Guest blogger Lucy Marcovitch is the co-writer of Letterland's Learn to Read and Write - A Parent's Guide (published in July 2012). Lucy also has a daughter in Year One who will be experiencing the new Phonics Screening Test, which is being given to infant school children for the first time this year between the 18th and 22nd of June.
Here Lucy offers parents reassuring advice on what the phonics screening test will involve and tips to prepare youngsters.
When my daughter brought home a letter about the Year One Phonics Screening Test, I must admit my heart sank a little. Do 5 and 6 year-olds really need a test? I couldn't be the only parent who was anxious, so I did a bit of digging to find out more and look for ways to help my daughter prepare.
For starters, the government is emphasising that this is not a test, but a "check" to make sure that children in Year 1 are where they should be in their phonics learning and that teachers can identify those who need to improve their reading skills.
Each child will read 40 words, including pseudo-words such as "tox", "vap" or "snemp". These are to make sure that children are decoding phonetically and not relying on their visual memory. I was a bit concerned – would my daughter get upset if she didn't recognise a word? However, teachers will prepare children for the pseudo-words, and they come with a picture of a funny monster so children know they aren't real. My daughter's school will be doing the check in an informal way, integrated into the school day – I'm sure most others will do the same.
There are all kinds of simple things you can do every day to help and encourage your child with their reading and prepare them for the check. Look out for words they could sound out and read to you when you're out and about – street signs, shop names, or short labels in the supermarket. If they're not sure, help them to sound out the letters, then blend them together – this is how they are taught at school. Ask your child to help you write your shopping list, send an email or fill in a crossword and think about how the words are spelled, using the phonics skills they have learnt so far.
What about the pseudo-words? Well, you can play games. Start with a simple word that they can spell, such as "mop", then change or add letters to make nonsense words like "vop", "blop" or "mol". Ask them to write the words so they're thinking about the letter sounds and seeing how the word looks. Make up a story about the word – what kind of creature is a vop? Does it make a blop sound?
Letterland's Learn to Read and Write - A Parent's Guide is a really helpful book for parents about helping their child with literacy skills. It contains lots of information about phonics and tips for easy activities like those above, as well as downloadable resources to help and encourage your child with their reading. It helps make learning to read normal and fun – which is the best preparation I can think of for the phonics check!
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