Phonicsplay: A teacher's guide

Paul Main

Phonicsplay: A teacher's guide

English schools understandably place a significant emphasis on developing a deep understanding of phonics. Regarded as the 'building blocks of learning', these units of sound have to be mastered at a young age. Reading and writing abilities are built on a solid knowledge of phonological awareness and without it, literacy levels suffer. How do we make learning this skill an engaging exercise? Phonicsplay uses interactive experiences to 'gamify' the experience. In this article we dig a little deeper into the website and have a look at how you can use

What is Phonicsplay?

PhonicsPlay Limited is a teaching resource website, which contains classroom materials in the form of downloadable and interactive phonics games across the phases of 'Letter and Sound'. This website is run by Rosanna Springham, who holds a huge experience of working as a leading literacy teacher. Rosanna's husband Justin Springham is responsible for the customer service side of the website. The teaching resources at the website were free to access (without any subscription fees) for many months due to the Corona Virus pandemic.

Buried Treasure game on Phonicsplay
Buried Treasure game on Phonicsplay

Teaching of phonics

In the past, many people believed that the English language is so vast that there is no need to teach phonics to children. But, now it is largely believed that these tricky bits are so important that they must be taught clearly and methodically. A written language is a type of code and teaching phonics involves cracking that code. Phonicsplay helps children to learn the manageable parts first and then progress through to more complex parts.

Phonicsplay Teaching Resources

Many people think that it is very difficult to teach phonics. But, they need to step into a phonics lesson at Phonicsplay. These lessons at Phonicsplay are solely made up of actions, songs and games and last for 15-20 minutes/ day. Rosanna believes that when children are taught phonics in a playful way, they are happy to play the games and practice independently. You can access a variety of Teaching Resources offered by Phonicsplay, at home or in the classroom.

Subject Knowledge

In the past few years, there has been a huge shift in how children gain subject knowledge and learn to read in schools. New ways are helpful for many children to learn to spell and read. Phonics is a recommended way to help students learn to read. Alongside other methods of teaching such as Shared Reading and Guided Reading, Phonics develop a real love for reading and offer great help for learners build all the other vital skills needed for reading.

Game Resources on Phonicsplay

Introducing Phonics through game resources makes learning as playful and fun-filled as possible. Teachers and parents can visit phonicsplay.co.uk to access a huge variety of interactive games for each phase of phonics learning. Phonicsplay makes learning fun for children and ensures that learning is engaging. Here is a list of the various games features at the different levels:

Phonicsplay Phase 1

- Sound Starters: this game is aimed at developing vocabulary for talking about new sounds.

- Welcome to the zoo: designed for helping children to copy and listen to phonic sounds.

- Cake Bake: Introduces children to rhyming sounds.

Phonicsplay - Welcome to the Zoo
Phonicsplay - Welcome to the Zoo

Phonicsplay Phase 2

- Buried Treasure: this interactive game helps children to blend sounds.

- Dragons' Den: another good game for practising the important skill of blending.

- Picnic on Pluto: Again, another fun activity for blending sounds using aliens as a stimulus.

Picnic on Pluto

Phonicsplay Phase 3 - Phase 5

These games are the same as the previous phases, the complexity however increases incrementally. This gives children valuable time to practice their new skills. The familiarity of the games means that children don't have to spend too much time focusing on the technical side of the games, they can focus on the learning objectives.

 

What exactly is phonics?

Words are consisting of small units of sound known as phonemes. Phonics help children in carefully listening to and identifying the phonemes that constitute a word. This enables children to learn how to spell and read words properly. Phonics lessons teach three things to  children:

  1. GPCs

Children are taught GPCs (or grapheme-phoneme correspondences). They learn all the English language phonemes and ways to write them. The learners are taught sound in a particular sequence. The students start to learn from s, a, t, p sounds.

  1. Blending

Children learn to blend. Blending is a kind of word-creation in which two or more words are joined to make one word. For example: when the beginning of the word 'breakfast' is combined with the end of the word 'lunch', a new word 'brunch' is formed. This skill plays a vital role in building reading ability.

  1. Segmenting

In Phonicsplay, children also learn to Segment. A segment is opposite to blending. Children can say a word and then break the word into the phonemes that create it. This plays an important role in enabling the learners to spell words.

Segmenting sounds using Writer's Block
Segmenting sounds using Writer's Block

What makes teaching phonics tricky?

Learning phonics is easy in some languages because each phoneme can only represent one grapheme. However, this is not the case in the English language. English is considered more complex. There are only around 44 phonemes in English but these are written in 120 ways or graphemes. There are only 26 letters in the alphabet so several graphemes include more than a single letter.

One more problem is that some graphemes may represent more than a single phoneme. For instance: ch has a different sound in the following three words: chef, school and chip.

Some of the digraphs - graphemes with two letters are ay, oo, th or Ch.

Some graphemes are consisting of 3 letters (trigraphs) and some even include 4 letters.

What are the advantages of subscribing to Phonicsplay?

There are many advantages of subscribing to the Phonicsplay.

  1. Exclusive accessibility of the latest games - Many resources at Phonicsplay (the best and the newest ones) can only be accessed by the subscribers.
  2. The whole school subscription is £60 (inc VAT) per year and individual subscriptions are £6 (inc VAT) per year- Through the login id and password, the users can access each of the resource and no-advertisement areas free for one year. PhonicsPlay login and password enables up to 35 users to access the website at any time from the school (this means children of another class might be playing a game in the computer suite while children in the other class would be playing games on the interactive white-boards).
  3. Time Management - Teachers can save some of their precious time by teaching phonics through this website. It is largely believed that when it comes to the preparation time, phonics is very demanding. Each 15-minute lesson easily include tricky words, flashcards, sentence cards, grapheme flashcards, and resources for the buried treasure game (coins, treasure chest and dustbin). All of this is apparently very time consuming to build. Phonicsplay offers a way to take away extreme workload by allowing users to access resources in interactive versions, which only demand to click the mouse a couple of times. One can also access a lot of ready to use printable resources at Phonicsplay.
  4. Free Resources: Many resources at Phonicsplay are free to use for the users. These include:Information pages;
  5. Planning;
  6. A variety of printable resources;
  7. Many games resources for all phases (also include the most favourite ones);
  8. from Phase 2 to Phase 5b -Decodable comics;
  9. phonicsplaycomics.co.uk;
  10. Free trials for temporary access to the entire site of the PhonicsPlay are also available.

Many schools use games from www.phonicsplay.co.uk to teach phonics to their students in their everyday phonics teaching. The Phonicsplay is also accessible in form of an app. Children can use the apps to learn and play independently. Additionally, for any teacher or parent feeling unsure about how to teach phonics, the apps offer a great opportunity for learning and playing together. The app helps learners to understand phonics at the primary stages of phonics learning. This app has been designed to provide an easy and enjoyable way to rehearse and build on what learners have already learned.

What are Phonicsplay Comics?

PhonicsPlay comics are easy-to-read comics containing familiar characters from PhonicsPlay. They are brief, engaging, silly comics that can be printed out or read on a computer. The comics are designed to give children the chance to practice the skills and knowledge they learn every week in school. They offer a fun way to apply their newly learnt Phonics knowledge.

FAQs about PhonicsPlay

  • How do you start with school games?

Request a 7 day free trial for individual or whole school membership and get unrestricted access to all games and resources.

You can get a 7 day free trial for individual or whole school memberships.

  • What resources can I find?

Access comprehensive lesson plans and teaching resources as well as further information, help and guidance for parents.

  • What are the benefits of playing online?

Free, unlimited access to selected games and teaching ideas across several phases - play these games as many times as you like!

  • Can I use the free resources?

There are a number of resources on the site which are always free, two week free trials are available, school subscriptions are valid for pupils to use from home and all the comics on the PhonicsPlayComics site remain free. The free jan21/march20 login has been withdrawn.

  • What do I do if my password is lost?

To receive a password update email, please visit the Lost Password Thank you very much for your ongoing support.

  • Can I cancel my subscription at Phonicsplay?

According to the company policy, all the new subscribers get fourteen days time during which they can cancel their subscription and receive a full refund.

 

Other Interactive Ways of Teaching Phonics

If you are concerned about children spending too much time in front of a screen, you might be interested in having a look at our Writer's Block classroom tool. These building blocks are designed to make learning interactive and engaging. During lockdown, it could be argued that children spend too much time on iPads and computers. Many teachers reported problems with language acquisition as the isolation meant that younger pupils did not have enough opportunities to talk.

Writers Block for developing phonics

Our block building tool causes children to talk about their learning. As they build, they talk and justify what they are connecting. This means children can talk about Phonics conventions and 'have a go' with their new ideas. The brightly coloured blocks enables children to spot spelling patterns and make generalisations. You can find out more about the classroom strategy on the web page. The idea behind the concept is based upon the notion that children need opportunities to break down and build back up the things they encounter in the curriculum. We cannot learn for them, their understanding has to be carefully constructed and guided by us, the educators. You can read more about Schema's and Jean Piaget's work in the other blog posts.

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