Phonics is rubbish, it only covers the letters a to z!

Do your students have ever have problems with reading / spelling / pronunciation / writing?

If so I hope you enjoyed the “How to teach abcs” post last week.

Thank you very much for all your nice messages.

One criticism that I often hear during my phonics workshops is:

Phonics is rubbish, it only covers the letters a to z!  What about things like “write”, “phone” or “magic e”?

Aha, a very easy question to answer!

Toy shop style “phonics” materials or free phonics worksheets on the internet usually only cover a small part of what phonics really is.

And I totally agree, if that’s all there was to phonics I wouldn’t like it either!

Luckily if you get a *good* phonics programme it should have at least 3 sections, and this is where the cool stuff is:

1. The first part are the basic sounds s, a, t, p, i etc. – i.e. what the basic courses cover.
2. The second are the sounds that have multiple letters for one sound e.g.  igh, sh, ch etc. – this is what makes phonics easy!
3. And then the third section will cover “alternative readings” other ways to write sounds, and this is where the “magic e” etc. comes in.

Once you do it this way it’s really, really easy for the kids.

And for you.

It does take a bit of time.

Even with my 5 minute phonics it takes around 70 lots of 5 minute chunks.

But it is totally worthwhile.

If your kids have every struggled with reading, spelling or pronunciation, have  a try through the course .

I think you’ll become one of us and fall in love with proper phonics!

Be genki,

Richard

P.S.  Top Phonics Tip:   If you have your own young kids at home, try the phonics posters with them before you use them at school.  You’ll see the results much more quickly with your own kids (or nieces, nephews etc.!) and will feel much, much better about using the 5 minute phonics in class!

Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. And when I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. So I'm sharing it all with you now...

12 Responses to “Phonics is rubbish, it only covers the letters a to z!”

  1. sunny

    I haven’t had the opportunity to try it out yet but it really seems much more reasonable to teach than just the alphabet.
    You’ve really thought about everything in your course Richard. You’re an inspiration.

  2. Amy

    Phonics are amazing! I think I´m going to work this into my classes next year (we finish this course in June) because once the kids reach the age that they can read here in Spain they start reading the flashcards wrong although in our conversation activities they say the words correctly. Hopefully this will help them!

    A question about downloading: I can´t seem to find where I can download just the CD 7 in the download version. I can only find the download pack or the actual physical CD offered. Help! Thanks

  3. Elizabeth Okafor

    I dont know why people would say ‘phonics is rubbish’. people should please change thier mind set on the so call tradition method of teaching and go with phonics. Phonics method of teaching is the best for every child for christ sake. phonics goes beyond a to z. ‘With phonics the diffence is always clear’.

  4. Chrisitna Sánchez Lewis

    I teach ESL to young children, and would like to incorporate phonics into my lessons. Here in Spain they dont begin to teach the English alphabet until about 3rd or 4th grade, and you can really tell that they have problems when you ask them to read (these are bilingual science classes). At what age do you recommend beginning to teach phonics sounds?

  5. richard

    Rather than “what age,” it’s always best to think about how much English speaking they have.

    In general, the more English they speak, the better a phonics programme works.

    So in an ideal world they would have gone through all the Genki English curriculum http://genkienglish.net/curriculum.htm

    But very often parents pressure teachers to start things early, so you could start as early as say 10 lessons into the curriculum, although I’d always try and wait as long as possible.

    Does that help?

  6. Christina Sánchez Lewis

    Yes, that makes sense, thanks!

    A related question: for those who want to use the program at home and live in a bilingual household where the official language of that country is not English, when would be a good time to start? Now I’m asking for my personal use since I’m a native English speaker but my husband is Spanish and we live in Spain. We teach her both the English and Spanish words for things but obviously she has much more exposure to Spanish and I want to try to get her up to speed with her English, too. She’s still preverbal but I would probably buy the program to use with my students and begin to use it with her later on.

  7. richard

    Glad it helped!

    In a biligunal house, as long as she is familiar with words like “nose” “mountain” “gorilla” etc. (like you can see at the top of the phonics page http://genkienglish.net/phonics.htm ) then you can start pretty much whenever you like!

    Some parents start as soon as 3, some wait a little longer till the year before school (so they don’t get too bored having to redo the lessons in school!)

    The only thing to watch out for in Spanish speaking countries is to make sure that the programme you’re using for reading in Spanish is as good as Genki Phonics is for English (not all of them are!) If the Spanish one isn’t too good, there can be quite an imbalance between the Spanish and English reading levels!

  8. Gumby

    I live in Japan and I have had friends who were told to teach the English written language before the Japanese kana which is phonetically very regular. The reason being is their are much more exceptions to the rule in English. Similarly the Spanish alphabet is quite straightforward. I think if you had the English background, you wouldn’t even need a phonics course for Spanish.

  9. Gumby

    Oops sorry for the type not “their” but “there are”.

  10. Christina Sánchez Lewis

    Thanks for the explanations, they´ve been quite helpful!

  11. Claptrap

    The language of my adopted country ignores final consonants by default so the children, and adults, have a real trouble of pronouncing them in English words. In fact, their ear is so tuned out that they don’t even hear them in Enlish words! But focusing on pronouncing every sound of simple phonetic words has improved my students to pronounce the words properly, even the final consonants. If only I had the same amount of time to devout to phonics on low level adult classes, rather than trying to sneak them in already tight schedule…

    What worries me is where can I learn about phonics spelling beyond digraphs (including split digraphs) and trigraphs? I am hungry for learning all the spelling rules, their whys and wherefores – to improve my own understanding and for those curious and keen students we all love to have in our class and who push us to do better. 🙂

    Could you point me to a right direction? Something that doesn’t go too much over a layman’s head, and if possible, the information is available on the net, because the bookshops definitely don’t have books like that.

  12. Carol21463

    @Christina: I come from a bilingual household and the way my parents did it was to impose english at home. That is the language we spoke at home. By the time I was 10, I was going into my third language, and then parents allowed spanish to be the second language to be spoken at home, but by then english was predominant. I have to add, that we did go english speaking schools, which helped a lot as well.

    My sister-in-law did the same at home with her kids, and although her son rebelled every so often, he was always spoken to in english at home.

    As for phonics? I LOVE IT!!!! It’s easy, it’s fun and easy to find tons of entertaining material for.

    Nowadays, as things have changed in my classroom (boss’s orders), I have taken up the Genki Phonics posters and my kids LOVE them! They have so much fun pronouncing the sounds, especially if I exagerate them or make faces or react in a very exagerated manner when they pronounce them wrong. I get tons of giggles, and as it lasts just a couple of minutes to do, all the more fun! They’re always looking forward to the next time.

    One thing I do that seems to be enjoyed by all is when they read the words at the bottom, I make them do it out loud as a group. The first time we go slowly, but then I vary the speeds. At times the first two words are slow and then I speed the third, fourth and fifth and then slow down again. I play with this changing the order every time.

    This is quite challenging, silly as it may seem, and they love it! Sometimes the pronunciation is so similar, they actually get tongue tied and you start hearing giggles and “again!” from them. I continue till I hear the entire group do it together perfectly and then they get a round of applause and I get a “let’s do another!” so I say “next day”. hahaha You hear plenty “ohs and ahs” then, but you know they’ll be all willing for the next class!

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