As English is not completely regular, most children are unlikely to be able to perceive and use patterns in language for themselves. (Rose 2006: 18). The systematic teaching of phonics, regularly and consistently, is proven to support children in storing banks of sounds that make up words easily and it helps them to improve their ability to read. Cooperation between parents and teachers is extremely important in ensuring this consistency happens at home and in school.
Here at The British School Warsaw, we follow the letters and sound phonic programme which is made up of six phases. Each phase is a scaffold to the next but there are no huge leaps in learning, only a widened bank of phonemes (sounds) that help children to understand the various and complex patterns within the English language. Below details each phase and what children learn in that phase. This should give you an idea of what your child is learning at school.
Phase 1: Children develop the skill to listen and identify differences in sounds, this is done mainly through instrument practice and through 'sound walks' around the school.
Phase 2: Children learn singular sounds, e.g. s a t p i n. There is a heavy focus on putting these sounds together in cvc (consonant, vowel, consonant) format to help children develop the skill of segmenting and blending words back together. They learn to use their 'robot arms' and 'phoneme fingers' to support segmenting and blending.
Phase 3: Children are introduced to digraphs (two letters that make one sound) and trigraphs (three letters that make one sound). They begin to learn rules to help them remember where these phonemes are found in words. For example sh is normally found at the beginning and end of a word. Using their arms and fingers is reinforced all the way through the programme.
Phase 4: Phonemes in this phase focus on adjacent consonants (two letters that are normally found together but do not make one sound, e.g. st, nk, mp). Children spend a lot of time investigating rules in this phase of the programme.
Phase 5: Children are reintroduced to digraphs but new ones. At this stage of the programme they begin to learn that there are different digraphs that sound the same but are spelled differently, e.g. ai and ay.
Phase 6: Children will learn about alternative sounds for singular letters. For example, the 'i' in find sounds different to the 'i' in kid. They also are introduced to new grammatical concepts such as singular/plural, past tense, homophones. Normally phase 6 is taught in year two.
In year one, the UK have a phonic screening test at the end of the year and it identifies how confident children are with the phonemes that have learned from phase 2 to 5. This phonic screening test is a mix of real words and 'alien' (not real) words. Children who are unsuccessful in the pass rate for the screening test (32 out of 40 words) are given the opportunity to repeat the screening test in year two. All year, our children in year one practice their skill in reading through this phonic programme and they receive homework each week based on the newly taught phonemes that they have learned that week.
Head of Early Years