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Learning the alphabet not as easy as a-b-c


Let’s get one thing straight – I am NOT a pushy parent.


But I have to admit to being particularly impressed (and a little envious) when a friend’s two-year-old perfectly memorised and performed that dreadful alphabet song this week.


I resolved to teach it to our son – if for nothing else other than to wow rellies at family parties.


Then I caught a snippet on the radio about phonics which set me thinking.


Is there any point in learning the alphabet without properly understanding its meaning, which letters represent each sounds etcetera? And shouldn’t we make sure we’re consistent with how he’ll be taught in school?


So I called up my big sister Veryan Cranston, who is something of a professional in this field. She is a former primary school teacher and early year’s expert and had some pretty great advice.


She said: “Learning the alphabet certainly doesn’t harm a child and schools are just glad if children arrive with some awareness of the alphabet, but learning phonics first is certainly easier and it can be a little confusing to learn both together.


“Phonics are great because they help you spell out a word by breaking them down into the smallest sounds.  If you want to teach your child the letter too that’s fine as long as you say one is the name and one is its sound.”

But making sure we teach our son phonics involves properly pronouncing the letter sounds – apparently we have a tendency to add the ‘uh’ sound to many letters rather than pronouncing the sound in its purest state. 


So I got busy on Google and found this video of someone pronouncing the alphabet in phonics:


Veryan suggests teaching your child to sound out their name and their friends’ names is a good starting point and when you’re out walking you can look for letters on street signs etc. and sound them out together. 


And many experts suggest learning lower case before capital letters, which only account for 5% off all letters used in the written word.


I know it’s controversial and there are parents who thinks the phonics way is daft – but hey, whether you like it or not, that’s what they’re teaching in schools so you may as well embrace it.


The Tories say a recent phonics push has had a big impact on literacy. I guess they would say that.  But It seems that for once I’m actually on the same page. The school’s minister Nick Gibb this week described phonics as: “the most effective way of teaching children to read.”


I don’t give much credence to politicians but my mum was a brilliant primary school teacher and she taught me to read using phonics.


One popular reading scheme is Jolly Phonics… they advocate teaching children the 42 main letter sounds (the main alphabet sounds plus digraphs such as sh, th, ai and ue) before teaching children how to blend the sounds together.


And they suggest teaching the letter sounds in this order to enable children to start building words as early as possible:


1) s, a, t, I, p, n

2) c, k, e, h, r, m, d

3)  g, o, u, l, f, b

4) ai, j, oa, ie, ee, or

5) z, w, ng, v, oo, oo

6) y, x, ch, sh, th, th

7) qu, ou, oi, ue, er, ar


That’s enough of me. All this talk of learning is giving me a headache – we’re off to the park!



Check out these useful websites for more info

These links are useful too:

We recommend: fab  phonics toys and learning aids:

Our little boy loves this Peppa Pig tablet - it has proper phonics and he has been calling it his 'special laptop':

These magnetic letters are great - they have the double letter sounds too:

We love Julia Donaldson! Her phonics book is nice and simple and has lots of repetitive words sounds:

We have these in our bathroom and stick them to the wall (or our son!) - they're another great way of building familiarity with letter sounds.

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