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 http://www.jollylearning.co.uk/ plus Jason Renshaw is giving away free phonics starter kits over at English Raven.