Hey! I’m Lauren and I have been teaching since 2013 in the north-west of
England. Currently, I teach in a two-form entry school with a high percentage of EAL learners. The majority of my career so far has been in KS2 so I was over the moon to be offered the opportunity to teach in Year 1 this year! I love taking on new challenges and this year has certainly been that! I set up my
Instagram account (@passionate_about_primary) back in July 2020 when I was preparing to move to KS1 and I thank my lucky stars as I may not have found Jigsaw Phonics without it! I am a lover of children’s picture books, teaching English and all things stationery. I am also a Disney and F.R.I.E.N.D.S geek!
In your opinion, how well does teacher training prepare teachers to teach
Honestly, in my personal experience, not well at all. I did a 3-year BA Hons degree in Primary Education with English specialism and I still feel that there wasn’t enough focus on phonics. Because most of my placements were based in KS2, I also didn’t get enough practical hands-on experience of phonics. This then put me off KS1 roles for a while because I felt that I was underqualified.
What’s an a-ha moment you’ve had teaching phonics that you would want to pass on to a new teacher?
It 100% has to be accents. It is HUGE and can have such an impact on a child’s phonics learning. As I mentioned earlier, I work in a school where a substantial number of pupils have English as an additional language. Combine that with a northern accent and there can quite easily be misconceptions arising! In my experience, the majority of my children are able to recognise and say the phoneme correctly, they can blend the phonemes to say a word but when it comes to segmenting for spelling, this is when they get confused. I was able to identify that it was due to how they were pronouncing a phoneme. I’ve also been able to spot common errors e.g., ‘w’ instead of ‘v’ which is due to their first language. I honestly think that these children are so amazing to juggle so much information in their brains! I really struggled with Modern Foreign Languages so I am in awe of these children.
Does phonics rate as one of your favourite things to teach?
Considering that I am new to KS1, I must admit that I was pretty nervous and apprehensive about planning, delivering and assessing phonics. However, I think that it has actually made me a better phonics teacher. I have spent the time checking my knowledge and understanding and learning along the way. So, YES – I definitely feel phonics is now a firm favourite for me! I am genuinely flabbergasted at how much the children make progress and it is so lovely to see their phonics journey.
Where do you get your phonics inspiration from?
Instagram 100%! There are so many inspirational accounts and people genuinely want to support and help each other. There’s no ‘competition’. It’s all about sharing good practice. Olivia’s phonics intervention IGTV series has been so useful.
If you could only save only one of your phonics resources from a burning
classroom, which one would it be?
I would say my Jigsaw Phonics teaching slides. The reason being, they have
genuinely been a life-saver for me this year! I used these regularly with my children prior to lockdown, which meant that my phonics sessions were so consistent when we moved to remote learning. The children could be reunited with their favourite phonics characters at home!
What would your ideal phonics professional development training include?
The opportunity to role-play phonics games/activities with a partner or small group to be able to see it from a learner’s perspective. I remember having a ½ day course on phonics when I was teaching in KS2 just to get an overview of phonics. However, it was death by PowerPoint and I actually didn’t come out of the course feeling any more confident than when I went in! There is so much to take in (phoneme, grapheme etc. etc. etc.) and I feel I would have ‘got it’ if it was a more practical CPD session.
The phonics genie is out of the bottle to grant you three phonics wishes. What
For ALL teachers, no matter what age range they teach, to have regular phonics training and updates. Phonics is a fundamental stepping stone to early reading and writing development and I believe that all teachers should have a better understanding of this. I wish I had this prior to me moving to KS1.
For phonics to be less data-driven and more focused on the progress made.
Unlimited phonics budget to purchase resources.
What’s the trickiest thing about teaching phonics, and how are you managing
to solve it?
I think for me, I think it comes down to staffing and ensuring that each child is getting what they need to move learning on. Some (or most!) schools don’t have enough funding to allow for small focused phonics sessions. I’ve found it quite difficult to support my emerging readers when the rest of that phonics group are ready to move on to another phase, for example. Within the phonics lesson, these children have more visual prompts e.g., pictures to go with phoneme cards, sound buttons on flashcards. I’ve also identified these children for interventions to support them in the phase they are working within individually. It’s all a juggling act!
What’s a favourite phonics activity you always rely on and always come back
This is a tricky one! My children seem to be so enthusiastic about every game we
play in phonics. Their current favourite though is the simple ‘Best Bet’. They love saying the rhyme and get so excited if they choose the correct grapheme.
Leave us with a thought or a quote that helps you in your educator life.
Surround yourself with people who are only going to lift you higher.
This is something I love yet again about the teaching community on teachergram.
It’s all about SUPPORTING each other.
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