Pre-school Phonics Classes

Phonics for Four Year-Olds has been teaching pre-school children from around Surrey, south-east Berkshire and north-east Hampshire since it was set up in 1993. During that time we've taught well over a thousand children, many of them finishing the course being able to read and spell simple words, and virtually all of them gaining a great enthusiasm for phonics in the process.

Children are taught synthetic phonics, using the Jolly Phonics system. They learn to recognise all the letters of the alphabet, and how to use the letter sounds to read and spell, as well as developing visual, listening and memory skills, and becoming familiar with some sight-words.

 

Alphabet Party photo

 

Small groups allow the individual attention on which children in this age-group thrive. The emphasis is on fun and enjoyment, with gentle encouragement and plenty of praise. The classes provide an often much-needed supplement to pre-school or nursery education, both intellectually and socially, during the year before starting school.

The classes are held within a home setting. Children attend once a week for a 75 minute session. We operate at a 1:4 ratio, with 2 staff for each class and a maximum of 8 children.

Hopefully any questions you may have about the classes will be covered below, but if not, please feel free to contact us. In addition, our Testimonials section will give you an insight into the Pre-school Classes, both from children's and parents' perspectives.

How to register for a class:

To register for a Pre-school Phonics class, please contact us, either by email or telephone on 01483 487714. Waiting lists start from birth, although we always do our best to accommodate last-minute enquiries.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Where are the classes held?
  2. At what age do children start at the Phonics Classes?
  3. How often do children attend the classes?
  4. What is 'Jolly Phonics'?
  5. What sort of activities do children do during the sessions?
  6. Do children have to be at a particular level of ability before starting the course?
  7. Do parents remain at the classes with their children?
  8. My child finds it difficult to be separated from me. What provision do you make if he/she is upset?
  9. Are Phonics for Four Year-Olds staff police-checked?
  10. What qualifications and experience do Phonics for Four Year-Olds staff have?
  11. My 3 year-old is very active - will he/she be expected to sit and concentrate for a long period?
  12. My child is very shy - how do you accommodate this?
  13. My child has speech difficulties - will this be a problem?
  14. I know very little about phonics myself - how can I support my child's learning?
  15. How long is the course?
  16. How much emphasis is given to sight-word recognition during the Pre-School Course?
  17. What are the course fees?
  18. What days and times do the sessions run?
  19. What if my child has to miss a session?
  20. How will Phonics for Four Year-Olds prepare my child for school?




1. Where are the classes held?

The classes take place in the home of Jackie Smith, the founder of Phonics for Four Year-Olds. This is in Bisley, Woking, Surrey. Click here to see our approximate location.

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2. At what age do children start the Phonics Classes?

We take children from age 3 years 4 months onwards. The exact starting age for your child will depend on what time of year their birthday falls.

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3. How often do children attend the classes?

Each child attends once a week only, for a fun-filled 75 minute session. We believe that this is an appropriate emphasis to put on structured learning for this age-group. The Phonics Course is intended to complement, rather than replace, a child's general pre-school education.

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4. What is 'Jolly Phonics'?

Jolly Phonics is a multi-sensory method of teaching children to recognise the letters of the alphabet. Each letter is associated with a story, which leads to an action and a sound. The child sees the letter shape (visual), does the action (movement) and says the sound (oral/auditory). As many young children respond well visually, Phonics for Four Year-Olds has enhanced the visual component of the Jolly Phonics scheme by creating a series of fun, original (copyrighted) craft activities for each story/sound.

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5. What sort of activities do children do during the session?

We concentrate on learning one new letter a week. as well as practising previous letters learned, and teaching the children how to use the letter sounds to read and spell. These are some examples of our regular weekly activities:

Parents are often amazed at the volume of activities covered during the 75 minute period!

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6. Do children have to be at a particular level of ability before starting the course?

No, not at all. We have no academic expectations for children starting the course. Children vary from having a good knowledge of phonics and already starting to read, to having absolutely no knowledge or interest in the subject. Some have excellent pencil-control; others haven't yet mastered holding a pencil. Our excellent staff ratio allows us, to a large degree, to progress each child from their starting point.

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7. Do parents remain at the classes with their children?

No. Parents drop their children and collect at the end.

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8. My child finds it difficult to be separated from me. What provision do you make if he/she is upset?

It's understandable that some children are initially unhappy about being left - after all, they don't know us and, if they don't have any older siblings who have attended, they are not familiar with the house.

We always offer parents the option to sit in the lounge during the first session. Knowing that the parent/carer will be staying in the building, and being able to have a look at where Mummy/Daddy/Carer will be located, often provides enough reassurance for the child to enable him/her to settle down happily.

Even children who find it difficult to be left at a nursery or pre-school often settle easier at Phonics for Four Year-Olds. This is probably due to the small group size (maximum 8 children), and the fact that it is a more 'homely' environment. The other factor which helps is distraction - we are very busy during the session, and the activities are all great fun. We often find that once we get started, children who would normally find it hard to settle in a free-play environment will respond positively to being organised and focussed.

The following email was received from a parent after her daughter had attended the first pre-school session:

"I just wanted to drop you a line to say how much Claudia enjoyed her first session with you on Wednesday. She has been raving about it ever since and her 'shiny name' has taken pride of place in our living room. You have created a wonderful environment for learning and you did a great job at making Claudia feel instantly at ease. I must confess that I was surprised that there were absolutely no tears, despite it being a class of new children. We look forward to seeing you again on Wednesday!"


In the event that a child continues to be upset once the structured activities have begun, we draw on the benefits of an excellent staff ratio, allocating one member of staff to focus on the child and provide some extra attention. Unless you specifically request otherwise, we would initially provide a cuddle or a lap on which to sit. For this purpose, we would normally have an additional member of staff, over and above the usual two, during the first session.

If settling difficulties were to be prolonged, the parent would be welcome to remain in the house for as many weeks as it takes for the child to be happy. It should be said, however, that although it is not uncommon for some children to cry on the first week, we rarely have problems thereafter. On the contrary, most parents report that their child can't wait to attend on the second week!

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9. Are Phonics for Four Year-Olds staff police-checked?

Yes - all staff have been cleared, by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), to work with young children. We each hold an Enhanced Disclosure certificate - available to see on request.

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10. What qualifications and experience do Phonics for Four Year-Olds staff have?

Jackie Smith, the founder of Phonics for Four Year-Olds, is degree qualified, and has been teaching pre-school children since 1991, as well as having 6 years experience teaching 5 to 8 year-olds.

The other two members of the Phonics for Four Year-Olds team have been teaching phonics since 2001 and 2004 respectively. Apart from bringing up their own children, they each have a wealth of experience from both previous and current involvement in child-based activities and organisations; for example, uniformed organisations, pre-school playgroups, Sunday school, crèches, school classroom help etc.

All staff have received thorough training in Phonics for Four Year-Olds' teaching methods and principles.

 

Margot the Bee photo
"Margot the Bee!" - one of Phonics for Four Year-Olds' staff.
(You don't have to be mad to work here... but it helps!)
Bee costume ©PhonicsforFourYear-Olds2005

 

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11. My 3 year-old is very active - will he/she be expected to sit and concentrate for a long period?

Most definitely not. The concentration span of children at this age is invariably limited. The session always consists of lots of separate activities. We alternate sedentary activities with physical games involving movement, such as 'Musical Letters' or 'Letter Skittles'. In addition we often split up into two groups of four children, allowing us to give the children extra attention. Invariably we also spend some time each week working with each child on a one-to-one. This gives us the opportunity to cater for individual needs: we often pitch the activity at different levels, depending on the child's ability. It is very important to get this just right, so that each child is extended a little, but at the same time achieves success to build their confidence.

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12. My child is very shy - how do you accommodate this?

The small group size is always a big advantage in this respect. Within a group there are invariably the loud gregarious children and those who are more shy and reserved. We teach the children that it is very important to let everyone have their say. The confident children learn that they mustn't answer for others, and thus the quiet ones are given the time they need to participate. We call it 'special turns': everyone is given the opportunity to make a contribution. This is something we feel very strongly about. Not only does it prepare the children for the school classroom situation, but it makes a big difference to the quieter children. It's always a pleasure to see shy children gradually gain confidence as the course progresses, realising that they can happily contribute.

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13. My child has speech difficulties - will this be a problem?

On the contrary - the feedback we have received over the years from parents, whose children have had varying degrees of speech difficulties/delay, is that learning phonics has been a huge help. Our method of teaching involves focussing on how to make each letter sound, as this helps all children to say the sounds accurately and to remember them. For example, the letter m involves keeping your lips together to say an 'mmm...' sound; to say the sound for the letter l, you have to say a long 'll...' by curling up your tongue; the c(uh) sound is made right at the back of your mouth by closing your throat together. In learning how to read words for themselves, children can hear how the sounds join together to make each word - this helps them with trying to say the words correctly.

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14. I know very little about phonics myself - how can I support my child's learning?

There are several ways in which we assist you in supporting your child. Firstly, we supply you with regular information sheets, explaining how we use the Jolly Phonics scheme to teach the letter sounds. Secondly, we have a 'hand-over period' at the end of each session, where parents come in to see and hear what the children have been doing that day. Thirdly, we believe in giving you as much information as possible as to how your child is progressing. We regularly use fun assessment techniques to measure how well each child is recognising the letters they have been taught, as well as checking how well their reading skills are developing. We feed this information back to you so that we can all focus on any letters which the child is having difficulty in committing to memory, as well as easing the children through any barriers which may be preventing them from reading completely independently. Finally, we are very approachable, and always happy to answer your questions and to suggest ways to help your child.

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15. How long is the course?

The basic Pre-School Phonics Course runs over two terms (24 weeks). Our term runs approximately in line with schools, breaking at Christmas, Easter and Summer, and for half terms. The whole course culminates in an 'Alphabet Party', to celebrate having learned all the letters. We have a lovely time, playing 'letter party-games' and eating special 'letter party-food'!

 

Alphabet Party Food photo Party photo 15
"Alphabet Party Food"
©PhonicsforFourYear-Olds
"The Alphabet Party"

 

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16. How much emphasis is given to sight-word recognition during the Pre-School Course?

Comparatively little, although we believe it to be an important part of the whole package.

Many of the words which crop up in children's early reading material are irregular. For example, 'come', 'you' and 'was' can't easily be worked out by saying the sounds - it is far easier for children to learn to recognise them as a whole unit. We spend just a few minutes of each session looking at our 'Word of the Week' and thinking of sentences to use it in context. By introducing these high-usage words, we are looking to give the children a more balanced overall picture of the reading process than they would otherwise have by learning phonics alone. Although phonics is the most important tool in learning to read, it is important that children develop a strategy of looking at whole words first to see if they recognise them, before trying to decode them using their phonic skills.

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17. What are the course fees?

The session fee is £16.00 This is for 75 minutes tuition with one adult to a maximum of four children. You are billed for 12 sessions at once, but can opt to spread the payment by supplying a post-dated cheque for the second half of each term. 

The level of fees reflects the fact that for every hour spent face-to-face with your child, another hour is spent preparing the many and varied support materials for each session. It is important to remember, also, that parents are not required to stay during the session, and hence we have full responsibility for looking after your child.

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18. What days and times do the sessions run?

Pre-school classes take place from Tuesday to Friday each week during term time. Sessions may be offered at the following times: 09:15 to 10:30; 11:15 to 12:30 and 13:15 to 14:30. Please contact us for specific information on sessions available at the time your child will be due to start. If you are specifically looking for a Saturday session, contact us regarding our accompanied phonics4fun! Saturday sessions.

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19. What if my child has to miss a session?

Although we're unable to give refunds for sessions missed, we do make sure that your child doesn't completely lose out on the fun and learning: we provide 'catch-up packs', which contain many of the activities missed, together with comprehensive instructions.

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20. How will Phonics for Four Year-Olds prepare my child for school?

The course gives children the knowledge and confidence to 'take off' with their reading when at school. Starting school is a whole new experience, with such a lot for a four year-old to take on board. If they are already familiar with this important aspect of the curriculum, it will give them a great deal of confidence. Reading really is the key to a good understanding in many subject areas. A good start in literacy will ensure the best possible progress in your child's future academic life.

Apart from academically, your child will learn many skills and ways of behaving which will stand them in good stead for their Reception class: sitting quietly and listening; waiting for others to have their turn; raising their hand, rather than shouting out; working co-operatively in small groups; responding well to instructions; improving concentration; developing sensitivity to others' academic needs.

 

 

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