Learn 'L' by lick of a lolly

24th March 2006 at 00:00
Linda Lefevre has seen a marked improvement in the reading ability of her pupils since she introduced synthetic phonics last year.

The head of Brecknock primary in Camden, north London, said: "We can see that it has made a difference. The children are much more confident in their reading and writing. "In particular their independent writing has improved and they are better able to write little stories and read them back to us. Most were more advanced than their age group had been in the past."

Brecknock started using a commercial synthetic phonics package, Jolly Phonics, in January 2005. Previously they had used the national literacy strategy's progression in phonics programme.

"When we learn the 'A' sound for example, it is represented by an ant. You and the children make a hand movement like an ant walking, while saying the sound," said Ms Lefevre.

"For 'L' you make the gesture of licking a lolly, while saying the sound.

We do little songs and stories, and there are posters and other materials."

However, Ms Lefevre is concerned about the idea of a "one-size-fits-all" approach to teaching children to read. "Personally, I don't think it is right to be too prescriptive," she said. "I don't think synthetic phonics is the be-all-and-end-all.

"It has made our children more able to read and write, but doesn't suit every child. Different children learn in different ways, some are visual learners, some learn better through listening."

She said synthetic phonics has some flaws: "English is an irregular language and not all words - 'enough' or 'women' for example - can be spelled out phonetically.

"It is difficult to use synthetic phonics - which involves each letter of a word being sounded out - to teach these kind of words."

But teachers at Brecknock have enjoyed using it. "Our staff have been very enthusiastic about synthetic phonics and we have used lots of fun actions and sounds in the teaching."


"It is a pity we are coming to the stage where not just the content of the curriculum has the weight of statute behind it but that teaching approaches are being prescribed by government." - Dame Mavis Grant, head of Canning Street primary, Newcastle.

"The problem is that a lot of teachers who think that they are teaching synthetic phonics aren't. The Rose Report is excellent. I just hope that we get good training that will inspire teachers, so everybody begins to use synthetic phonics." "Cariad2", contributor to the TES online staffroom "We are not opposed to synthetic approaches that are part of a varied diet, tailored to children's needs. We are against telling teachers that this is the best way to teach phonics." Dr Jackie Marsh, president of the UK Literacy Association "An overly prescriptive approach leaves no flexibility for teachers to decide what's best for children. Phonics is only one tool to help children learn the language." Sarah Teather, Liberal Democrat education spokesperson.

Join the debate over Rose and phonics at www.tes.co.uk

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