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^ "National Reading Panel (NRP) – Publications and Materials – Reports of the Subgroups". National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: an evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction: Reports of the subgroups (NIH Publication No. 00-4754). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. 2000. Archived from the original on 2010-06-11.
Simply put, phonics is the connection between graphemes (letter symbols) and sounds. Because we have been readers for a good portion of our lives this relationship seems apparent and common sense. However, in reality there is no natural connection between words and their meanings. For example, there is nothing innately “cup-like” about the word “cup”. Even more, the written letters making up the word “cup” do not reflect anything about an actual cup. The word and its written form are agreed upon by English speakers and thus must be learned in order to communicate.
Vowel digraphs are those spelling patterns wherein two letters are used to represent a vowel sound. The ai in sail is a vowel digraph. Because the first letter in a vowel digraph sometimes says its long vowel sound, as in sail, some phonics programmes once taught that "when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking." This convention has been almost universally discarded, owing to the many non-examples. The au spelling of the /ɔː/ sound and the oo spelling of the /uː/ and /ʊ/ sounds do not follow this pattern.
As a homeschool Mom to 4 kids, one with dyslexia, I have been delightfully surprised with how excellent HOP is! My third child is only just 3, but I have been very pleased with his progress in a short amount of time. We are using the very first level which teaches the letter names and sounds as well as the skill of rhyming. Rhyming can be very challenging for some children, but after a couple of weeks of casual practice just using HOP, he's already excelling at it.
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However, it’s not uncommon for year 2 children to need to revisit phonics they’ve learnt in year 1, so don’t worry if your child isn’t completely confident yet. It’s a good idea to talk to their teacher to find out if there’s a particular way you could support your child and give them practice with the aspect of phonics they’re finding difficult. The key thing is not to let your child get stressed or upset – keep reading and phonic sessions short and fun, and don’t forget to praise them for having a go, as well as when they get things right!
Most poor readers tend to rely so heavily on one reading strategy, such as the use of context and picture clues, that they exclude other strategies that might be more appropriate. To become skilled, fluent readers, children need to have a repertoire of strategies to draw on. These strategies include using a knowledge of sound-spelling relationships — in other words, an understanding of phonics. In addition, research has shown that skilled readers attend to almost every word in a sentence and process the letters that compose each of these words.
The result is that English spelling patterns vary considerably in the degree to which they follow rules. For example, the letters ee almost always represent /iː/, but the sound can also be represented by the letters i and y. Similarly, the letter cluster ough represents /ʌf/ as in enough, /oʊ/ as in though, /uː/ as in through, /ɒf/ as in cough, /aʊ/ as in bough, /ɔː/ as in bought, and /ʌp/ as in hiccough, while in slough and lough, the pronunciation varies.
On the other hand, there is such a thing as too much phonics instruction. We have seen prekindergarten and kindergarten classrooms in which the better part of the day is focused on letter-sound instruction (and often in a manner inconsistent with what research would recommend). This is problematic because it leaves insufficient time for many other important areas of development. For example, vocabulary and concept knowledge, which are strong predictors of long-term reading and writing success, also need attention. In fact, vocabulary knowledge affects word-reading development. We sometimes cannot even know whether we have read a word accurately unless we already have the word in our vocabulary. Is the word lemic pronounced with a short e, like lemon, or a long e, like lemur? Unless you already know this word, you aren’t sure. For children trying to learn to read words with low vocabulary knowledge, such uncertainty is common.
Children normally start on Phase 2 near the start of their first year at school. This is when most of the letters of the alphabet are introduced. Children learn the letters’ names, and they also learn one common sound for each letter of the alphabet. So for instance, the letter ‘c’ is introduced with a hard ‘c’ sound as in ‘cup’, not the soft sound it has in ‘ice’. And children learn a short sound for each vowel (a, e, i, o and u) – as in ‘hat’, ‘pet’, ‘dip’, ‘pot’ and ‘mug’.
For key words to do their job, children must be able to separate the first sound in the word from the rest of the word (e.g., to separate the /b/ from the /all/ in ball). Ideally, children develop this skill, called initial phoneme segmentation, during or before the prekindergarten year. However, not all children meet this expectation. Fortunately, you can work on this skill while teaching the alphabet, including alphabet key words. Research strongly suggests that phonemic awareness (conscious awareness of the individual sounds in spoken words—for example, recognizing that sheep has three sounds: /sh/, /ee/, and /p/), although an entirely oral skill, is actually best developed with accompanying letters. This initial phoneme segmentation issue is also why you should be judicious about using alphabet key words that begin with blends (two consonant letters pronounced in succession in a syllable, such as dr in drum); it is especially difficult for young children to separate the initial phoneme in a blend.
Alphabet key words also need to be depicted clearly in a photo or drawing, not easily confused with other items, and they should be words that are known to or can be readily learned by children. We recommend two alphabet key words for the letters c, g, a, e, i, o, and u—one for each of their two common sounds. Caution should be exercised in using children’s names as key words, as some do not make a sound typically associated with the letter in English (e.g., Juan). In these cases, we suggest using the child’s name to show the shape and name of the letter but to focus on a different alphabet key word for the sound.
Jolly Phonics is a comprehensive programme, based on the proven, fun and muliti-sensory synthetic phonics method that gets children reading and writing from an early age. This means that we teach letter sounds as opposed to the alphabet. These 42 letter sounds are phonic building blocks that children, with the right tools, use to decode the English language. When reading a word, they recognise the letters and blend together the respective sounds; when writing a word they identify the sounds and write down the corresponding letters. These skills are called blending and segmenting. These are two of the five skills that children need to master phonics:
Phonics instruction must be informed by our ongoing observation and assessment of children’s phonics knowledge and word-reading skills. We should respond when we notice that a child is confused, is insecure with a particular skill, or has had a major breakthrough. If we are not responsive to our students, some students are likely to be left behind in their word-reading development.
Dig right into phonics books to give him a head start in reading comprehension. Many phonics programs include books that are written specifically for beginning readers. Sit down for some one-on-one time to tackle letter sounds and sight words. You can make reading fun for him, which will make him look forward to sitting down with a good book in the future.