Archive for the ‘Phonics’ Category

The Best Phonics Apps for iPads

April 15, 2013

The apps, courtesy of, assist with reading, writing and spelling.

Interactive Alphabet

Interactive Alphabet icon

Price: $2.99
Grade Level: Pre-K-2nd
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

Interactive Alphabet offers alphabet matching for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Your child can hear words, letters and phonics sounds. This app also includes a “Baby Mode.” It auto advances every 15 seconds. This interactive game also teaches upper and lower case letters.

iSpy Phonics

iSpy Phonics iconPrice: $1.99
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

Match phonic sounds with letters, through colorful illustrations, pictures and accurate pronunciation, while playing the age old game of I Spy. It provides a fun and highly interactive way to help children learn to recognize letters and their phonic sounds. iSpy Phonics allows children to match phonic sounds with letters, through illustrations, pictures, and accurate pronunciation while playing the game of I Spy.

ABC Expedition

ABC Expedition iconPrice: $2.99
Device: iPad only

ABC Expedition is an app designed to help children with their alphabet. However, this app not only helps kids with their alphabet; it also helps children learn various animals too. This is promised to be a fun app for both parents and kids.


Alphabytes iconPrice: $1.99
Device: iPad only

Alphabytes is an educational app that helps kids learn their letters, the sounds letters make, how to write both upper and lower case letters, and how to spell a few words. The game has four sections: Alphabet, Trace, Spell, and Play. Trace teaches kids how to print both upper and lower case letters. The play section of the app has a memory game where kids match letters with the picture of an item that begins with that letter.

Simplex Spelling with Reverse Phonics: Lite

Simplex Spelling Lite iconPrice: Free
Grade Level: Pre-K-and Up
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

Simplex Spelling Lite is designed to improve spelling and reading skills in a fun and interactive way by using “reverse phonics.” Simplex Spelling Lite contains over 50 high frequency English words; it also enables students to build on each word, which goes above and beyond the sheer memorization of words. Simplex Spelling Lite enhances understanding in a variety of students as it appeals to audio, visual and tactile learners. It is a great tool to have for kids learning to spell, remedial students, or those learning English as a second language.

Word Wizard: Talking Movable Alphabet & Spelling Test for Kids

Word Wizard iconPrice: $2.99
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

Word Wizard is the first educational app that utilizes natural sounding text-to-speech voices to help kids learn word building and spelling. Movable Alphabet help kids hear the text they wrote, as well as verify spelling using the built-in spell checker. This app has the ability to turn whatever words kids create — even words that do not exist — into spoken words. This app also consists of the most frequently used words, body parts, and family members — just to name a few.

Word Wagon by Duck Duck Moose

Word Wagon iconPrice: $1.99
Grade Level: Pre-K and Up
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

Word Wagon helps kids learn about letters, phonics, and spelling with Word Wagon. Parents and kids can set it to one of four progressively harder levels: letters, phonics, and spelling of short and long words and also to display either upper- or lowercase letters. In the first two levels, kids can match the letters to form the words; in the latter two levels, there is no visual cue, and kids have to arrange the spelling of the word on their own. There is also a nice variety of word topics such as animals and food to choose from. The level of customization makes Word Wagon a good fit for kids at different skill levels.

FirstWords Deluxe

FirstWords Deluxe iconPrice: $4.99
Grade Level: Pre-K and Up
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

FirstWords Deluxe helps kids learn to spell words in five categories with FirstWords Deluxe: Animals, At Home, Colors, Shapes, and Vehicles. Parents can add more categories with in-app purchases. Touching the picture reveals the name of the object. As kids drag and drop letters into boxes to spell the object featured, they can practice sounding out letters with the phonics feature or hear the actual letter names as they’re placed — or go all out and turn off the sound. Kids get good spelling practice while working on listening skills and building their vocabulary.


Click on the link to read Should Teachers be able to Text Students?

Click on the link to read 50 Ways To Use Skype In Your Classroom

Click on the link to read Top 10 Educational i-Pad Apps

Click on the link to read Top 10 Math Apps for Children

Click on the link to read The Pros and Cons of iPads in the Classroom


Why are Teachers so Threatened by Phonics?

September 4, 2012

I am on record as saying that I find teaching phonics to be a challenge because it can be so dry and tedious to students. However, I can clearly see the benefits of the method.

There is a clear campaign from teacher’s unions and academics against phonics. This campaign is heated and vitriolic and makes absolutely no sense to me. Why would an organisation which is entrusted to help children to read, write and spell condemn a method which has a favourable track record? Even if you believed in other approaches (I like to incorporate other approaches too), it makes no logical sense to rant and rave about strategies that others support such as phonics.

Surely, as our students learn in different ways, it is incumbent on us as teachers to teach skills using a variety of different methods:

Nearly nine out of 10 teachers said they practised nonsense words in the run up to the test.

Words like spron, fape and thazz were included in the test designed to check pupils’ abilities to decode using phonics.

And four out of 10 admitted drilling phonics in the week prior to the test.

One Year one teacher said: “Some able readers failed and some non-fluent, less-able readers passed! What does that prove?

“It proves synthetic phonics is only part of a variety of strategies used in learning to read.”

Another teacher said: “I was willing to try it to see if it helped the children and if it helped inform my planning and assessment.

“It was a waste of time and money – (I had to have) a supply teacher to cover me – and had a negative effect on several of the children in my class.”

A Year One teacher said: “Many children made mistakes trying to turn the pseudo words into real words – ‘strom’ became ‘storm’.”

Some 86% of those polled believed the screening check should not be continued.

Perhaps the test needs some improving, but educators can’t be too tough on phonics as a method. After all, many of us can attribute being able to read by phonics.

Click on the link to read Who Said Grammar Isn’t Important?

Click on the link to read The Resistance Against Teaching Grammar

Click on the link to read Captain Phonics to the Rescue!

Click on the link to read the Phonics debate.

Our Authors Don’t Want us Teaching Phonics

July 25, 2012

There is a major phonics debate going around. One side argues that one must learn phonics to be able to read properly, the other suggests that phonics is dry and boring and detracts from the pleasure of reading:

More than 90 of Britain’s best-known children’s authors and illustrators have called on the government to abandon its plans to introduce early-year reading tests, warning that they pose a threat to reading for pleasure in primary schools.

The former children’s laureate Michael Rosen is leading the writers’ charge against a phonics-intensive approach to teaching young children how to read.

A letter to the Guardian signed by 91 names including Meg Rosoff, Philip Ardagh and Alan Gibbons says millions is being spent on “systematic synthetic phonics programmes” even though there is “no evidence that such programmes help children understand what they are reading”.

Rosen told the Guardian: “It does not produce reading for understanding, it produces people who can read phonically.”

Click on the link to read Who Said Grammar Isn’t Important?

Click on the link to read The Resistance Against Teaching Grammar

Click on the link to read Captain Phonics to the Rescue!

Click on the link to read the Phonics debate.

The Resistance Against Teaching Grammar

June 29, 2012

As much as I have reservations about the “phonics approach” to teaching reading, I firmly believe that any skill worth teaching can be taught well. Just because phonics, spelling and grammar can be taught in a very dry and mundane way, doesn’t mean that it isn’t valuable and it doesn’t mean that it can’t be delivered in a style in which students enjoy.

Plans for new primary school grammar tests in England will hold a “gun to the head” of teachers, experts say.

The National Association for the Teaching of English says a revised focus on spelling, grammar and punctuation will “impoverish” teaching.

Its chairman, Dr Simon Gibbon, says the reforms are based on ministers’ “diminishing memories of their own grammar- and public-school educations”.

It’s not the content of the tests that I am concerned about, it’s the tests themselves that bother me.

Click on the link to read my post on the phonics debate.

Captain Phonics to the Rescue!

July 7, 2011

It’s like the pest that wont go away.  Phonics sneaks up on us all the time, with it’s many proponents insisting it is the missing key in getting literacy levels up to standard.  I doubt that is the case.  In fact, while I think phonics has a minor secondary role to play, if you make phonics the key method for teaching reading, you will almost certainly turn your students off literature.

It seems some British MP’s agree with me:

MPs have criticised government plans to test pupils on their reading ability at the age of six, warning that it will put children off reading for pleasure.

The report criticises the government’s focus on phonics – in which children learn individual sounds and then blend them to read words – as a “mechanical” approach and warns that it will contribute to a decline in literacy.

Fabian Hamilton, who chairs the MPs’ group, said: “If there is a central theme to this, that is, reading must be a pleasure. Of course children need the tools to understand what sounds the symbols make, and what those sounds mean. Phonics is only one way of doing it, there are others.”

The MPs’ report says: “The phonics test is likely to demotivate children rather than ensure that they become eager and fluent readers.”The government is facing a backlash over phonics. Critics, including the United Kingdom Literacy Association, have written to education secretary Michael Gove lobbying him to abandon the test.

The schools minister, Nick Gibb, said: “High-quality evidence from across the world – from Scotland and Australia to the National Reading Panel in the US – shows that the systematic teaching of synthetic phonics is the best way to teach basic reading skills, and especially those aged five to seven.

“It is vital that we focus on the reading skills of children early on in their lives, and give those who are struggling the extra help they need to enable them to go on to enjoy a lifetime’s love of reading rather than a lifelong struggle.”

Surely the greatest contribution a teacher of reading can make is helping to nurture an appreciation and fondness of reading.  Phonics is for most students a giant slog.  Even the expression “systematic teaching of synthetic phonics” is a turnoff.

Phonics has its place, but enjoyment of reading is tantamount.  I want my students to enjoy reading about different people and places, connect with well drawn characters and gain insights. I want them to experinece how reading can trigger emotions, form opinions and nurture their imaginations.

I didn’t become a teacher to turn my students off reading.

Another Day, Another Standardised Test

July 5, 2011

UK teachers are told to add mandatory phonics tests to the ever-expanding list.  Remember when teaching was about engaging the students not test practise?

This time next year, every year 1 pupil in England is likely to encounter a new national test assessing a central aspect of their ability to read.

The children, aged five and six, will be presented with 40 individual words on paper, and asked to sound them out to their teachers or to another adult. Some words will be familiar to most, while others will be made-up or “non” words such as “mip” or “glimp”, designed only to assess the child’s ability to follow the pronunciation rules, such as they exist, of written English.

The results of this test, or “screening check”, will then be collected, given to the child’s parents and also used to produce statistics on national and local performance and to inform Ofsted inspection judgments on schools.

One leading literacy figure has described the new test as potentially “disastrous”, while another told this newspaper it was an “abomination” and likely to be a major waste of taxpayers’ money. A petition with more than 1,000 signatures against it has been collected.

The debate surrounds the principle of teaching phonics, another boring, routine and old-fashioned way of teaching content that could be conveyed in a far more exciting and engaging way.

Beyond this debate, I feel there is another issue at stake.  The rise of obsessive testing inevitably leads to the curriculum being hijacked by test practise as well as pressure needlessly put on Primary aged students.  These students deserve to have their crucial first years of schooling without the stresses they will confront later on down the track.


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