Playdough Phonics

When it comes to teaching T to read and write, I’ve always had a very relaxed approach. I knew she would learn best if we waited until she was ready and I wanted her to have autonomy over her own learning. When she attended nursery I was clear that we did not want her to be actively ‘taught’ phonics. We were keen that we wanted the impetus to come from her. I wrote a bit more about my thoughts on this a couple of years ago.

Last summer she started to gain more interest in reading and writing and so I was starting to think of playful phonics activities which we could do. I wanted to find alternatives to pen and paper in order to keep the learning fresh and to help make it fun and motivating for her.

At this point, she knew many of the sounds associated with each letter of the alphabet and she sometimes got letters muddled. The next steps for her were to practise her segmenting skills (splitting a word in to the phonemes that make it); her letter recognition; and her letter formation.

white tray which contains a card with images of a tap, cat and pan; a range of wooden letters, a flattened circle of playdough and a sharpened stick for writing.

I put out:

  • a picture card with some simple CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words on them
  • some magnetic letters – more than needed, so it wasn’t too easy
  • a piece of playdough
  • a sharpened stick to use as a writing tool.
Blue playdough. A child's hand is shown writing the word 'tap'.

T began by sounding out each word, finding the correct letter for each sound and then forming the word. She then went on to write each word in the playdough. Writing in playdough was a new experience for T, and it really helped her to slow down and think about her letter formation as the dough puts up a bit of resistance and slows the writing process down. Another advantage to playdough is that if a mistake is made, it is easily smoothed over ready for another try.

The tray is shown again. This time the letters have been arranged to form the words tap, pan and cat and the words have also been written in the dough.

What she is learning:

  • Segmenting words
  • Letter recognition
  • Letter formation

For more ways to encourage writing, check out these other posts.

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