I was asked for “help with phonics” via FaceBook Messenger – here was my reply (tidied up a bit!)

Hi Joan,

As it is EYFS, we would recommend this is during play – when appropriate for the adult to interject.

The ‘Learning Journey’ in spark is broken down into small steps pre-writing, and pre-reading, plus letters and recognition are included in the planned suggested next steps (building up for children to achieve the DMs).  These are organised for the educator to choose what is most suitable according to the child’s interests.  For example, if interested in bugs; (ideas)  provide factual books, storybooks, songs, rhymes, collections etc. and bring in the sounds and letters as appropriate.

More formally, for example, I watched a scenario where there was Jelly Play (Bright Green!) on a table outside.  An ant went across the table and the practitioner naturally spoke about ‘a’ and modelled the formation in the jelly.

With spark, the educator could see what stage the child was ‘at’ with their phonics.  She knew if each child was at the recognising, naming or writing (copying or independent writing) stage.  If the child achieved the next part of their learning, she made those observations quickly as the children played.  The educator left fleetingly and continued interacting in the play and interjecting new knowledge as she did so.

I hope that helps you – Catherine


sparkESSENTIAL covers, what it says on the tin!  It provides you with what is ‘essential’ in the delivery of the EYFS.  So, the mini-next steps in spark will

  • Encourage gross motor skills followed by refining those into more fiddly tasks (fine motor skills)
  • Support pre-writing skills, such as,
    • manipulating markers (paintbrush, thick wax crayon through to felt pens and pencils), refining the grip and holding a pencil correctly
    • encouraging left to right orientation when using resources
    • matching and sorting activities until using words and letters (dissimilar than those more alike)
    • recognising different pencil grips, marks and refining these marks into strokes used in letter formation ‘top to bottom’ and circles beginning at one o’clock and anti-clockwise
    • listening to instructions and making marks at the same time
  • Encourage children’s curiosity for discussions, stories, songs, rhymes and poetry as the foundation, for example,
    • check children have access to all types of activities to make their own stories based upon their own experiences, imaginary or from a story heard
    • recognition that words carry meaning in books and around their general environment
    • can find their name and other words that particularly interest them
  • .  Followed through via natural progression into the world of phonics integrating these into play scenarios, so they are meaningful and enjoyable to the child.  In similar ways, I described to Joan above.

These are all practical ways of establishing pre-reading and pre-writing skills first.  After all, in my opinion, the first writing skill is picking up a rattle.  spark gradually builds upon the child’s skills and knowledge so that practitioners and parents gradually guide the child appropriately.  Opportunities are always appropriate where the adult follows the guidance within spark.  In this way, children are not asked to ‘perform’ for the adult with a skill that is not developmentally appropriate.  Children forced to form letters too early are likely, in my experience in my nurseries, to form the letters incorrectly and possibly right to left – so all have to be re-learnt!

Parents are continually and fully informed via a regular interactive report, on sparkLINK or with spark@HOME depending on which feature is best suited to the family.  Observations made are all professionally presented in the child’s learning journey file.

sparkPRO takes literacy (and maths) one step further for those settings wishing to do so.  The software indicates where a child has gained concepts in their play and makes suggestions in how the knowledge and skills can become more formalised (again through a stage by stage approach).  Additionally, using the Letters and Sounds framework to guide and monitor each child’s progress, as I explained to Joan in my reply.

“The practitioners are finding that teaching activities are much more clearly focused and this is having a positive impact on achievements and also on their motivation to plan diverse and personalised activities for the children.”

Take a look at our modular software options; giving you the option to only buy what you need, when you want it.

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