Sunday, 25 April 2010

Phonics - Updated

In March I went to the TESOL Spain convention in Lleida. I attended some great workshops and keynotes. It was often difficult to choose which one to go to, as there were so many interesting ones. I think it was Saturday afternoon and despite my initial enthusiasm I was beginning to feel a bit tired. As we looked at the programme we saw that there wasn't anything that we really, really wanted to see at that time, we decided to go to a Phonics workshop given by Coral George.

Like I said we were tired. Slowly the room began to fill up and after a bit of fiddling with the computer and a bit of a wait we started. This was one of those times when the 'light bulb switches on'. I felt as if I had the answer to so many of the questions and answers to the difficulties that Spanish children have learning to read in English. Coral was basically saying that English is a 'coded language' and we need to teach children the 'code' to be able to read it. If we ask children to read without teaching the 'code' we are setting them up for failure.

I'm by no means an authority on phonics I actually know very little about it, but here is a bit of a description to get you started and a couple of links that you can check out. Coral was talking about Jolly Phonics which is a synthetic phonics program designed to teach children to read. Basically children are taught the 44 sounds of the English language, rather than the alphabet. They are then taken through different stages called blending and segmenting to develop reading and writing skills. Each sound has an action that goes with it. For example the sound s is represented by a snake. It's a multi-sensory approach which I also really like as it really gets the children involved in the reading process. Coral George has a website Coral George where you can learn more about phonics teaching and see some of her children reading which is nothing short of amazing! You can also learn more about Jolly Phonic.s at  plus Jason Renshaw is giving away free phonics starter kits over at English Raven.


  1. I went to a similar workshop (the same??) two years ago at TESOL Spain! It was very interesting, and since I was teaching a very samll group of five year olds at the time, I invested in The Jolly Phonics Handbook. This is a fantastic resource book if you are trying to introduce phonics to young children, it has photocopiable worksheets for children to colour in and practise forming the letter, and templates for cards with "tricky words". I personally find it hard to devote much time (they only get two hours per week at this age) to do much phonics work, but I do believe that it can be useful when the written word is being introduced in your course book. When my kids come across a written word in English, they automatically pronounce it according to Spanish pronunciation rules and doing some work on phonics can help them realise that the two languages do have different sound systems.

  2. Funny, I've been trying to help my 6 year old son get to grips with reading in English and had stumbled across some phonics info on the net and found it helpful.
    He got really frustrated as he knew the words should have made sense (he's fluent in both English and Spanish and reads well in Spanish)but our wonderful spelling system got in the way. I would have been happy to put off reading in English a little longer as I am keen not to put too much stress on him - he's also learning Valencian - but as he has so many stories and magazines in English, he wanted to be able to read them.
    If I had a group of really young ones, I'd try it for sure as it really does help to get authentic English sounds coming out of their mouths as well as setting excellent foundations for the future.
    Although there are arguments against focusing too much on the written word (the frustration that many adult beginners feel with the idiosyncrasies they are presented with in terms of spelling and phonetics being one), it's a fact that at some point learners are going to encounter written material so as part of a course this could be a real help - the younger the better!

  3. Hi Michelle and Clare,

    Thanks for your great comments. I'm going to try and dedicate some time to phonics this summer and hopefully try and encorporate it into classes in the next school year.

    Thanks guys,


  4. Synthetic Phonics is the most effective way to learn to read and write in English and research as the Clackmannanshire research proves it:

    I started teaching Synthetic Phonics with Jolly Phonics few years ago and found that children started to pronunce English very well and they even read books with more than 100 words independently in English!!! It was amazing!!!

    I have piloted Jolly Phonics in many areas in Spain, teachers, headteachers and Education Inspectors concluded that this method brought the childrens´ reading skills ahead of chronological age even in their mother tongue, children as young as 3/4 were reading in Spanish at the end Infant Education 1 even before their Spanish teacher formally taught them.

    My journey had just begun, I learnt that Phonics International is a great method to implement in order to develop Synthetic Phonics even from 4/5 year olds.

    I invite anyone to try and see the difference in childrens´pronunciation, reading and writing skills after using "Synthetic Phonics".

    Coral George


    The link in the comment above is no longer working. Please try this link.



  6. Phonics is awesome for EFL students! It really helps students with their pronunciation. Check out Reading Horizons... they have a phonics program for students ages 3-9 and 10 to adult. The program is awesome because not only does it teach phonics in a very systematic, explicit approach (which is the way it needs to be taught) but it has EFL helps scripted through out the whole program. Hope this helps!

  7. Hi Anna,

    Thanks for stopping buy and thanks for the link. I'm planning on integrating phonics tecahing into my classes when I get back to school in Sept/October.

    I'm going to check the site out and I'll get back to you!

    Thank you


  8. Just re-read this comment and I can't believe I'm confusing my own language. That's what living in Spain for 12 years does to you plus poor editing skills!!!!! by - buy I really am a native English speaker honestly! God really embarassing yet another reason to keep scribbling away, got to practice my English.