How Games and Fast Phonics Help Early Readers

December 18, 2016 6:44 pm Published by

After a hiatus of 4 weeks I am back.

While Grammar Schools continue to divide political parties, such reasons being given by nay-sayers are not even remotely near the mark. Their argument centres mainly on the fact that bright pupils from the community are needed to form the top stratum of Comprehensives/Academies. They claim those very bright children will inspire the slower pupils to achieve. Of course this is nonsense. Our country needs its bright minds and those bright minds, indubitably, develop and flower more vividly at Grammar Schools. These establishments give clever children from poor backgrounds an opportunity to reach the top fruit on life’s tree. Grammars have teachers as committed to excellence and attendance as those found at top Public Schools. Above all, behavioural expectations in these small academic communities are demanding and rigidly enforced. And they are free!

One would think, therefore, along with top achievement both on the playing field and in the classroom, every politician and every parent would demand a possible Grammar School place for every child. But no, there appears a conspiracy among certain people to condemn, with garrulous and intransigent near sightedness all those brilliant children whose parents happen to be poor, to the realms of local High Schools.

At the moment I am feeling particularly riled on behalf of a teenager I tutor. With her sights set on a career either in veterinary surgery, psychological profiling or law, she has had precious little maths, literature or science this term. Why? Her teachers have been absent for some reason, frequently sick or pregnant. This student with her breathtaking ambition and willingness to work and her longing to achieve should have the opportunity of securing a Grammar School place. I fear, however, she will become disheartened and end up another victim of noisy classrooms and absentee teachers. With stunning indifference our decision makers simply refuse to acknowledge the abyss between idealism and reality, between the haves and have nots and that one of the only ways to achieve a fairer system is via Grammar Schools.

Rant over! Back to the next stage of teaching your child to read.

Our next phonics are:

all; as in ball, call, hall and in gallon and balloon.

ell; as in dell, fell, bluebell, shell, swell, spell.

ill; as in spill, chill, trill, filling, willing, pillar.

oll; as in doll, dolly, brolly, swollen, holly.

ull; as in full, bull, pull and in gull, dull, mull.

Where a phonic has two sounds, e.g. ‘ball and gallon,’ or ‘full and gull’ teach exactly that way. Explain this phonic has two sounds, but it’s not a problem, we can tell which sound we need when we read it in a book.

And now your reader can manage;

‘That magic ball in beautiful colours fell softly into the bluebells with a little bang, Great sparks glittered and spilled into the dark friendly woods. I took a doll and a teddy and we made a house under lovely green trees. We had a drink of Cherry Cheer and a shell cake with gillyberry sweets. Dolly said the picnic was magically wonderful and told her friend Molly Rabbit.’

‘Sunshine spilled into the pretty yard when Milly took her brolly and set it up among the bamboo canes in her back garden. Olly came along with his best books and he and Milly began to look at the colourful pages. Olly liked the red jelly and sweets in chapter ten but Milly loved the chilli balls and bully-bells in chapter seven. Suddenly, Mum came up, smiling at the children. ”Let us have lemon drink and folly cakes,” she said. ”They are so tasty.”

”Oh, yes,” cried Milly and Olly. They were all very happy.’

Draw and colour pictures both for comprehension and enjoyment. All of the above text can be read – with attention to phonics and sounding across. Aside from the handful of sight words nothing needs to be guessed at, remembered or worked out via an illustration. Your child is reading!

Keep learning the fast phonics, keep playing, keep reading and your child will be a fearless and confident reader, ready and able to answer every question put to him as he progresses through his education.

Now for a further game which, once again, combines learning with fun.

When my son was tiny I would frequently speak to him in French and Latin, nothing impressive simply pieces dredged up from my own school days. If I sang little songs and lullabies in these languages he would want me to translate each word. One day he asked me to teach him to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in every language. Rashly and with only a mother’s bravado I promised to do my best, bearing in mind this was the sixties, no Google, no car and the nearest library in Dee Why, an uphill, downhill walk away. Ultimately, the few languages I gathered were painstakingly researched and fairly few on the ground.

Fifty years have greatly dimmed the precise languages, but, the game went as follows. Each room in the house was a different country and would have a specific item of clothing to hand, plus a few pictures with information. I was the wide-eyed tourist. I would visit room by room, country by country, to be met by a smiling native.

”Bonjour Madame,” said my young tour guide in the laundry, wearing a black beret and with an eyebrow pencil moustache lopsidedly decorating his upper lip. Showing me pictures of Paris, Notre Dame, outdoor cafes, the Champs Elysee, he would describe each picture, giving me a thumbnail sketch of life in Paris and in France. Adding humour to the spiel he would tell me the French love onions so much they carry strings of them around their necks to eat along the way. Then, more factually, add that the French bake special bread and grow lots of grapes to make wine, and lavender to make scent.

Then, bidding me ”Au revoir,” he would invite me to wander round his ‘country’ – at which point he scorched off to the living room, tied on an obi sash and was at the door to wait for his tourist.

”Konnichiwa,”I was greeted with a deep bow and we had a repeat performance of France, but now describing cherry blossoms, paper walls, tea ceremonies, warm winds and so on. Then ”Sayonara,” and the tourist would ‘roam’ Japan while Germany was prepared for me in the kitchen.

This intriguing game was, like the Estate Agent play, designed to develop creative, fast thinking, articulate speech, manners and confidence. Along the way my four year old learned a huge amount of geography, quite a lot of history and began a lifelong love of languages (he won the French Literature Prize at Brentwood School and years later taught himself a working knowledge of both Russian and Greek).

Games will not only teach a child, they will develop and encourage his knowledge in so many ways. You never ever have to sell a game even to the most recalcitrant pupil – it is pure sugar-coated learning.

This is Teaching Post 9

Link to Teaching Post 10

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This post was written by Alonah Reading Cambridge

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