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Phonics in the Language Classroom

Can Phonics Transform The Teaching of Languages?

The ‘Reading Wars’ over phonics vs. whole language instruction have always been hotly debated. The use of synthetic phonics to teach reading in schools in England has been the subject of ferocious debate since it was backed by former education minister Michael Gove, but critics say that this approach does nothing to support pupils’ comprehension of words, nor their love for reading [1].

But what about their use in teaching languages? Teaching phonics in modern foreign languages enables the teaching of key sounds, allowing them to be fixed in the long term memory. The outcome of this is the development of learners who can be more independent in the new language without continual supervision and support from the teacher. This results in learners who are able to understand more text containing unfamiliar language and learners who are more confident in speaking and reading out loud in a new language [2].

Learning phonics in language lessons allows learners to read by decoding; converting letters into sounds and blending them to form a recognizable word [3]. By explicitly teaching learners the phonics of the target language, this understanding can underpin the development of accurate pronunciation and spelling. This is vital when the nature of phonics varies dramatically between languages.

BlueSky Learning is pleased to launch a new module ‘Phonics: The key to speaking Spanish’. This module has been produced by Brogan Matthews, a language specialist with vast experience of supporting learners across the key stages in developing a love for languages. Session one focuses on the theory and practice of phonics in the Spanish language classroom. This session is ideally pitched to support non-specialists, early career teachers, or those who are looking for a refresher. Session two focuses on the practice of phonics and delivers some tried and tested activities and tips on how to bring technology into the classroom to support and motivate learners. Watch the Taster and learn how you can start to implement these strategies in your classroom today.

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[1] Weale, S. (2022). Focus on phonics to teach reading is ‘failing children’, says landmark study. [online] the Guardian.

[2] Hawkes, R. (2012). Phonics: Teaching the sound – written links. [online] www.rachelhawkes.com.

[3] Ehri, L.C. (2019). Systematic Phonics Instruction: Findings of the National Reading Panel. [online] Ed.gov.

Tamsin Denley

Author: Ally Sousa
Content Specialist, BlueSky Learning

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