2 May 2012

Phonics and a four year old boy.

Or, if we are going to be phonetic, maybe that should be Fonics and a for yeer oald boiy. Seriously, how confusing is it to teach children to read and write our beloved English language?

Alban is my, nearly, four year old boy in question and he is off to school in September. Oh Alban, Alban, Alban, where has the time gone?

He's off to school this year??!!??

I know I shouldn't compare him but he is the complete opposite of Edith when it comes to picking up a pen or showing an interest in learning to read. Edith was writing her name and other letters by now but Alban just isn't interested. He's a boy though, and, I'm not panicking about it. Honest. I've taught enough children to know they are all very different. Sometimes it is just a case of finding their interest and what makes them tick. Dangle my smartphone or iPad in front of Alban and he's like a donkey following a carrot on a stick, he is transfixed. I've got it, I thought, all I need is an app that he can play with that has letters to trace, sounds to listen to and, in time, words to read. Being a teacher I have always wanted my children to learn and have opportunities to develop new skills so I began scouring through apps to find something educational for Alban that would encourage him to get involved. It wasn't as easy as I thought.

These are some of the features of the apps that I found:
American accents - no offence to any of my American readers, I love your accent, but I want him to hear a clear English accent for learning his sounds.
Annoying fonts e.g. Comic Sans - I CANNOT stand that font and it is not how children are taught to write so why do so many apps insist on using it?
Incorrect use of phonics - an app I downloaded sounded out s-m-a-l-l for small!?! Not really a good demonstration of how to blend sounds.

Maybe I am just too picky about it but I want it to be correct. There is no point trying to help a child learn if you are going to allow them to access something that is educationally incorrect. I had just about given up hope when I came across a tweet about a new app that has recently been developed by read write phonics. I have been asked to take a look at the app to see what I think.

Firstly, the good news - it ticks off all of my mumbles above in that it is voiced by a clear English accent, it uses Sassoon Primary as a font - my favourite teacher font - and they use words that can be phonetically sounded out. The 44 sounds (phonemes) - there are more sounds than the 26 letters of the alphabet, for example 'ck' 'sh' and 'ai' are all sounds  - are pronounced correctly: "mmm" not "emm" for the letter 'm' and "sss" not "ess" for the letter 's' being two examples.

The app is very user friendly with the opening screen giving you the option to read sounds, write letters and use the phonics to blend.

  • The read section splits the phonemes into 5 groups depending on how they sound, for example p, b, t, d, ck, k, c, g, qu and x are classed as 'explosive' sounds. Each sound is clearly stated then shown within a simple word.

  • The write section demonstrates how each letter of the alphabet is written then allows the child to practise. If they form the letter incorrectly the app lets the child know in a friendly way, "You nearly got a star, keep trying", rather than just skipping to the next one and letting their mistake go unnoticed.

  • The phonics section shows words that can be read phonetically and the app says the word clearly. Each sound can be tapped out and swiped to hear: "p" "e" "n" "pen".
All in all this app is a good start to introduce a preschooler to phonics or to reinforce the learning of phonics through the Reception year at school and into Key Stage One, where sounds are still consolidated.

The app is available to purchase for Android phones at £1.49 here at Google Play and is coming to iTunes soon for use with an iPhone.

More information can be found at the following links:
web: http://www.readwritephonics.co.uk
Twitter: @readwritephonic

I would love to hear your comments on your experiences of phonics with your preschoolers and young children?
Have you seen different attitudes to learning from boys and girls? Do you use apps? Have you found them to be a useful tool?

Disclaimer - readwritephonics sent me the app at no cost to myself for review purposes.
The review is my own words and thoughts on the product.


  1. That @motherventing told me a really interesting thing about Comic Sans and the reason why it's used. I've forgotten it but ask her and it will make you think 'oh, okay then.'
    Brilliant post.

    1. Thanks, I'm intrigued. Comic Sans just makes me go mad! I plan to ban it from my future classrooms ;)

    2. I told you what some teacher told me about CS being used in schools, but I actually agree with you that Sassoon is much nicer to look at. Thanks for the info about the app, I know Moo is probably a bit young but she does love using my phone and an ipad! Gotta love the educational stuff!

  2. Brilliant, I've been looking for something like this. I'm going to get it as soon as its available for the ipad. My daughter starts school in September and (it must be a girl thing) is desperate to read

  3. Oh, great timing for this! There's very similar differences between my girl and my little boy who's 3yrs so I totally get where you're coming from!!!! I think I'll keep an eye out for this on iTunes - got to be better than Talking Tomcat!!!!!! x

  4. This looks interesting. I'm always wary of phonics stuff, because as you say, so many get it wrong and mistakes are hard to rectify. But this definitely looks like it ticks all the boxes.

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