How can I support my child with phonics?

There are so many easy things you can do to help support your child’s phonics learning. Here are a few ideas from phonics expert, Laura Sharp.

  • Right from the start talk, talk and talk! As a parent, you are the model of good speaking and listening. Regularly introduce new words (vocabulary) e.g. for the word big you could also introduce large, huge, enormous and encourage them to say the word too. This is not about reading the words but about your child hearing and saying them.
  • Read to and with your child This models good reading skills and promotes reading enjoyment. Have a special book box or bag where your child can keep the stories and any other texts, such as comics or non-fiction books, you’ve read together recently. Re-read these so that over time your child builds up their stock of stories and texts they know well. Ebooks are another lovely way to share a story or non-fiction book together. Just make sure eBook reading is balanced with reading hard copy books so your child experiences all the different skills required for reading from a page and reading from a screen. Oxford Owl has a free eBook library where you can read together online.
  • Teach nursery rhymes and songs and make lots of opportunities to sing and recite them.
  • In all games and activities make sure you pronounce the speech sounds clearly and as short as possible. Do not make them too long e.g. the letter m has a short /m/ sound not a continuous /mmmmmmm/ sound. Try not to add an extra sound onto the speech sound too e.g. the sound is /m/ NOT /m-uh/. The Oxford Owl website has a very useful audio guide for parents on pronouncing the speech sounds.
  • Rhyming games and activities are fun to do and will support your child in hearing speech sounds that are the same and that are different e.g.
    • Into the pot Model the phrase ‘into the pot goes’ while placing objects that rhyme into a pot/bowl …e.g. a bat, a hat, a cat, a mat… Ask your child to repeat with you. Do this lots of times and then see if they can do it independently. You can then vary this; choose objects so that they have to decide which will not go in the pot e.g. a cat, a rat, a hat, a bird.
  • Play simple phonics word games based on the sounds your child is learning and has learned at school. If you are unsure what sounds your child has been learning in school then do ask the teacher. They will be happy to share this with you. Schools often inform parents about the phonics programme they use and the order in which they teach the sounds.
    • Start off using just the speech sounds and then immediately say the word. eg …At the shop I will buy a… /m/ /a/ /p/ – map, a /b/ /e/ /d/ – bed, a /d/ /u/ /ck/ – duck. Encourage your child to join in with you after you have this modelled for them. Then say the sounds and ask your child to say the whole word.
    • Wizard’s Magic River Prepare a box/tray with small objects or pictures from around the house (e.g. a peg, a bag, a cup, a pen). Say the words…’Wizard, Wizard can we cross your magic river?’ Ask your child to repeat this to memorise the sentence. You are now the Wizard! Then they say the sentence to you and you reply saying the sounds in order e.g. …’only if you give me the …’ /p/ /e/ /g/. Develop these games further by using word cards instead of objects so your child reads the words.
    • Play ‘Speedy Speak’. Make or buy small flashcards with the speech sounds on them. Keep a set in your bag to play while waiting for a sibling, or going to a café. Using the timer on your mobile phone, select the sounds and letters you child has been taught so far. Place them in a pile. Start the timer (set to whatever time you wish e.g. 30 secs). Ask your child to turn over the cards one at a time and say the sound clearly. (If they get to the end of the pile before the timer stops, they keep turning over the same cards). Count how many times they say a sound correctly. Keep a note and next time tell them that you’re going to see if they can beat their record!

More phonics help on Oxford Owl

My Phonics Kit

My Phonics Kit

Laura Sharp, Roderick Hunt, Annemarie Young, Alex Brychta, Nick Schon

This pack allows children to practise phonics just as they do at school with three workbooks filled with fun phonics activities.

  • Read phonics stories: Enjoy the six carefully levelled interactive eBooks and activities on a CD-ROM.
  • Build confidence: A colourful reward chart with stickers to help motivate your child through their phonics practice – have fun helping Floppy collect his favourite things!
  • Information for parents: Literacy expert Laura Sharp answers your questions…

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