Phonics in the Classroom: Tips for Teachers

Keeping the phonics lessons engaging whilst also making sure the whole class are progressing is a big task for primary school teachers. We've recently partnered with Read with Phonics, an online resource and app which helps teachers, parents and guardians teach phonics to their kids. The founder of Read with Phonics, Sophie Cooper, was previously a primary school teacher so she knows all about the struggles teacher face with teaching phonics and shared some of her ideas on how to make phonics lessons more engaging with us. 

Phonics in the Classroom: Tips for Teachers
From your experience as a teacher, what do you think are the biggest struggles schools face with teaching phonics in the classroom?

I would say the two main challenges facing teachers in regards to teaching phonics are:

  1. Many parents didn't learn to read using phonics, this can present some challenges. As we all know encouraging parents to read with their children at home is huge and so it is vital to get the support of parents to continue the same learning processes at home. That is why I created a Phonics Parent Guide to help parents with understanding phonics.
  2. There is no getting away from the fact that the Phonics Screening Check at the end of Year 1 is a big focus for teachers. It is also the first standardised test in a child's education and the first indication of how a child is doing in school, which can be a big deal for parents! This means teachers have pressure from both management and parents to track progress and ensure students are on target and not falling behind. Our Phonics Tracker helps teachers to do this quickly and easily, reducing teacher work load. On our site we also have all of the past Phonics Screening Checks from 2012 when they were first introduced for both parents and teachers to use to measure progress throughout the year.
Read with Phonics is used by in many schools already but how can teachers who are new to the app use it to help their students learn to read?

Read with Phonics is available both online and via the app stores. If you are just getting started using Read with Phonics with your students one of the best ways to introduce us is by playing as a whole class via an interactive white board. Students learn how to play each game and it is also a great way of introducing a new sound in a fun and interactive way. I often used this as a lesson starter, especially when introducing a new sound.

At the end of a lesson, our app is a great way for students to practice their knowledge by playing through the sound game on their individual account. After class I am then able to see how well everyone did, do I need to go over the lesson again at some point? Or was it fully understood? We all know that a teacher's time is precious. Read with Phonics was initially designed to reduce workload. Instead of using endless amounts of paper and checklists, our Phonics Schools dashboard displays your students' phonics data in a simple and easily digestible way.

How do you think schools can liven up the phonics lessons?

A good phonics lesson keeps children engaged throughout. A great phonics lesson keeps a child engaged throughout and challenges them to use the sounds they already know alongside the new sounds they are learning in order to read new words that were not possible before. This is a very exciting moment for a child, when they can start to work out an answer for themselves. This is exactly what our games are designed to do, maintain engagement through fun games while slowly introducing new sounds at just the right time.

A favourite lesson of mine was going on a phonics hunt! We would have a single sound, digraph or trigraph to hunt for around the classroom or the school. Students would work in partners to draw everything that they could see that had the target phonics sound in. We would then come back to class and create sentences with our new-found words, highlighting the sound in the words and sharing these together! After this I found my students hunting at lunch time for phonics sounds and they were so keen to come back and share what they had found with the rest of the class. But livening up phonics lessons can be as simple as swapping the lesson around, introducing new resources or even teaching the lesson in whispers!

We hope you find this advice helpful for supporting the young readers in your school. Make sure to take a look at Read with Phonics to see how it could benefit your phonics lessons. Take a look at Sophie's advice for parents/guardians teaching phonics at home as well as our phonics glossary for more help and advice on familiaring yourself with phonics and introducing this method of learning to read with your class.