Frequently Asked Questions By Parents

Children learn phonics at school. What are the home phonics game bags for?

Research has shown conclusively that parents involvement in a child’s learning matters a great deal. Parents play the games with their children at home to reinforce phonics learning in the classroom. Through fun, parents can help to make good on any gaps in their child’s learning or extend areas of particular strength/interest.

What is in each game bag?

There are 4 game bags at Phase 2 of Letters and Sounds and 5 game bags at Phase 3 of Letters and Sounds. A school is likely to send out one game bag a week or every fortnight. Each bag contains two games and a sight word activity.

What is phonics? Is there more than one way to teach phonics?

Phonics is a way of teaching children to learn to read quickly and skillfully. Phonics instruction essentially teaches children the 44 sounds that individual letters (e.g. s, a, t, p, i) and combinations of individual letters make (ch, ck, sh, or). As children learn the 44 phonemes/sounds, they also learn how to blend these sounds together to make/read words.

Although phonic schemes do vary a little (e.g. they may vary slightly in the order of the sounds taught), generally they all teach children the letter sounds (phonemes) and then how to blend the phonemes to make words. These phonic game bags follow the “Letters and Sounds” approach.

What is Letters and Sounds? Is it the best phonic approach?

Letters and Sounds is the name of the government published phonics programme (Department for Education and Skills in 2007). The resource teaches reading by developing children’s phonic knowledge and skills. The detailed and systematic programme starts at age three (early years foundation stage), and has the aim of children becoming fluent readers by age seven (end of Key Stage 1). There are 6 phases. It is the only DfES published phonics programme and the majority of schools in the UK still follow this programme.

Click here to download Letters and Sounds – Phonic information for parents and carers with children in Reception

Click here to go to the Letters and Sounds Website

When do schools start teaching my child to read?

In nursery, children learn to discriminate between sounds, gain some alphabet awareness and begin to hear how sounds blend to make up words. This is mostly done orally and the emphasis is on speaking and listening.

In Reception, the more formal aspects of learning to read are introduced. The synthetic phonics method is used to teach children the 44 sounds/phonemes and they are taught how to make/read words by blending the sounds. Children also start to learn the 100 high frequency words.

Why play the games in the bag and not just use reading apps or play online phonics games?

It is true that there are some excellent apps and online games which do enhance children’s phonics skills. Furthermore children are excited and eager to use/play them. However, ICT modes of learning are just one way. They are a great source of learning, but ideally should form part of a child’s learning diet, rather than be the only or main part.

In school, children learn in a variety of ways (and modes) to keep learning fun, fresh and interactive (they discuss, observe, play games, engage in interactive activities, use ICT, and perform pencil/paper tasks etc). Primarily however, children learn most effectively with key adult involvement, interactive dialogue and social interaction. This is why in school, a computer can never be a desirable substitute for the class teacher. In the same vein, children at home learn best from an adult mediated (namely the parent), multi-sensory learning environment. The game bags offer a weekly opportunity for dialogue, learning with ‘real’ (touchable) materials and with social interaction.

What makes the phonic games bags so special?

Parents can support their children at home without a great deal of specialist knowledge or time, with everything required already in the bag. The games are fun and exciting. Parents can also meaningfully keep a close eye on their children’s progress and support them accordingly.

Is there anything on the website that can help me support my child with phonics and learning to read?

The website includes a section especially for parents informing them how to support their child’s reading (including relevant videos and downloadables).

Click here to go to Resources for Parents