Top 10 Phonics Pitfalls – And How to Avoid Them

Whether you’re a seasoned teacher or a newbie, you’ll want to stay alert to common phonics pitfalls, from not paying enough attention to spelling to always practising the same skill at the start of your lesson. Lesley Clarke lists her top 10 ‘don’ts’ of phonics lesson planning and teaching – and explains how to fix them!

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Mastery in Phonics Learning

The term ‘mastery’ is used in nearly every teaching curriculum, but what exactly does it mean? What does phonics mastery look like? And once students have achieved it, how do you help them sustain it? Shirley Houston explains how to master…mastery!

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“You Say, I Say”: Navigating Accent in Phonics Instruction

With over 160 dialects spoken worldwide, English is a wonderfully diverse language. But what’s a teacher to do when one child says “to-may-to” and another “to-mar-to”? Shirley Houston explores key differences between accents in English and offers advice on respectfully navigating these differences when teaching reading and spelling.

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Mell, Darp, Gom! Nonsense Words Explained

From Sydney to Seattle the Science of Reading is taking centre stage. And nonsense words have a starring role! You might be wondering: What are they? Why should I be using them? And, where do I get the words from? Phonics Hero CEO Katherine Wood provides no-nonsense answers to these questions!

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The NSW Sequence – An Update

The NSW Department of Education has put out its third (and hopefully last) suggested sequence of phonemes and graphemes for K-2. We are adding it to Phonics Hero for 2023; here’s what we’ve tweaked to get it classroom-ready!

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When to Stop Teaching Phonics

The English-speaking world is FINALLY coming to a consensus that systematic, synthetic phonics is crucial to learning to read and spell, but when should you stop teaching phonics? When do you move children on from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’? Teacher Shirley Houston discusses.

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The NSW Phonics Scope and Sequence Explained

Did you miss our free webinar on the new NSW Phonics Scope and Sequence?

Fear not! This month’s blog post gives you the 1.5 hour recording and summarises the key take-aways from this hugely popular session. Everything you need to know about the NSW phonics curriculum changes.

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13 Phonics Definitions Every Teacher Should Know

Synthetic phonics has its own terminology; grapheme, phoneme, vowel team, the list goes on! It’s important that teachers understand and easily recall the key terms.

We’ve listed the 13 definitions your teachers need to know and included a fun phonics quiz along with printable handouts for your next professional development session.

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How to Teach Alternative Spellings

As the school year progresses, students start to fly through the basic phonics code – until they come up against the alternative spellings and it hurts even your head! How do you teach and embed the alternative spellings so that students’ spelling becomes more accurate? Teacher Shirley Houston explains.

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Developing Automaticity in Reading

As you read this, you are not sounding out each word – you are automatically reading the words. This is automaticity; it frees up your working memory to comprehend what’s written and is our end goal for the children we teach to read. Teacher Shirley Houston explains how to systematically teach phonics to ensure every child achieves automaticity and becomes a skilled reader.

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Developing the Skill of Segmenting

Quick and accurate spelling comes with solid segmenting skills. But like the 44 phonemes, these need to be taught – not ‘caught’. Teacher Santina explains why segmenting skills are so critical and offers her top classroom activities.

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Phonics and ESL

It’s often assumed that native speakers have a natural advantage over second language learners when it comes to learning to read in English, but is this really the case? Teacher John Martin shares his experience and learnings from his Hong Kong classroom.

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Cognitive Load Theory and Reading Instruction

Cognitive Load Theory helps explain why the reading progress of some students is slower than expected. Once the theory ‘clicks’ for you, your teaching will change – for the better! Teacher Shirley Houston takes teachers through the theory and practical applications of Cognitive Load. A must-read for every teacher.

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Catching Up on Phonics After Lockdown

What a strange time to be teaching in! Somewhere across the planet there is a teacher taking stock of the effect of school closures on their student’s literacy. Many who would be ordinarily would be reaching benchmarks are sadly not. Shirley Houston shares her top five tips for catching up on phonics – quickly!

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Teaching Handwriting: A Phonics Perspective

Teachers agree that handwriting is critical, even in a digital age. But what does the research say about its relationship with phonics? Santina, a primary school teacher, explores how handwriting fits alongside a phonics program and offers some multi-sensory activities to use in your classroom.

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Phonics Easter Egg Hunt

Give your Easter Egg Hunt a phonics twist by decoding the clues to find the chocolate treats. We’ve made the cards and done the thinking; all you need to do is the hiding (and maybe a bit of munching)!

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Phonics Treasure Hunt

Download our Phonics Treasure Hunt Cards. Perfect for those who are currently home schooling – children can practise their decoding and, because they can use them independently, parents will get some well-deserved peace!

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The Home Readers Gap

How do you get students to start reading at home before they’re ready for decodable books? Teacher Stephanie Brighton shares her school’s simple, effective (and pocket-sized) solution to bridging the home reading gap, complete with free print-outs.

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The 12 Days of Phonics

Phonics Hero CEO, Katherine Wood, shares her favourite phonics activities to keep up childrens’ progress during the Christmas holidays with downloadable worksheets, creative ideas, and resources for parents of budding readers.


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How to Teach Tricky Words

Tricky words, like ‘the’ and ‘was’, often trip up teachers and students with their rare spelling choices. Shirley Houston explains tricky words, the steps to teach them systematically and explicitly, and offers ideas and free resources to put this into practice.

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Getting the Most out of Phonics Hero

High levels of engagement and using Phonics Hero continuously throughout the year are the key to success. Account Manager, Michelle Haines, takes you through her top tips on how you can ensure everyone is using, loving and achieving fantastic results with Phonics Hero.

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How to Teach a Child to Read With Phonics

How do you teach a child to read at home? After creating Phonics Hero, the pressure was on for our CEO, Katherine, when it was time to teach her own child to read!

Katherine takes parents through her personal journey of teaching her daughter how to read. She describes how she applied the 5 critical steps: rhyming, introducing sounds, oral blending, using phonics to read the first words and finally, practising to make perfect!

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Helping the Blending Penny Drop!

Blending is a crucial skill that every child needs to start reading unknown words. If a child can’t blend – they are going to struggle with reading. Teacher Santina explains blending, how to teach it and how to support children for whom the blending penny is not dropping.

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How to Use Decodable Books

Decodable books/readers are a firm favourite in the UK and are slowly inching their way into Australian and US classrooms. Primary school teacher and phonics trainer, Santina DiMauro, gives teachers a step-by-step guide on how to use decodable books in the classroom.

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The Parents Phonics Presentation You Need!

Even with all the enthusiasm in the world, if you don’t know the fundamentals of synthetic phonics, you will trip yourself, and more importantly your child, up in learning to read. Our CEO takes parents through what they need to know to support their child. Look out for the free PowerPoint for teachers to use.

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Oral Blending and Segmenting – Before Letters, There Were Sounds!

The best teachers of reading start by teaching oral blending and segmenting skills first: lessening the cognitive load on children and making the leap to reading and spelling with letters all the easier! 

Learning support teacher, Shirley Houston, explains oral blending and segmenting and gives you the step-by-step ‘how to’.  Plus, you’ll find heaps of free resources included! 

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How to Teach Vowel Teams

Vowel teams are probably the most common source of reading and spelling errors as one vowel sound may be represented by as many as 6 different vowel teams. Teacher Shirley Houston breaks down the vowel teams and how to teach them!

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The Phonics Check: Who, What, Where, How…

The Phonics Check is controversial because it includes nonsense words such as “flep” and “shem” but it’s testing a very critical skill – blending. Why an Australian Phonics Check is important and what it could look like.

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What is a Schwa and How to Teach It

The schwa can be a cause of confusion and frustration in spelling and reading for a student. Teacher Shirley Houston will give you a simple way to explain it and some tips for helping students to decode and encode words containing a schwa.

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Getting Physical with Phonics

Hopscotch, Graffiti Spelling, Scavenger Hunt – there are lots of ways to get children outside, moving and working on phonics! Elaine Cleary gives some ideas for getting children exercising and practising their phonics!

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