How Important Is Phonics?
Updated: Jun 21
Working in a primary school and in KS1 has honestly taught me so much about the importance of phonics. I believe every teacher (yes, including secondary school teachers) should be phonics trained. Why? Because as a teacher, it’s our responsibility to be equipped with the skills to properly teach every child. I currently work in Newham and for those of you that know what it’s like, we have mid-phase starters constantly. These children are usually new to the country, don’t speak English and have never attended school before. Teaching children how to read isn’t a walk in the park. Trying to teach them past the age of 8 is even more of a tricky task. I often get year 6 teachers asking how they can support a new or struggling child in their reading lesson. The answer is always to go back to basics. You can’t teach a child how to answer an inference style question if they can’t decode an unknown word.
Most of these children don’t recognise sounds. They resort to learning how to read by sight which presents more struggles. This means they simply memorise words rather than decoding and blending them which will only get them so far. When they hit secondary school and get given a huge chapter book with a long word that they’ve never seen, the only thing that can help them is phonics. Knowing how to decode, segment and blend should be taught in every key stage.
Working in a primary school I often get looked down on by secondary school teachers (yes, you know you do it). They act as if we have it easy “all they do is play”. I think every teacher should experience a day in primary school, especially a day in EYFS. This year was my first year working in EYFS, I spent 3 years in year 2 and I loved it, but it was STRESSFUL! Working in a testing year plus being chosen for moderation 3 times in a row wasn’t easy. So I initially thought stepping into EYFS was going to be “fun” and a step back from the busy life of a testing year. I WAS WRONG! Firstly, I didn’t really know, or should I say fully understand, what they did. I certainly didn’t know that they have their own curriculum, let alone a curriculum with 17 areas of learning to be assessed in.
Anyway, my experience in EYFS so far has been amazing. I’ve learnt so much and it’s been good to go back and see where ‘formal’ learning begins. I can say I’ve mastered year 2 and I know the TAF like the back of my hand, knowing exactly what a child needs to finish KS1 as an expected child. However, what I’ve learnt being in reception is where they start and how much hard work goes into laying the foundation of their learning.
PHONICS IS THE FOUNDATION of everything. If you can’t read and comprehend you can’t do anything. Fight me if you don’t agree! This will be my 3rd year leading phonics and hand heart; I think it’s the most important thing to teach. Some children get it straight away and others struggle with it for a long time. Either way, the process is more than worthwhile.
So now you’ve read this, I want you to ask yourself:
-Are you currently equipped with the skills to effectively teach an EAL child how to read if they walked through your door?
-Secondary school teachers, are you skilled enough to teach your child(ren) the basic foundations of phonics?
-Can you teach a sound without saying it with a schwa?
-Do you even know what a schwa is?
If the answer is no, you know what to do! There are so many courses you can choose from but make it a priority to be skilled in teaching ALL the children that walk through your door.