Friday 8 June 2018

Making Phonics Fun

Reading is something that everyone should be able to do but in order to learn such an important life skill children must begin with the basics which these days means phonics. Teaching the letter sounds, blending etc can be time consuming and with lots of repetitive lessons it can also turn into something rather boring and dull. Not every child will have the same enthusiasm for books and this is why we need to make the subject of phonics more fun!!

It isn't down to any one person to instil this enthusiasm, teachers and parents should be working together to tailor learning sessions to each and every child involved.

My youngest is currently in year one at school and is due to take her phonics test this month which is what gave me the idea of putting this post together. Having had three other children go through the same process I've managed to come up with a few different methods to keep the learning fresh and exciting as well as using the knowledge and resources that their teachers have provided us with over the years.

I've broken this post down into four sections to simplify what I think might just help:

1. Repeating

Now you may be thinking straight away that this sort of method sounds quite boring but repeating things has often been shown to be beneficial to most children. The sounds, phonemes or graphemes are what need to be revised daily, this is where the repetition starts and ends because you don't need to look at the same resources every day.

Flash cards are the best resource to use but there are so many available that you can use different ones each day. It's the visual side of things that really help to reinforce what they are trying to learn. I have my own set of cards but you can purchase varying ones too, I really like the ones available from OxfordOwl. You can change how you choose to present the graphemes, with children in groups taking it in turns to choose cards, perhaps as a whole class looking at them displayed on the wall.

Another way to get a child involved in the process is to get them to create their own flash cards as they learn each grapheme. They can decide what picture they want to go with each sound, this will allow them to really think about the sound and an illustration that they've chosen will then allow them to associate the sounds with the things that they really like.

2. Teaching

Along with repetition, the way this is taught will have a huge impact on how a child actually learns, you want them to remain engaged and interested so simply writing something on a board and expecting them to instantly remember that just won't do. Some children are reluctant to join in not just because they don't enjoy what they are being taught but also sometimes because they lack the confidence to share their thoughts.

At my girls school they use a cuddly toy in maths lessons and I think this would also work well when it comes to phonics, a soft toy or perhaps a puppet to allow children the chance to almost take over a lesson, they like the feeling of being able to help somebody else and this sort of method also encourages them to help struggling peers too. To keep the teaching exciting I'd recommend short lessons, you don't want to overwhelm the kids.

We want to get each child joining in and at least having a go. Little and often could be all that's needed to start the process.

3. Practising

Once the sounds have been taught you mustn't start thinking job done. In order to master a skill then it must be practised often. The idea is to keep it ... you guessed it, fun and what do children really enjoy? Games. My own daughter really enjoys playing phonics games on the internet and there are many available. A good site is phonicsplay, this has many free games available that enable kids to pick and choose which phonics they want to focus on.


There's the method of using 'alien words'. These are more commonly known as nonsense words, having done this with all of my girls I can tell you it really works. Kids are learning the phonics effortlessly as they laugh along with words that make no sense at all. Another favourite of mine is the use of magnets, getting the kids to either put together real words or making up alien words of their own.

These are just a couple of ideas to allow practising, you can search the internet for many more ideas. Pinterest is a good place to start, you can make a lot of games yourself at home. Why not get your kids to look for games with you, let them pick what they want to make and play. This is great as it also offers the chance to put together some rainy day activities, real bordem busters!

4. Applying

With all the sounds being learned, children must then have the opportunity to apply the knowledge that they've taken on. An obvious way to do this is by reading books. Sounding out and blending letters and words, reading sentences and really making the most of their new found skills. But of course to get them reading they need to have books available to them that will gain their interests. Whether they like dinosaursor princesses, aliens or poems. 

You don't want to give them just any old story to attempt.

This is where OxfordOwl books come in handy for both at school and at home. You can take a test with your child and find the appropriate stage for them and then choose from a wide range of stories which will help to extend your child's learning further. And it doesn't just have to be books, get them reading signs out on the streets, packets of sweets that they'e eating, anything with letters and words, you can literally apply their learning anywhere and everywhere.


Phonics is a great tool and one that is more fun than given credit for. I'd love to know of any games you've found or any tips that you can suggest to make the learning of this skill more accessible for every child.


  1. Some great tips here, thanks. I love the made up words as a way to practise sounds. Repetition is much more exciting for children than adults too. I am just starting with J who is 3 and a half. We are playing ispy with the sounds. He also likes watching Alphablocks.

  2. Love the idea of the nonsense words. Not one I've come across before

  3. These are great tips. My daughter just had her phonics screening test, luckily for me I didn't really have to do much to help her as she learned to read by sight before she started learning phonics, but I'm aware things might not be so easy second time round so I might look this post up in a few years when my son is ready to learn!!

  4. Really good tips! Some kids take to reading so quickly, but others definitely need a bit more support to get them motivated to read. I'm sure the year 1 phonics check will be a breeze for your daughter.

  5. Really interesting and would have helped me loads with my first son who was slower than my others to grasp reading. Anything that engages them in learning is great #ReadWithME

  6. Great tips. All mine found learning to read quite easy. Spelling, however, is another matter entirely!

  7. Phonics teaching was always really controversial when I was doing my teacher training. The alien words look fun, I've not seen that approach before but anything that makes learning fun is a winner for me :o)


  8. Some great tips here! I always found teaching phonics would either be incredibly easy or incredibly challenging depending on the child. #readwithme

  9. Great tips - Izzie really struggles reading nonsense words and always says but that's not a word and rolls her eyes!! Goodness knows how she got on with the Year 1 phonics screening! She reads very well though so it's all a bit strange lol! We love our flashcards we use ReadWriteInc as that's what school and nursery use, I always think it's worth checking with the school to ensure you follow their scheme as it makes life A LOT easier :) #readwithme


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