I was working in nursery education when it was announced that children were to be screened in phonics in Year 1. Did I breathe a sigh of relief? No. Because this process needs to start at a younger age.
As every nursery teacher knows, certain parts of the timetable can get pushed into the background when you are busy mopping up tears or practising for endless performances. But I decided that phonics was not going to suffer and could be incorporated into the whole session. Then it struck me: if phonics could be linked to my activities and topics, why couldn't it be cross-curricular, too? Welcome to phonics for Easter...
It was the start of the day and 30 eager three-year-olds were waiting for their name to be called in the register. But this was the Easter alliteration register.
"Good morning, Bbbbunny Beau, Chchchchocolate Charlie."
Out in the playground, the children went on an Easter hunt with a difference - searching for rhyming objects. Children ran over, happily shouting: "I've found Funny Bunny and Meg Egg!"
They decorated alien eggs to roll and gave them alliterative alien names such as Li Lo and Fa Fum. They had great fun predicting which alien egg was going to roll the furthest and loved adding sound effects to the rolling: "weeeee!" and "smash!"
Our Easter stories were filled with sound effects: "baaaaa" went the sheep, "cluck" went the chicks and "rustle" went the foil around the chocolate. The Easter songs we performed in the Easter bonnet parade, such as Chick Chick Chicken and Hot Cross Buns, were accompanied by drums and tambourines.
To reinforce oral blending and segmenting, my chicken arms flapped as I blended the instructions: "Today we are going to decorate e-gg-s. Look at all the colours you can choose: r-e-d or g-r-ee-n." I also had a springtime blending box. When children were waiting to be released at the end of the day, I peeked inside it and said: "Oooh, I have a sh-ee-p. What do I have, Samira?"
If Samira guessed correctly, I revealed a toy sheep or a laminated picture of a sheep, congratulated her and sent her to get her things. The children loved this and treated it like a game. Indeed, they began to ask for the blending box all the time.
I did deliver a daily phonics session, but it was the incidental teaching that made a huge difference to the children's attainment in phonics and made sure that they were fully prepared for phase 2 in Reception. And by linking it to my topics, it gave the activities more purpose.
Michelle Dredger is an author and freelance trainer for Pearson
Revise the principles of synthetic phonics and try some practical phonics games with this handy training guide from cariad2. bit.lyPhonicsTraining
Play Jolly Phonics Pairs with your class, a game of matching words and pictures from D U. bit.lyJollyPhonics.