping all the sounds, you could focus on one sound that your child needs to work on and help your child to practise saying, writing and blending this sound in different words. This way, your child can continue to keep up their phonics learning at home in a positive and constructive way.

Homeschooling Top Tips for Parents

All across the UK, schools have begun teaching in an unprecedented way and under exceptional conditions. However, as a UK teacher, my school team and I have been relentlessly uploading material to support children at home whilst they embark on this new journey of home-school learning. Parents have been handed the baton of teaching their children, setting a schedule for the day’s learning whilst managing their own workload. As teachers, we are here to support you through this, so I have listed some top tips and strategies to soldier on through homeschooling. We salute you parents!

 

1. Set a daily schedule

Children across the country will be accustomed to a daily school routine with behavioural expectations. From my own experience, it’s clear that teachers will have prepared children for school closures and that schooling will effectively look very different from the usual school day. However, keeping a routine will be essential for keeping children focused and shielded from all of the coronavirus daily updates. It’s even more important that this routine will benefit your work schedule also. This doesn’t necessarily mean 6 hours of schooling a day! Whatever works best in your household and keeps children learning is best.

 

2. Mix up your home-school activities

 

It’s possible that your school has set an overwhelming number of tasks to begin teaching at home, however any teacher that has reasonable expectations would not recommend pushing yourself to the limit to ensure that these are completed. It’s so important, now more than ever, to set realistic expectations for home-school learning activities. Having been in contact with different parents from my current class, it’s clear that they are doing what works best for them during this current crisis. If that means going for a walk (P.E), baking some cakes (English and maths opportunities) or doing some cosmic yoga, it’s what works best for you and your children. Mixing up activities during the day e.g. going for a walk, online activities and some written activities will take the pressure off of formal written tasks that, let’s face it, not all children will feel like doing at home.

 

3. Stay Positive

This one is harder than the previous two because it requires all of us not to dip into negative ways of thinking during this time. Lately, I’ve found it almost impossible to keep myself from looking up the latest story about the coronavirus, but staying away from negative influences at this time will help immeasurably when teaching at home. At school, children will (hopefully) be used to a lot of positive reinforcement and recognition for their efforts. It’s important to stay mindful of the language and words that are being used at home to congratulate children for their efforts and achievements so that they stay motivated to keep learning.

 

4. Get Online

The internet has probably never had to work as hard as it has over the past few weeks, but it is an amazing portal to online learning. Many children are taking lessons online with private tutors, interactive websites for English, Maths & Science activities. Anybody who works with or has children knows how instantly absorbed they can become when presented with games and interactive activities that work towards learning goals. There are plenty of useful websites that can keep children’s interests engaged and minds active in the learning process.

 

5. If something isn’t working, stop

Given all of the pressure and stress that everyone is currently under due to the pandemic, it’s best to stick to what works at home. As teachers, we are constantly asked to reflect on our teaching practise and evaluate which classes have gone well and which ones, could quite frankly, have gone a lot better. It’s normal to lose your patience and get frustrated if your child is taking 2 hours to write 3 sentences. Up until this point in time, children have come to separate school environment from home (a place of relaxation) so don’t be too hard on yourself if it’s not working. Instead, step back and see if there’s a different approach or an alternative activity that they could pursue instead.

 

6. Reach out to the community

If you are already part of a whatsapp parents group, keep contacting other parents for updates and support. Being asked to quarantine is one of the most trying times some of us will have ever had to face, however it’s essential to stay in contact with others in a similar situation and reach out for advice when needed. Equally, hopefully your school has offered contact details and you can reach out for support from your child’s class teacher. Teachers generally all want to help in this effort and keep up the learning at home as much as possible, so please reach out to teachers and schools if you ever need advice.

 

7. Believe in yourself!

As simple as it seems, it’s so important you believe in yourself at this time. You will get through this! Your children will have the opportunity to spend more time with you than ever and will be able to get all of the positive support you have to offer. Keep going with all of the wonderful things you are doing at home and mix things up to keep home learning fun and enjoyable. Before you know it, the children will be back at school and keen to share with their friends all of the fantastic things they’ve been doing at home.