Back in 2012 the Department For Education introduced a new scheme in order to test year 1 students phonics abilities. This came in the form of The Phonics Screening Tests.
These tests are designed to test how children are learning. They include a scoring guide for administering teachers, as well as materials for the pupils to be tested on. Some questions do not make up real words, these are shown to the children with an image of a monster or alien, depicting it as their name. This is to prevent the children becoming confused by assuming it isn’t a word. They are then tested on their phonics skills in using the correct pronunciation of the psudeo words. (Or made up words to the average Joe)
2018 DFE phonics screening tests materials
What are phonics?
phonics teaches children how to decode letters into their respective sounds. This skill is essential for them to read unfamiliar words by themselves. Something we incorrectly think they can do anyway. We have led ourselves to believe that our children knowing the words out loud means they know it on paper. However, bear in mind that almost all words are unfamiliar to an early years child when presented to them in print. First time readers sound out the word in order to read it aloud; this is where phonics plays such a vital role.
Put simply; Phonics are a method of teaching children to read, by correlating sight with sound. For example, phonics teach that C sounds like K when put into words such as cat. Combining the k sound and at sound create CAT (or atc if you weren’t paying attention.)
Taking phonics outside
Of course we all want our children to learn effectively and consistently, especially if they are to be tested on their understanding of phonics. Staying in the classroom can become boring and repetitive for Early Years Children. Phonics is so adaptable that it can be taught in a number of different ways; taking it outside can increase the children’s attention span and their willingness to learn.
Learning in the fresh air, with natural light, smells and sounds has proven to be more enjoyable, as well as rewarding for children. In the UK it has now been recommended that phonics should be the first way to introduce reading skills to children.
Scientific studies have repeatedly found that explicit systematic phonics instruction is the most effective way to teach children how to read.
We know that children learn better outdoors, and that they need to learn to phonics. But how can we make this a reality rather than just a blog post on a screen?
How to use outdoor phonics lessons
We’ve learnt from experience that when presented with an interactive playground, children will use it subconsciously, helping themselves to learn even when they aren’t being taught.
We’ve put together some of our favourites to save you the trouble of coming up with ideas for your phonics lessons;
The phonic pond is one of our favourites because it gives you automatic games
Make like a frog and hop between the phonics to sound out a word.
Hop to the phonic called out by your teacher
Jump to the lily pad with the phonic from this word
We also love the phonic shapes which can be used the same ways, but also with another game including beanbags.
Give the children a bean bag and have them take it in turns to throw it up into the air then sound out the phonic it lands on.