If you’re reading this, it’s probably safe to assume that you’re looking for ways to help young children connect sounds in spoken words (phonology) to letters and letter patterns (orthography), to maximise everyone’s chances of quickly learning to read and spell well.
That means explicitly and systematically teaching about all 44 sounds that make up our spoken words (phonemic awareness) and how these are represented by 26 letters plus dozens of two, three or four letter patterns (graphemes) in written words. Often there are several ways to spell a sound e.g. the “ou” sound in “out”, “down” and “drought”, and many spellings are shared by a few sounds e.g. the spelling OU in “out”, “soup”, “young” and “cough”.
It’s also important to teach about meaningful word parts (morphology), like:
- The plural “s” in “dogs”, which sounds like “z” but we write “s” because it’s a plural,
- The third person “s” in “lands”, again sounding like “z” but spelt “s” because of its grammatical role,
- The past tense “ed” in “jumped”, “grabbed” and “batted”, which sounds like “t” after a voiceless sound, “d” after a voiced sound and “ed” after “t” or “d”. Speech sounds tend to blur together, as the mouth is a mushy place.
Sometimes teaching about word origins (etymology) can help with apparently-crazily-spelt words like “two” – the “w” was pronounced in the olden days, as in “twin”, “twice” and “twelve”.
Has anybody taught you about all this?
Teachers often tell me that they were taught little or no phonology, orthography, morphology or etymology at university. They say terms like Phonemic Awareness and Phonics sometimes didn’t even get a mention.
Some Education faculties seem to be lifting their game now, but it’s a bit late for that to help existing teachers. However, several groups run regular training suitable for teachers in explicit, systematic linguistic/synthetic phonics:
- Sounds Write training is available in Australia, and also has a free, online course intended for parents about how to teach young children phonemic awareness and phonics.
- Little Learners Love Literacy runs regular training.
- Multilit has lots of training, with InitiaLit the most suitable program for littlies.
- DSF in Perth has Jolly Phonics, Letters and Sounds and Sounds~Write training
- SPELD SA has Jolly Phonics training, as well as free online training.
- Get Reading Right runs in-person training and webinars.
- Write to Read in Melbourne has training in explicit phonics.
- Learning Made Easier runs training in explicit teaching of reading and spelling.
- Cracking the ABC Code runs face-to-face and online training.
- The Training page on this website has lots of other information about training.
- The UK Communication Trust also has free online training about children’s speech, language and communication.
Linguistic/Synthetic phonics teaching materials
You may have limited access to high-quality Synthetic Phonics resources like decodable books and phoneme-to-grapheme word-building activities and games, and it might be hard to get the person holding the purse strings at your school to let you buy some. Don’t worry, there are some free and cheap resources you can use.
Locally produced programs and resources reflect the local accent, and are most likely to have locally relevant vocabulary and topics. So if you’re in Australia, see if you can find suitable Australian-produced resources. I’ve marked the country of origin on most items on my phonics resource lists.
Lots of UK programs and resources are available in Australia, and because our accents are similar (no final “r” sound), they’re generally OK to use, though their topics might include hot school dinners, badgers and other things outside most Aussie kids’ experience.
American English sounds and spellings are fairly different from Australian English (particularly because they say final “r” sounds), so please be cautious about buying literacy teaching materials written for the US market.
Click here for a list of programs/resources suitable for the early years, and if you know of a good resource not listed, please let me know too, so I can help spread the word.