Commentators have asked how parents will be motivated to become involved - Teaching phonics empowers learners to be proactive in forming their own words based on their phonic knowledge. It develops confidence and creativity as well as literacy in the learners. One teacher summed it up by remarking that ‘teaching used to be hard work but now children learn for themselves’. This is what impresses parents who then come to the teacher to find out what it is that excites their children. Acquiring phonic skills in contexts with no background in phonics is difficult without constant repetition of the sound values of letters – a programme accessible on the learners’ own phones provides the opportunity to get this reinforcement at will. - the inclusion of the two vowel sounds in African languages additional to those encountered in English enable English and mother tongue words to be read - evidenced by teacher comments on children’s skills following phonic instruction.
Our experiences and feedback from teachers, pupils and GES District staff have shown how valuable a resource like Phonics by Phone could be. Teachers regularly ask for easy access to the phonics sounds and songs – they would like them on CD. Resources supplied on the internet may throw up some challenges in terms of IT skills, access and network challenges. The Phonics by Phone method of sharing these audio files seems like a perfect way to share them. Currently all the songs on the phonics programme are in English – our teachers would be keen to get songs translated or equivalents created in local language. Phonics by Phone could be the ones to take that forward.
The team at Sabre has been working in Ghana with KG teachers and introducing the Ullo Phonics programme as part of the Transformational Teacher Training (TTT) programme. We have been so pleased with the positive feedback. Some experiences we've had using phonics related to teachers and Pupils include;
Through the TTT programme children have been taught to have good listening skills and learn through play Teaching Ullo Phonics has broadened children's vocabulary – encourages more than one word as an example of a letter sound, not just “'a' for apple” but many words with the letter sound in it, including words from the local language, Fante. Children are enabled to apply their knowledge of letter sounds far more widely. Initially teachers were not very enthusiastic about phonics but were encouraged when they began to see positive results in the children's learning. Now teachers embrace teaching phonics and are now confident in teaching it. In KG1 children's listening skills developed, children began linking sounds in the environment. Teachers became excited when children recognised letter sounds and could respond to the first sound of their names. Teaching phonics has enabled children in KG2 to read and write 3 letter words. They have acquired letter sound skills and grow in confidence in tackling new words in both English and Fante. Ullo phonics supports teachers to use words in the local language. Comparing our children's abilities to the results of the EGRA (P2 children); 3 letter words were a problem in the EGRA results but our children can read 3 letter words at KG level because they have been taught phonics. P1 teachers confirmed KG2 pupils were reading words they could see in the classroom environment when they came to visit their classrooms and were attempting to sound out unfamiliar words.
Some experiences we've had using phonics related to Parental involvement include; It is a challenge to get parents involved as a high percentage of them may be uneducated. Phonics is new to them as it has not been a part of their learning experience. Parents are indirectly involved in supporting their children to learn to read as they observe their children's performance and ability. A small number of Headteachers used PTA meetings as a forum to educate parents on phonics songs and activities, so that the parents can support children's learning at home. Phonics by Phone could really support this. At our Parents Forum we learned that some parents had become aware of the positive results of phonics teaching in a local public school and taken their children out of a private school to enrol them in the Sabre public school instead. In one school compound parents saw a KG2 child reading 3 letter words better than children in the same compound who were in P3 and P4. The parents asked the teacher to teach phonics to the older children over the holiday period.
Some experiences we've had using phonics related to Ghana Education Service District (GES) Offices include; GES accept and comment positively on the phonics programme. Circuit Supervisors see the phonics programme creating a difference in the schools accessing the KG training compared to those in their Circuit that aren't part of it. They report that pupils moving from KG2 to P1 are doing better than their friends from other schools who's teachers are not benefiting from the programme, for example in reading and writing 3 letter words.
Very much looking forward to seeing this implemented as my experience in Ghana has shown that a simple phonics programme can make a huge difference, as has been commented on already. I'm so impressed that it's making use of readily available and regularly used technology which we have already had experience of enriching our programme here in Ghana.