It seems it’s always a headache to wonder what enrichment phonics or English program to sign our child up. There are a lot of phonics classes for kindergarteners programs out there to sieve through and then we need to make a decision as to which program to select for our child – what we believe is best for our child – in his English language learning journey.
Welcome to the world of English phonics!
Here, we would like to introduce our Seriously Addictive English (S.A.E.) Phonics and English Program, a structured and comprehensive approach to teaching phonics and literacy skills to primary school kids in Singapore. Based on the renowned Cambridge Curriculum from the United Kingdom, our S.A.E. program aims to empower children with strong English foundations, critical thinking abilities, and a love for lifelong learning.
Let’s dive into some considerations with regards to learning phonics for your child and the choices of phonics classes available.
Why Phonics? Is it Useful?
In order to read English successfully, children must learn to manipulate the sounds and recognise the words they see in a text, and make sense of these sounds. Phonics teaches children to learn letter-sound relationships because English uses letters in the alphabet to represent sounds.
A kindergartener will learn the sounds that each letter makes, and how a change in the order of letters changes a word’s meaning. For example, if we don’t pay attention to letter order, words such as ‘top’ and ‘could’ might be misread as ‘pot’ and ‘cloud respectively.
The trouble with the whole-language approach is that it encourages rote memorisation based on a child’s visual memory of individual words. For example, to help children recognise the words ‘cat’, ‘rat’ and ‘bat’, teachers might put these words in the following sentences and encourage the children to read these words many times: ‘I can see a fat cat. I can see a black cat. I cannot see a brown rat under the mat. I cannot see the black bat.’ Children would memorise these words as separate lexical units. They would not be encouraged to grasp that any other words containing the part ‘-at’ (e.g., ‘sat’ or ‘pat’) would be similar in pronunciation.
Hence, the phonics approach focuses on analytical skills to deciphering the code of the written language. Our kindergarteners will then reflect on the shared spelling patterns of the above words, that is the’-at’ sounds, and words that fall in this category. Knowledge of these patterns will help children sound out not only familiar words, but predict the pronunciation of unfamiliar ones.
There is the criticism that the phonics approach does not focus enough on meaning and does not encourage our children to learn how to use words inappropriate contexts, and hence may not fully comprehend stories they read, but merely reading aloud words as if they are good readers.
Most good phonics classes would incorporate vocabulary instruction with phonics instruction. Thematic worksheets with key words that contain the target letter-sound relationships could be embedded in fun visuals that make sense to children. Incorporating games also will help children apply new words learnt and the continuous usage, building their skills level by level will see good success.
Types of Phonics Classes for Kindergarteners in Singapore
- Synthetic Phonics: Focuses on teaching children to convert letters or letter groups into sounds and then blend these sounds to form recognizable words.
- Analytic Phonics: Children learn to analyze letter-sound relationships in previously learned words. This does not involve explicit teaching of phonemes and is a great way to help children with cognitive development.
- Phonemic Awareness Classes: These classes emphasize the sounds of words, teaching children to identify and manipulate phonemes in spoken words.
- Multisensory Phonics: This approach integrates visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles. Activities might include letter tracing, sound matching games, and reading off flashcards.
Levels of Phonics Classes
Phonics education typically progresses through levels, each building upon the last:
- Level 1: Introduction to Alphabets and Sounds (*for pre-schoolers): Children learn the alphabet and the basic sounds that each letter makes.
- Level 2: Blending and Segmenting: If the kindergartener has not learnt how to blend sounds to form simple words and segment words into individual sounds, this is a good time to start.
C-v-c (consonant-verb-consonant) words should form a big part of our introductory learning in kindergarten.
- Level 3: Advanced Phonemes: Most kindergarteners would have been introduced more complex phonemes like digraphs (ch, sh, th) and diphthongs (oi, oy, ow, ou).
- Level 4: Fluency and Comprehension: Children at this level work on reading fluency and begin to focus more on comprehension.
Choosing the Right Class for Your Kindergartener
When selecting a phonics class, consider the following:
- Teaching Methods: A good curriculum uses a mix of synthetic phonics, analytic phonics, and phonics through spelling. They cater to different learning styles and development stages. In Seriously Addictive English (S.A.E – Hougang), we use these methods in our class and it was heartening to see how every pupil picks up reading at his or her own pace
- Class Size: Look for schools that believe in small class sizes. This ensures your child gets the attention he or she needs. Always remember every child is unique and requires different levels of support. And with small teacher: pupil ratio, the educator will be able to adjust to suit each kid’s needs.
- Qualifications of the Instructor: Ensure that the teacher is well-trained and experienced in phonics instruction and that he or she should understand the children’s different learning styles and caters to their uniqueness. More important is that the educator genuinely loves what he or she does, and is reflected in his or her teaching.
- Curriculum Alignment: The curriculum should align and be tailored to the developmental stages of the child. So, it is important that a diagnosis is made with regards to a child’s level of reading and comprehension and also an observation of his or her learning styles. This will enable the worksheets and materials introduced to be pitched at the correct level and stage for effective learning to take place; too slow and a child gets easily bored and too challenging and it might put off a child concerning fun learning.
- Feedback and Progress Reports: Regular updates on your child’s progress can help you track his or her development and address any areas of concern.
Why Choose our (Seriously Addictive English) S.A.E Phonics and English Program for Your Primary School Child?
i) Structured Phonics Approach
The structured phonics approach employed by S.A.E simplifies the English language into 44 sounds. By teaching these sounds, children gain the ability to decode words and spell with accuracy. This approach eliminates the need for rote memorization of countless words and empowers students to unlock the phonetic code of the English language.
ii) Integrated Literacy Skills Curriculum
The S.A.E program utilizes a spiral curriculum, reinforcing literacy skills through a well-designed progression. By revisiting and building upon previously learned concepts, students deepen their understanding of reading, writing, grammar, and comprehension. This integrated approach ensures a comprehensive mastery of essential English skills.
iii) Individual Learning Plan
Understanding that no two children learn alike, the S.A.E program embraces an individualized approach. Through a comprehensive diagnostic assessment, educators identify a child’s strengths and areas for improvement. Based on these findings, a personalized learning plan is created, allowing students to progress at their own pace. The coaching approach, featuring probing questions and abundant encouragement, empowers students to explore, discover, and build confidence in English.
Most good phonics classes in Singapore offer a structured program, incorporating an engaging way for your child to embark on his or her literacy journey. By understanding the types of phonics classes and levels available, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your child’s learning style and needs. Remember, the goal is not just to learn to read but to cultivate a lifelong love for reading and learning.