I returned to teaching in September as a secondary literacy and language coordinator, after a stint in the local authority’s special educational needs and disability (SEND) service. I had one key aim for my first year: raising the profile of phonics.
I knew that it would be a tough sell and so it has proved. Although the teachers have been very polite and interested, persuading them that phonics is vital in secondary schools (and we’re an upper school too, for students in Years 9-13) has been challenging.
Nudging people to take up phonics, rather than mounting a fully blown onslaught, has been the most effective strategy. We’ve trialled various ideas. In the full article in TES, I detail seven that have proven to be the most successful so far (article free for subscribers). Below is a sneak preview of three:
1. Back to basics tutorials
A demystifying phonics session for interested staff was well received. I explained the precise sounds involved, including the “schwa”, which basically means ensuring that teachers say a short, clipped sound for “r” or “g”, for example, rather than the lengthened "ruh" or "guh".
2. Early intervention
Phonics was included in literacy training for our PGCE students and newly qualified teachers and at an event for parents on “improving your child’s literacy”. A more in-depth workshop for parents on how to use phonics to tackle reading and spelling difficulties is being planned.
3. Peer-to-peer strategies
We have a peer-mentoring reading programme where Year 9s read to Year 11s once a week. The Year 11s have been trained in decoding strategies using phonics so that they can help their mentees to break down the words that they struggle to read.
Jules Daulby is literacy and language coordinator for Thomas Hardye School in Dorset
This is an edited article from the 10 June edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here