Reading should be as easy as A, B, see

17th August 2007 at 01:00

An NQT has come to the rescue of teachers stumped by the Government's phonics scheme

A GUIDE WRITTEN by a newly qualified teacher that makes sense of the Government's phonics scheme has been downloaded by more than 1,200 teachers after she posted it on The TES website.

Schools in England were sent copies of Letters and Sounds last term, but many teachers have found it difficult to follow.

Nicky Byrne, who teaches a mixed reception, Year 1 and Year 2 class at Chittlehampton primary in Devon, wrote her own crib and posted it on The TES resource bank, which allows teachers to share ideas.

The crib outlines which letters and sounds should be introduced week by week. This is accompanied by page references to the official guide. A section on assessment describes what children should have achieved by the end of each phase. There is a list of resources needed and highlighted reminders (such as "will need musical instruments") in each section.

Miss Byrne said: "I think the idea of accelerated synthetic phonics is brilliant, but the Government's guide is not user-friendly. It says `Teach the key words', but then doesn't tell you where to find them in the document."

Miss Byrne has also produced a daily plan for the first four-week phase of the programme, with detailed page references and assessment goals.

She soon had grateful responses from teachers reading her guide.

One wrote on The TES website: "You have made it all make sense! I was so worried about how to make it work and now it looks so much more simple."

Another online reviewer said: "I've been tying myself in knots trying to sort this all out. I might be able to have a weekend now."

Local authorities have begun to run Letters and Sounds training sessions for heads and teachers.

Dr Marlynne Grant, an educational psychologist for South Gloucestershire county council and author of Sound Discovery, said the programme was basically quite good but it could be clearer.

"Children have learnt that one letter goes with one sound. So it is quite a difficult step to learn two letters can make one sound," she said.

"In Sound Discovery we teach the sound `sh' and don't refer to the letters as `s' and `h'. But Letters and Sounds suggests for `sh' we use the letter `s' and the letter `h'."

Sue Ellis, senior director for communication, language and literacy for the National Strategies, said the decision to use letter names was designed to make things clearer for children as they move on to learn that some sounds are represented by two letters.

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