Flying the flag for phonics

13th December 2002 at 00:00
I am saddened but not surprised that Christine Lees believes that colleagues feel unable to keep up with the pace of phonics teaching as laid down in the literacy strategy guidelines (TES, November 29). However, the reason for this is not too much phonics but too little too late.

Once a sceptic myself I have seen that phonics is the answer to raising standards - but only if it is taught intensely during Reception and early Year 1.

For two years I taught Year 2 children who were turned off reading because they had already failed. They would enjoy stories read to them - I have yet to meet a child who does not - but a love of literature was not teaching these children to read.

When I started to teach in Reception I was determined to stop children failing before they had started. I began using a balanced approach but also dipped into The Phonics Handbook by Sue Lloyd, part of the Jolly Phonics scheme.

Gradually I eliminated all other elements of my balanced approach as I realised that it was the fast pace of phonics that was working and by trying to carry out other activities the pace was slower than it should be.

Two years later I was teaching at the pace Jolly Phonics set out, meaning that the majority of my pupils had grasped and were able to use all of the phonics laid out in the literacy strategy guidelines up to and including Year 2. Indeed, all of the year group had achieved this by the end of the first term of Year 1.

By the end of Year 1 every child in my class had reading ages equivalent to their actual age and 95 per cent had a reading age at least one year above chronological age. These children all went up to Year 2 with a love of reading never experienced before in our school. One hundred per cent achieved level 2 in their key stage 1 tests. More importantly, Year 2 teachers could not believe the language that appeared in their written work.

So, please Christine, and all you other sceptics, go and see for yourselves schools where phonics is being taught properly and then tell me it is boring and cannot make a difference!

Kerry Hannaway

20 Second Avenue, Billericay, Essex

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