Outside the Box

The last couple of weeks have been really busy! I shouldn’t complain as busy means work which is always something that needs securing when you are self-employed. So what exactly has that work entailed?

One of the many things I love about my job is the diversity. It’s never dull and never the same.

The last two weeks alone have seen me 

  • Dressed as a witch delivering Halloween stories at a party. 
  • Sharing WW1 stories with children aged 3 – 11 years whilst dressed in WW1 style clothes.
  • Delivering phonics training to a school.
Delivering the phonics training was particularly rewarding. Like many people who have to teach phonics to children, the staff I was addressing had mixed views about it. A few were enthusiastic about phonics, most indifferent and some downright uninspired. And I can’t blame them.  Phonics can be dull, boring, monotonous and less than thrilling but it doesn’t have to be.  My job was to show the staff that phonics can actually be fun. 

There are so many schemes, computer programmes, initiatives and apps out there (afterall, I’ve produced one myself which can be downloaded at www.littlelambpublishing.co.uk) that it’s very easy to be sucked into using just one. My big tip for making phonics fun is to mix it up a bit and think outside the box. Plus the writers of schemes have a vested interest in keeping you loyal to all their suggested activities. They are businesses out to make money at the end of the day.

Phonics has to be taught, that can’t be got away from.  And although I strongly believe that phonics is NOT the only way that children learn to read, it definitely has its place.  The Letters and Sounds Document produced by the government sets out the sounds that are to be taught and in which sequence. There are also some great activities and games in this document which are good to dip in and out of. The sequence of the sounds in this document mean that children can very quickly start blending sounds together to form words which can then be applied to their reading or writing.

So the sequence of letters may be set but how you deliver the teaching and applying  of these sounds is not.  And this is where the real fun can begin!

The over riding message I want to convey about teaching phonics is this – THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX!

Of course ICT has its place. There are some great, imaginative and fun games that support the teaching of phonics.  However, I don’t think this should be the rigid formula that is stuck to every day. Many teachers and support staff have found themselves pulled down this route as ICT is forever being held up as something we should use in every lesson. I disagree. As more and more schools split children into phonics groups finding places for these groups to work is becoming an ever growing challenge and there is no guarantee that a smart board will be included in your work space.  Never has thinking outside the box been more essential.

Another worry that many staff have is finding the time or money for resources. I knew I had a lot to cover in a short space of time. Basically I had to 

  • Convince staff that phonics can be f-u-n!
  • Introduce them to a range of activities that didn’t rely on a Smart board
  • Show them that resources they already had could be adapted and used
  • Convince them that phonics can be f-u-n!

I spent two days working with the staff during the training sessions. We explored different activities that could be used both inside and outside. We tried some activities that could be used as part of a PE/Dance lessons. We talked about the range of activities that were possible with discovery trays and every day objects such as leaves, sand, foam and shredded paper. We brainstormed a range of activities and not one of them used a Smart Board. We also spent some time listing all the resources that the school already had that could be adapted for use in phonics lessons. The smoke was pouring from people’s pens and the enthusiasm levels in the room were tangible.

When I asked the staff to say how they felt about phonics at the end of the training the response was overwhelmingly positive!  Most people now felt enthusiastic or positive about phonics. What a result! Even a few days later, the head teacher got in touch to say that the staff were still enthused and talking about their new ideas. This was music to my ears.  This means a whole school full of children are going to be enjoying phonics in a different way and so will the staff.

If your setting is interested in our ‘Making Phonics F-u-n!’ training please get in touch via email littlelambphonics@outlook.com

Thanks for reading and if you want any further ideas about phonics you can read my earlier blog http://littlelambphonics.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/phonics-can-be-f-u-n-yes-really.html too.

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