LOCKDOWN has brought challenges of varying shapes and sizes; not least the trial of trying to keep some form of home learning going in midst of a pandemic that has shaken life as we knew it to its very core.
Trying to keep young, inquisitive, ripe-for-learning brains on track when you are not even sure what day of the week it is anymore is right up there when it comes to the list of daily struggles.
Our national primary curriculum is broad and comprehensive and incorporates, alongside daily doses of maths and literacy, science, history, geography, PE, computing, music, art, RE and PHSE (personal, health, social and emotional) studies.
All of which can be daunting when a) you are not really sure what you are doing b) your child would rather be on Minecraft or playing outdoors, c) you are trying to juggle your own work commitments and d) there are other siblings to consider.
But spare a thought for those grown-ups who are also grappling with phonics. This area of learning is crucial for the four to seven-year age group and it is one that baffles many a parent up and down the land.
So, what exactly is phonics? And can it be taught at home?
Put simply, there are 26 letters in the English alphabet, and they make 44 sounds. Phonics is a way of teaching children early reading skills by linking letters (graphemes) to sounds (phonemes) and there are a range of programmes out there designed to help teachers do this.
At Castle Carrock School we follow the Letters and Sounds programme which begins with Phase 1 for nursery children and ends with Phase 6, when by the age of seven, children will hopefully have become confident and fluent readers.
A more detailed explanation of the programme and its various stages can be found here: Phonics
In school all children in Early Years and KS1 have a daily 15 to 20-minute phonics lessons where they learn the art of decoding words for reading and segmenting words for spelling. They start by learning how sounds are represented by written words and then how to blend sounds together to make words. Alongside this, in each phase, there are tricky words to learn; words that cannot be decoded phonetically such as the, to, no, go, I, into.
We aim to make the lessons fun, engaging and interactive so if your child comes home doing ‘robot arms’ or singing silly songs and pretending ants are running up their arm, do not be alarmed – it is all part of the process.
And at home?
A great online resource to help keep phonics learning on track during lockdown is the Letters and Sounds Home and School programme on You Tube.
It is worth starting by watching the Handy Guide to Our Online Phonics Lessons and then following the daily lessons.
Free interactive online games to support this learning and which the children enjoy playing at school can found at www.phonicsplay.co.uk or www.phonicsbloom.com. Another good resource with phonics teaching videos is www.mrmcmakingmemories.com.
For nursery children, Mrs Grayson and Mrs Murgatroyd give lots of suggestions on their weekly home learning grid