Fast Phonics and Where to Begin by Robyn

Previously I discussed the WHY of teaching children from babies onward to read. Now I shall discuss the HOW of achieving this in the easiest, fastest and most successful way possible.

You now view teaching your child from a different perspective and are ready to take those first positive steps forward. The integrity of your commitment is important, don’t be spasmodic, do be regular, confident and completely relaxed. Where to begin? With the alphabet of course. Why the alphabet? Since it was rubbished for so many years, why resurrect it? Because the alphabet will always be the fundamental basis of all reading in English, from those twenty-six letters, every single word in our language is formed. From ‘at’ to ‘deoxyribonucleic acid’, from ‘but’ to ‘uncharacteristically’, every word is simply bits of the alphabet strung together. It makes sense to learn it and to learn it in the way which will lead quickly to lifelong successful reading.

For babies and pre-schoolers,draw the letters one at a time, in red felt pen, each on a white post-card. Put a couple on the walls of the child’s bedroom to begin with and perhaps one or two in the kitchen or living room. Then be matter-of-fact about their introduction.
“This is ‘a’, ‘a’ is for ant,” “I see ‘d’ for dog is over here.” For very small children you can greet the letters, “Hello ‘a’, good morning ‘b’.”

For older, school age children and for home-schooling, just work through the alphabet progressing as fast as your child is able to go.

Keeping the sounds in their simple phonic form, work through the alphabet, introducing a couple of new sounds once the earlier ones have become old friends and always checking back. Let your child check you, stumble along the way and allow yourself to be corrected.

Importantly, NO aye, bee, cee, dee, ee, eff, gee, aitch and so forth for the following reason. Using the phonic alphabet a child will sound out c..a..t. Using the aye, bee, cee version it would be sounded cee..aye..tee, great for spelling later, useless for learning to read.

Beware of shop bought alphabet charts, they regularly feature ‘i’ for ice-cream and
‘t’ for tube these have long vowels and come later. ‘w’ for whale and ‘b’ for boy, these are phonic sounds also to be learnt later on. ‘y’ for yacht, regularly appears and this has silent letters which come along very much later in the phonic list.

Draw your own chart, you will need an A1 sheet of white paper, a black felt pen for the grid lines and a red one for the sounds. Here is my own carefully worked out alphabet, the beauty of which is that once a child has mastered all the sounds he will be able to read across every word.

‘a’ for ant, (a cute little ant in a dress perhaps), ‘b’ for bed, ‘c’ for cat, ‘d’ for dog,
‘e’ for elf, ‘f’ for frog, ‘g’ for gift, ‘h’ for hat, ‘i’ for ink, ‘j’ for jug, ‘k’ for kid,
‘l’ for log, ‘m’ for mum, ‘n’ for nest, ‘o’ for ox, ‘p’ for pig, ‘qu’ for quilt (since these two always appear in tandem in our language, teach them as one. ‘r’ for red,
‘s’ for sad, ‘t’ for top, ‘u’ for up, ‘v’ for van, ‘w’ for wagon, ‘x’ ‘kiss’ as in fox, (this is the only way to teach this letter. ‘x’ for xylophone has a ‘zzz’ sound and ‘x’ for x-ray, has an ‘eggs’ sound.) ‘y’ as in yak and ‘z’ as in zebra. Write the sound in red, the word in black and then paste or draw appropriate pictures in each square.

Teaching a child this way will not destroy the quality of your relationship with him. To tell him, “This is ‘a’,” is no different from telling him, “This is an orange or that is a telephone.”
These days a child’s social calendar grows exponentially. By the time he is at school there are parties and sleepovers, school outings, clubs and all manner of engagements taking place. You can relieve a little of the trauma of school by setting the scene for reading, even if the alphabet is as far as you ever go.

My third article will show you simple games I have used for years and which will make learning easy and fun.

Robyn Dalby-Stockwell is a teacher, writer, broadcaster, reading consultant and Director of Alonah Reading Cambridge the only source of her four book reading course, giving reading support for parents and their children.

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