Most children in UK primary schools are taught to read using synthetic phonics and during the week of 16th June, children in Year One will be taking the Phonics Screening Check. If you’d like some more information on phonics or how to support your child as they learn phonics, read on! In our blog post this week, Ladybird Editorial Director Heather Crossley discusses phonics and gives some great tips and advice on how to help make your child is ready for the Phonics Screening Check.
I’m not sure either me or my child are ready for the Phonics Screening!
Don’t worry if you are still flummoxed by phonics, grappling with graphemes or frightened of phonemes. Ladybird is here to offer a helping hand for all you phonics-phobic Mums and Dads out there.
Helping your child learn to read is often hard enough without bringing difficult concepts into the mix. But, like it or not, phonics is here to stay. At Ladybird we know that helping your child begin their reading journey is a major milestone for any parent. So let’s dispel any uncertainties and anxieties you may have about that first step on the reading ladder – phonics!
What exactly is Phonics?
Synthetic phonics is a method of teaching reading. The English language is one of the most complex languages in the world, but phonics breaks it up into simple, manageable chunks. There are 44 sounds in the English language, which can be put together to form words. Children are taught how to say these sounds (called phonemes) and to recognize letters that represent each of these sounds (called graphemes). Once your child knows a few sounds, he or she can begin to start ‘blending’ them together to read words. Sometimes a sound might be just one letter, such as t or o, while other sounds are represented by more than one letter, such as the ck in sock. Once your child knows these sounds, a word can be broken up (segmented) into these sounds to spell, too.
There are some words, such as the and said, which cannot be sounded out. These are called ‘tricky words’. Children need to learn to recognize these words as whole words, so introducing them early on in their phonics learning means they can be practised as much as possible.
What is the Phonics Screening Check?
The phonics screening check is a short, simple assessment to make sure that all pupils have learned phonic decoding to an appropriate standard by the age of six. All Year One pupils in maintained schools, academies and free schools must complete the check.
The Phonics Screening Check is now in its third year and will be taking place in schools all around the UK during the week of 16 June 2014. It allows teachers to identify the children who need extra help so they can receive the support they need to improve their reading skills. These children will then be able to retake the check in Year 2.
The check comprises a list of 40 words and non-words, which the child will read one-to-one with a teacher. Your child’s teacher will explain that there are words they will know and some they won’t. The non-words will always have a picture of a creature next to them, and the teacher will explain that the word is the name of the creature and that the child won’t know it. This really tests your child’s phonics skills even if it seems a little strange to be decoding such non-words.
In 2013 69% of pupils reached the expected standard, compared to 58% in 2012. For the first two years the pass mark was 32 out of 40, but this year the government won’t release the pass mark until after the check on 30 June.
There is a government video that you can watch to get an idea of how the check is carried out so you can help your child. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPJ_ZEBh1Bk
Are there any books I can use to help prepare my child for the Phonics Screening Check?
There are some great books available to help support phonics learning, including the Ladybird I’m Ready for Phonics! readers and sticker workbooks. The reading books use simple language and engaging, humorous stories to help children develop their phonics skills in a fun way, while the workbooks help to practice and consolidate these new skills.
There is also a set of I’m Ready for Phonics flashcards available to help children remember all the key phonemes and graphemes. The series has been carefully written with the help of a phonics consultant and teacher to give gradual, structured practice of the synthetic phonics your child is learning at school and build reading confidence through practice of the phonics building blocks.
Are there any Ladybird apps I can use to help prepare my child for the Phonics Screening Check?
We have created two apps to help give your child the opportunity to learn their phonemes, practise their blending skills and use their phonics to spell accurately:
Ladybird I’m Ready to Spell! This app is ideal for all children who have learnt their letters and sounds and now need to practise, practise, practise. It helps children to prepare for the Phonics Screening Check and beyond. The app allows children to complete three levels – easy, medium and hard – in each of the three space-themed games. Children can view their progress in the trophy screen, while parents can see which words have been spelt correctly and which ones the child has struggled with in the user’s word list. This enables parents and teachers to tailor learning more effectively.
A unique feature of the app is the capability for parents to add individual school spellings to the Speedy Spellings game – these might be words the child is particularly struggling to spell or their weekly spelling test list.
Ladybird I’m Ready for Phonics!
If your child needs to revise any aspect of their initial phonics learning then the Ladybird I’m Ready for Phonics! app is an exciting way to refamiliarize your child with phonemes, graphemes, blending and segmenting. Its twelve space-themed levels allows the child to build on skills learnt and to develop at their own pace as they tackle the full phonics curriculum in this extensive, yet easy-to-use, app. Watch the trailer.
Win Win Win!
We are giving away three sets of six I’m Ready for Phonics readers! Just leave a comment below, sharing any tips that you’ve found helpful in supporting your child – or children – as they learn to read and we’ll select three winners. Enter by midnight 15th June, winners will be notified by 17th June. Good luck! T&Cs can be found here.
Update: 17th June 2014 – Thanks to everyone who has left a comment, there are some really helpful, fantastic tips! Congratualtions to the three winners, who have been notified by email today.