A tool to check your child's phonics skills

6 - 7 years
Young boy

Have you heard about the voluntary online Phonics Check for Year 1 students? Teachers can use it to check if your Year 1 child needs more help with phonics, which helps them plan for your child’s needs as they learn to read. Read on to find out how the Phonics Check works, and where you can find more information on how families and teachers can work together to support your child’s reading development and literacy skills.

What is ‘phonics’?

Phonics is a way to teach children in early primary school to read by 'decoding' words. It involves teaching them to:

  • recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes
  • identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make, such as sh or oo
  • blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word.

Children can then use this knowledge to decode new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read.

Why phonics?

Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is one of the most effective ways of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5 to 7.

When your child learns the skills to tackle new words, they can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently – and to read for enjoyment.

What is the Phonics Check?

In Year 1 your child’s teacher is able to use the quick and easy Phonics Check to better understand the phonics knowledge of their students. The Check looks at how well your child can 'decode' written words, and helps your child's teacher and the school to confirm whether your child is making their expected progress in reading. Teachers and schools can then use this information to inform their teaching program.

The Phonics Check is voluntary, for Year 1 students, and administered by teachers.

How does the Phonics Check work?

The Phonics Check takes just a few minutes to complete and is carefully designed not to be stressful. All your child needs to do is sit with a teacher they know and read some words aloud while the teacher listens.

Your child may have seen some of the words before. Other words are made-up so will be completely new to all children. Made-up words help to show your child’s use of decoding skills such as sounding out the letters and letter groups, and blending sounds from left to right to make words.

The Phonics Check has up to 40 words, but there is no time limit to complete it. If your child is struggling, the teacher will stop the check. For an example of how a check is performed, see the video at https://literacyhub.edu.au/families/the-phonics-check.html.

What can I do?

The Phonics Check is not a ‘test’ and you do not need to prepare your child. If you would like to show your child how it works, the Literacy Hub has a phonics check for families with a sample of 20 real and made-up words. It includes tips on how to use the phonics check for families, and a pronunciation guide.

The Literacy Hub also has a reading awareness check for families that lists some of the skills you might see your Year 1 child doing at home. This will give you a sense of how your child is developing in learning to read in English. If you are concerned about your child’s progress in reading, you might like to discuss the check with your child’s classroom teacher.

The voluntary online Phonics Check for Year 1 students is supported by the Australian Government to enhance the teaching and learning of literacy. You can find more information about it on the Literacy Hub, which also includes free online teaching and learning resources to help families and teachers work together to support children’s reading development and literacy skills at home.

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Last modified
17 December 2020