As a primary school teacher as well as the parent of a preschooler, I am well aware of the phonics programme in schools that begins in the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) and progresses into Key Stage 1. However, with my parenting hat on I know that once your child begins Nursery or Reception it can be a daunting time when you realise how much has changed since your own school days! Even something as simple as sounding out letters has changed and I curse my husband every time he sounds letters out with an “uh” at the end! (“Cuh, aa, tuh – cat!”)
ReadWithPhonics is a fantastic app that takes children through the key phases of phonics through fun and interactive games. It is also invaluable for parents as a model on how to pronounce each phoneme and get involved in understanding the process of learning to read.
Using the app
The app is divided into 4 “worlds” which cover Phases 2-5 of phonics, beginning with the most common single letter sounds in Water World, right through to more complicated spelling combinations and recognising graphemes that make the same sound e.g. (a, ai, ay) in Jelly City.
Each world has many levels, each of which cover a different sound with 7 different games which includes:
Letter recognition – matching the sound to the written letter or grapheme;
Identifying the missing sound within a given word (with a picture) – B _ T ;
Word recognition: dragging the letters to the outline of a word containing the sound;
Matching the correct word to the picture;
Dragging 3 different words to the correct pictures.
Every time a word or sound is selected it is sounded out giving children invaluable reinforcements as they play. You also get 3 chances to get it right before the game ends, which I thought was good as it gives children chance to keep trying but not enough so they can rely on guesswork and give false results about their knowledge. When you do try again the games are randomised which is again really good as children cannot use trial and error to get through with guesswork.
In the later levels, “alien” words or non-words are introduced e.g groik, nare, koop. Such words are included in the Year 1 phonics check in order to test how well a child can decode the sounds rather than reading from sight recognition so this would be a good reinforcement if the games were being played at home.
Playing at home
My daughter is 3 and has begun to show an interest in letters at home and at nursery. She understood how to use the app very quickly and I was very impressed with how much she already knew with regard to initial letter sounds. At times I could tell she tried to guess and rush through the games she wasn’t sure about but she soon realised that this wouldn’t work. With my support she slowed down and by using the visual and audio clues, she was often able to get the correct answers by herself. Throughout each game, children are constantly motivated and rewarded by Albee, the alien mascot who appears at the side of the screen.
My daughter really enjoyed using the app and did between 2 and 3 of the Phase 2 levels at a time which I think is plenty at this age. In fact, according to the ReadWithPhonics website, research shows just 5 minutes a day is needed in order to improve reading skills. She was always keen to move on and “unlock” the next level and I know this will be a feature that will appeal even more to older children.
All in all I would highly recommend the ReadWithPhonics app for both schools and parents of young children. It is a great way of complimenting or reinforcing your childs’ phonics knowledge in a fun and interactive way. It is free to download initial content but offers in-app purchases for further activities. You can also visit the Read With Phonics website which has further activities and information.
We were gifted the Read With Phonics app in exchange for review. All opinions are my own.