March 2013 – Phonics are being introduced at Penny’s Place!   Leave a comment

Now before everyone jumps up and down and starts accusing Penny of being contradictory or even of lying – Please read on!

It is well documented that Penny does not like ‘teaching’ phonics and refuses to introduce a phonics progamme into her setting, however those who have read the posts made on the subject of phonics will know that Penny has stated all along that if a child was ready to start developing a knowledge of letter sounds (phonics) and wanted to do so – that Penny would support this interest.

Well this month two of the children have shown an interest and have wanted to know about letter sounds – and no it is not because Penny has introduced the new story books that she brought last year – you know the ones that are phonetically correct and supposed to be introduced in the correct order – no those books are still unread, in fact still not made it to the book shelf due to there being no room and a sort out of books needed!

So how did this interest in letters make itself known?

A couple of things really – first was Penny’s purchase of a tray of alphabet letters, back in January – brought in a charity shop – just because Penny used to have one of these when her own children were little (some time ago now as two oldest daughters are in their 30’s)

Penny had left it on the kitchen table as she wanted to wash it – and of course the children who never miss anything – spotted it and wanted to know what it was. ‘It’s numbers’ they said – that is because the children currently have an interest in numbers – especially the number 3 (important to them as 5 of the 6 children on the books are 3 and the 6th child will be 3 soon). So of course Penny explained that they are not numbers and in fact letters.

As we were in the kitchen for this discussion one child pointed to their self registration cards on the board in the kitchen and said ‘we got letters in our names – look’

Lots of discussion then about the letters in their names and in the alphabet tray. Once the letters were washed, Penny put the tray of letters out to play – sort of like a puzzle really, just fitting the letters into the corresponding hole in the tray


The children then lost all interest and although available – they choose not to play with the alphabet tray much.

Penny remembered the very old alphabet book that she had brought from a different charity shop some time ago – again brought because her own children used to have one (yes it has not escaped Penny’s noticed that she should have kept these resources – as would have saved re buying them).

When Penny’s children were little she had made them some tracing boards by tracing the outline of the pictures and letter shapes in the books – and transferring to card by re drawing over the outlines with a ball point pen onto the card (so left an indent) then going over that indent mark with felt pen, Quite time consuming- but very effective – and Penny ended up making several sets because all of her children’s friends wanted a set. This was in about 1982 or 83 and the cards remained in use until 2004 when Penny de registered and sold / binned a lot of her childminding stuff (If only Penny had a crystal ball and had known she would be returning to childminding in 2010!)

Anyway being the dedicated (and slightly mad) childminder that she is – Penny made a new set of these tracing boards for her setting – and because technology has moved on since 1983 she also scanned and laminated the colour pictures from the book – so also had a set of pictures and a set of letters.

All this took time of course (especially as Penny busy campaigning against the government proposals in More Great Childcare and has been rather ill ).

And so towards the end of February Penny introduced all these alphabet things to the children – in that she showed them to the children and then left on the side (actually in one of those rather nice wooden trays that the wooden blocks came in – the blocks now being in storage boxes as proved a right pain to keep putting the blocks back in the tray after every use).

Assorted March photos 076

Two of the children showed a great deal of interest in the tray of alphabet things – the others just a passing interest;

Which just goes to show that children are not all interested in the same things at the same time – and reinforces Penny’s personal ethos of all things – including phonics – If you provide an enabling environment based on the children’s stage of development, interests – and your knowledge as a practitioner about what might be a potential next step / stage for each child – then each child will use the environment provided in a unique  way and develop on the own personal learning journey.

So which children showed an interest – and in what ways, and which children didn’t. However before describing the children’s interest – or lack of interest, Penny must make it very clear this is not intended to be an assessment of the children’s development or indeed to say one child is ‘doing better’ than another child – it is just an observation of interests.

Chinzia is currently the eldest child attending Penny’s Place and will be 4 in April – up to now Chinzia has shown very little interest in letters or with her name – in that she has been selected her photo name card for months (and knows which card belongs to which friend), however did not recognise her name (without photo) on her place mat or her drawings.

However in the last week or so – all that has changed and Chinzia is now very interested in letters, letter sounds and words.

In the last week she has started spotting ‘C’ and ‘h’ in the environment (start of her name of course) and uses the ‘ch’ sound, she asks questions about ‘Whats for cake, or house or a million other things every day). She now recognises her name if printed by the computer – although has yet to decipher Penny’s handwriting (not many people can!). Chinzia also now likes to use the magnetic letters to spell her names and that of her friends (with support from Penny) – and if Penny is not around will arrange the letters in nice neat lines on the board. Chinzia can now find the initial letters for all her friends names – both with the magnetic letters, the pictures and in the environment / books.

Mia who will 4 in August and like Chinzia will be going to school in September, shows very little interest in letters and sounds at Penny’s Place – she likes to colour the alphabet colouring pictures and knows that the mouse one starts with the same letter as her name. Mia prefers to colour sort the magnetic letters (usually finding all the pink ones) Mia is just not interested at Penny’s Place and currently prefers role play activities. However Daddy tells Penny that provided Mia is in the right frame of mind – she does show an interest in letters and words at home.

Erin who was 3 in January – really couldn’t be bothered at the moment – she does like colouring though and sometimes selects the elephant picture to colour as it is her picture (as of course elephant starts with ‘E’ like her name). Erin prefers to use the toy telephones to make calls to mummy – and to – One Direction! Her other big interest at the moment is filling bags to the brim with all sorts of ‘shopping’ or things for her holiday.

Alex was also 3 in January and is very interested in ‘A’ and all the associated things – he often carries around (or hides in unusual places) the laminated picture of the apple, the laminated ‘a’ and the plastic ‘a’. Alex loves the to colour the apple picture and know it is ‘his’. He also knows it is ‘s’ and the sunshine picture for his sister Shona name and the mouse picture is for Mia and more importantly for mummy. He also knows that Archie’s name starts with a ‘a’

Shona who is Alex’s twin – is unpredictable – some days she is interested in her picture and chooses to colour it – other days she really has no interest at all.

Archie who is the youngest child at Penny’s Place will be 3 in April -he  likes to colour the apple picture – but also just as keen to colour dinosaur pictures. So far he is not interested in letter sounds.

Does Penny have any concerns – certainly not – in fact she is very pleased with the progress of all the children – and plans to continue to support each child’s individual development path- because she knows that just because interested or not interested at the moment – each child will when the time is right for them,) learn to read and write.

Which brings us to the next aspect of this blog – the associated area of writing.

Penny noticed that when we made mother’s day cards that some of the children had stated to mark make in nice neat lines of small marks, she has also notice that Shona is holding her pencil correctly and sometimes makes marks on her pictures  telling Penny what it is that she has written.

And so as a next step – and including all the children so that they can all take part – if they want to; Penny has brought some exercise books – plain page followed by lined page throughout exercise book.

Each child has a book with his or her name in a large font on the front (but no picture / photo or other way of identifying who the books belong to).

Not all the children have seen the books yet as they did not attend yesterday, However those they did – Erin, Chinzia and Archie – the books have been a huge success. Erin and Chinzia can ‘find’ their book in the drawer – Archie is more of a lucky guess but then he is younger. All the children self selected their books and the box of pencils several times through out the day – and did lots of mark marking – they even put them away in the drawer when finished (well most of the time). Penny also added some ‘proper’ writing pencils complete with rubbers on the top – although the children still prefer to use the coloured pencils.

Below is a sample of Chinzia’s mark making – note the mainly neat lines of marks.

Assorted March photos 077

And the best bit – this is all child initiated – all child led but with appropriate support from Penny in providing resources to support their current stage of development and interests.

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