Phonic family fun

Now that schools are closed for what could be a few months, it is hard for parents to know how best to keep children busy and buzzing. On-line lessons are available for many children – but how are parents to cope if not?

A main aim would be to engage in some of the basic skills every day to keep your child’s brain ticking over. Basic skills include – reading, writing and maths. This is not easy in the context of home. For some children school is school where work happens – while home is out of school, where it does not. So whatever you do it has to be engaging and fun, as far as possible. For my next series of blogs I will try to focus on some games and fun activities to keep your child busy while this lockdown continues.

Firstly, let’s think about reading. If your child is in Key Stage 1, phonics are a major learning objective. Phonics are to do with matching letters (either single or grouped) to sounds – for example, the word hat is made up of three sounds: h a t. The word shop also has three sounds: sh o p. The ‘sh’ sound has two letters, though it is one sound, as do ‘th’ and ‘ch’. There are many words to be made at this level: pot, cat, run, sit, pit, pup – as well as: posh, ship, push, chip, chop, thin, path – and so on.

So you could arm yourself with a pack of coloured A4 card and marker pens and cut the card into hand sized pieces – each A4 card may end up as 16 smaller pieces, for example. Write some of these early phonic words on each card, then cut them up into jigsaws for your child to reassemble (c/u\p. m/a\sh p\i/n). Not too many at once so that the task remains manageable. Your child will enjoy matching up the jigsaw pieces.

Use the cards for pairs – write one word on each of a pair of cards. Place the cards face down on the table. Your child turns over two cards each time, and, if they match, keeps them. As a game, the player with the most cards wins when they have all been turned over. This game is great for memory as well.

Happy families is another great game. Write the words in groups: for example, words with the ‘a’ sound – cat, mat, sat, man, ham, pan. Then the ‘e’ sound – met, pen, hen, ten, bet. Then the other three vowels. Imagine you have about 20 or 30 cards with 5 or 6 for each group. The aim is to collect ‘families’ of 4 (or 5) of the same category (with the same vowel). Share out the cards. Look at your set – then put down, and pick up in turn, until one of the players collects a full set.

You can also play these games with the phonics that follow on from those above – with double consonants (cl, br, cr, pl, sw) or vowel clusters (oo, ee, au, ea). Double consonant words include – pink, brush, thump, broth, bank, limp, camp, stand, drink. Those with vowel clusters include: food, heel, spoon, road, read, seed, sleep, sweet, prawn, cloud, frown. These words have one vowel sound in the middle – each made up of two letters.

Try throwing dice – and matching the numbers to the sounds in words. If your child throws a four – which word would it match, or not – stop, shut, sink?

Placing mixed words into sets is another fun activity. Simply write a number of words in different categories on your cards and have your child sort them into sets. You can agree together on the criteria for each set. Words with sh or ch (choose, bush, much)? Words with only three letters (hop, sit, hen, pop)? Or words with four letters but only three sounds (posh, mash, chip)? Once you get going your imagination will run riot with fresh ideas.

Children also need to think of sounds in words – as beginnings, middles and ends, for example, the word ‘think’ has th at the beginning, i in the middle and nk at the end. Thinking about the order of sounds in words helps with reading and spelling.

Watch out for my next blog on reading. Meanwhile all you need to know is out there in my books for parents. Start by finding out WHAT your child learns and HOW. My books will help – Support Your Child with SEND (Book 1) and at successive Key Stages (Books 2 to 4), by Sylvia Edwards, are available from Lulu in printed form, and from Amazon, in printed form and ebooks. Visit my website:

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