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Teaching Phonics Through Active English

‘Phonics doesn’t have to be taxing…’ 


That was the opening gambit of my university lecturer and I was already doubtful. ‘What even is phonics?’ I sat there thinking and an hour later I was none the wiser.


Fast forward to day one of my first teaching job and I was handed a weekly timetable with the same ominous seven letters printed in block capitals at the start of every day of the week – P H O N I C S.


Luckily the other teachers had already been through this exact same experience and kindly showed me step by step how they ‘revisit, teach, practice and apply’ phonics so that children don’t end up feeling like I did that morning!


So what was the difference between sitting in that lecture hall and standing in that classroom with 30 pairs of beady, four-year old eyes aimed straight at me? Answer: activity!


As a learner teacher my brain was fully activated and engaged in the real deal and pressure of the classroom and the same went for my students. I quickly found that if the children were sitting and listening for anything longer than their age plus five minutes (a.k.a. 9 minutes) they’d be lolling all over the place, poking the person next to them and often chewing on anything they could lay their hands on. However if I got them up on their feet, moving, talking and socialising, the compulsion to eat inedible classroom objects seemed to miraculously disappear. 


So what does this literacy sports camp look like? I hear you cry:


Basically anything you can think of that engages the learners in a fun and active way and has letters and sounds woven into it at the same time. The more unusual the better because new is interesting, especially for elementary school age children, the prime candidates for phonics learning.


For example, a car racing game whereby your car only moves forward if you correctly pronounce the sound on the flashcard.


An action, picture and song to go with every new letter of the day.


A video where the sounds come alive as characters and hold hands to spell words, magically creating the things that they sound out.


A quiz show where you write your answer on a mini whiteboard then hold it up to win points.


Cones with letters on to sort into sentences.


Floor ladders with words and sounds  in to read as you jump from rung to rung…

See example ” video below”



The list is endless!


So if, like me, your students can’t tell their ar sounds from their l sounds and fall asleep if you start lecturing them, why not wake them up by getting A C T I V E?!


Joe Evans

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