Primary Primary Literacy

Primary – phonemes

The national reading tests will soon be upon us and whilst the DFE has given schools a lot of material for them to implement and manage the scheme, it doesn’t hurt to have a few extra fun activities up your sleeve for when the children get weary of the practice.

Activity One – Phoneme Treasure Hunt

A very simple activity is to hide phonemes in different places around the school and set out on a treasure hunt to find them. You can vary the ones you want to hide, from just a handful to the whole set when it gets nearer to the test. For younger , attach them to objects they’ll recognise such as cut out bears or shapes and get them to copy them down alongside a number on a worksheet to show the location. The activity can be extended by ‘hiding’ the phoneme in a word or by asking the children to find groups of phonemes such as the ‘A’ sound or consonants.

Activity Two – Phoneme Countdown

Whilst most children won’t be aware of the TV programme and will be too young to understand it fully, you can play a whittled down version of the game to practise phonemes.

Instead of vowels and consonants, prepare vowel phonemes and consonant phonemes and divide the children up into groups. Ask them to choose two vowel phonemes from a hidden ‘pack’ and four consonant phonemes from another pack. Give the groups a minute to make up as many words as they can by joining the phonemes together to make words. They will have to say them out loud to you when the minute is up.

Activity Three – Phoneme Scrabble

Most schools have a Scrabble board tucked away somewhere or if not, it’s not hard to make one – preferably with larger squares. This time, instead of using letter tiles, make up tiles from phonemes and play the game in the usual way. Even though the tiles will often have two or more letters on them to make the phoneme and so you’re likely to have two or more letters on a square, the game works with the words readable across or down. Unlike the real game, ensure that the children correctly say the word they have placed on the board. If it is incorrectly placed or incorrectly read, pass it over to the opposing team to try for bonus points.

Activity Four – Community Phonics

This is an idea we tried in a small community and which was a lot of fun. It does involve a reasonable amount of effort but for us it was worthwhile. We involved our local supermarket, sweet shop, food outlet, petrol station, and post office together with any other places that children are likely to go with their parents. Each week the venue would be asked to display one or two pictures together with an accompanying word that related to the phonemes we were practising.

Out of school, whilst the children were shopping, getting petrol, posting letters etc. with their parents they would be looking out for the picture and word and completed a chart with a sticker from each outlet, a miniature version of the poster. So, for example, the word ‘chain’ would involve a picture of a chain with the word underneath it and the phoneme highlighted in bold. The outlets didn’t mind helping with the activity as they then got regular visits from the parents and so more business, whilst the children had a fun activity out of school that acted as their homework.

Dave Lewis
Primary teacher

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