8 tips for teaching phonics to your child

How to teach phonics

Teaching phonics is easier than most people think.

After almost six years of teaching Jolly Phonics to our children (find out more about Jolly Phonics here), I’ve found that having a fun programme helps. However, equally if not more important is how I approach my child and the entire learning procress.

Here are 8 lessons I’ve learned:

1) Follow a routine.  

Have a regular learning sequence as young children find comfort in a predictable routine. For instance, teach the letter sounds first, then follow up with hands on activities like singing and related crafts.

2) Vary learning activities.

Vary the activities to maintain interest. Use flashcards, tell stories using Finger Phonics books, sing some Jolly Songs, spend some time tracing letters and writing, play blending and segmenting games, do cut-and-paste activities. You can do so much in 30 minutes, the time will simply fly.

You can also combine phonics learning with reading aloud, such as pointing out tricky words in story books or asking your child to blend an easy CVC word along the way. Don’t do it too often though as that will spoil the story!

3) Multi-sensory learning.

Have a mental checklist of all the senses used in learning so that the process is effective and enjoyable. Jolly Phonics flashcards and Jolly Songs engage the visual and auditory senses. Doing the actions involves gross motor skills so there’s a kinesthetic element too. Piglet always likes to get up from the table and run around flapping his hands like a bee when he says “zzzzz”. I say “Go, go! Buzz!” He’s a boy!

4) Kinesthetic learning.  

With respect to boys especially, the kinesthetic element is very important. Boys between 2-4 years old are very active and it is unrealistic to expect them to sit still for long. Many early childhood environments do boys a great disservice in this area.

Encourage your child to move around after 5-8 minutes of sitting down. Get him to use his arms and legs, make big sweeping actions and dramatic noises together with him when you review letter sounds. He will love it and you will be more relaxed too!

5) Focus on the child.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is focusing on the activity and ignoring the child. That can be easy to do if you’re an A type personality! What happens when you’ve spent lots of time preparing a lesson the night before and your child doesn’t seem interested? Think of yourself as a partner and less of a teacher in your child’s learning. Be flexible and willing to follow his interests. He may not want to write today, but he could love writing letters on your back using his finger and having fun seeing you guess the letter.

Sometimes, offering a choice helps your child to take ownership of his own learning. For instance, “Which would you like to do first, colour the picture or write the letters?”

6) Talk through letter formation.

Right from the beginning, it helps to guide your child verbally as he forms the letters. For example with “W”, I say “Start at the top, down, up, down, up”. We repeat that aloud as Piglet traces or writes and this helps him remember how to do it properly.

7) Facilitate self-discovery.

Sometimes we just have to hold our tongues and trust the process. Being impatient can sabotage a child’s opportunity to learn.

I’ve learned it’s important for me to wait and allow Piglet time to look at the letters, recall and say the sounds he’s learned, join them together and actually hear himself reading the word. That is, give him a chance to blend a word on his own without jumping in too early to help. Then see his face light up when he discovers a word that he’s known verbally, but is now reading on his own for the first time! This facilitates his self-esteem and motivates him to learn so much more.

8) Play games.

When Piglet first started Blending Cards, I suggested he stack them up and count them one by one to see how many he’s done. He’s always happy to see how many words he’s read. This builds his confidence and is math practice too.

 

Upcoming post: Games that make learning phonics fun!

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