Tune in is a curated collection of books to use alongside your phonics teaching. It uses picture books to reinforce the relevant Letters and Sounds phases. These notes were written by Dawn Morris, English Lead at Westlands Primary School in Essex

Phonological Awareness: EYFS

The books in this selection are chosen to provide children with the rich story experience that will support their phonological awareness and help to develop crucial skills and knowledge to take them into a more structured phonics programme. Phase 1 is different to the higher phases as the understanding developed here needs to be revisited and practised throughout their development in the other phases. Therefore, you will see key aspects such as alliteration and oral blending and segmenting continue alongside the systematic teaching that is specific to the phase.

What is Phase 1?

‘In this phase and thereafter children should be enjoyably engaged in worthwhile learning activities that encourage them to talk a lot, to increase their stock of words and to improve their command of dialogue.’

‘Right from the start, lots of opportunities should be provided for children to engage with books that fire their imagination and interest.’

(Letters and Sounds: Notes of Guidance for Practitioners and Teachers Primary National Strategy, 2007)

The key aspects are:

Aspect 1: General sound discrimination – environmental sounds

Aspect 2: General sound discrimination – instrumental sounds

Aspect 3: General sound discrimination – body percussion

Aspect 4: Rhythm and rhyme

Aspect 5: Alliteration

Aspect 6: Voice sounds

Aspect 7: Oral blending and segmenting

Here are some ideas to get you started.

and the train goes… William Bee

This is a super book for sound discrimination, vocal, instrumental or body percussion. On each page the train makes a different sound; you could start with linking different instruments to each sound (e.g. whistle for ‘woo woo’ / cabasa for the shovel etc…). Maybe leave the tray of instruments with the book for the children to explore after it has been shared with them. To challenge the children further you could link two similar-sounding instruments (e.g. maracas for the ‘clickerty click, clickerty clack and a cabasa for the shovel) to see if they can work out what the train is doing with their eyes closed

All Join In, Quentin Blake

This well-loved selection of ‘Rollicking rhymes to read aloud’ has a great rhythm for the children to join in with.

After reading ‘Sorting Out the Kitchen Pans’, let the children find a selection of objects that ting, bang, dong, clang and bong! This is great for the outdoor area… Adults can support and extend by asking the children to link new vocabulary to the sounds they hear.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear Bill Martin Jnr and Eric Carle

The clear and simple rhythm in this text is perfect for the children to learn and repeat. Split the class or group into two and have one half ask the question whilst the others respond. Picture clues in order will help to keep the pace going (which is essential for the rhythm). Lift up each picture clue in turn.

Make the pictures available for the children to explore independently – maybe add a few other animals figures in a basket for the children to improvise their own versions. You could even prompt some alliteration with a green goat and a pink panther.

Click, Clack Moo Doreen Cronin and Betty Lewin

Once the children are familiar with this funny tale introduce some oral segmenting as the cows type… c-l-i-ck, c-l-a-ck, m-oo. Make some signs around your computers (or maybe an old keyboard) as a visual reminder for the children. A cow, chicken and duck headband or mask will excite them too.

Linking the oral segmenting to writing is key for children to start to understand how phonics helps us.

A Squash and a Squeeze Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

The rhyme and rhythm in this text are great models for the children. There is some challenging vocabulary (grouse, curious) which can be explored with the children through drama. Create your ‘house’ with tape or skipping ropes to mark out a space (outside is even better). As the adult reads children act out squashing, squeezing, looking curious and maybe even a little grousing! A few little props from your farmyard small world play could be left out strategically with the book for child-led exploration to follow.

Billy’s Bucket Kes Gray and Garry Parsons

This story gives a myriad of opportunities to use a bucket (or even mini buckets, i.e. cups!) to enhance the children’s language. Use Billy’s under the sea idea to get started and then open the door to anything that might live in the bucket (dragons, dinosaurs, jungle creatures, a school for toys). Role models are key here so listen out for children who really extend this into their own little bucket world.

This is the Bear Sarah Hayes and Helen Craig

Lots of lovely rhyme in this story – use the opportunity for children to predict the next word by stopping at the rhyming word, e.g. This is the bear who fell in the bin. This is the dog who pushed him …

Cover words with little sticky notes so that the children can be teachers and point to the words as they retell, pausing for the missing ones.

Walking Through the Jungle Julie Lacome

You need some space for this story as the children will want to join in! Use the opportunities to explore both children’s own vocal sounds and to be able to distinguish others. Once they are familiar with the text, muddle up the order by saying the first part and then making that sound. Progress on to the children choosing what they will see by giving those voice clues

The Ding Dong Bag Polly Peters and Jess Stockham

Sound and noise are what it’s all about here! This is a great text for spotting alliteration, rhyme and noisiness. Following the story, the children will be raring to collect their own sound bags and take part in environmental sound walks. To encourage the children to listen ca\refully and talk about different kinds of sounds indoors and out (quiet, loud, close, faraway, booming, whispered). If you have an Ipad or tablet at your disposal you could collect real sounds to share later

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish Dr Seuss

This is a longer text that might be best used in smaller chunks. The rhyme and rhythm lend themselves to using some body percussion to keep the ‘beat’ of the story as it is read.

To promote language and vocabulary development pick out a few of the crazy creatures to add words to (The Zeds, The Wumps, The Zans).

What the Ladybird Heard Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks

This noisy farmyard tale is great to develop voice sounds (‘moo’, ‘hiss’, ‘quack’…). Once the children know the sounds use the outdoor area to create a giant map so that the burglars get in a terrible muddle, just like in the story. Two sets of cards with the animals on would be great to help the children to decide who is making each noise. Put one animal into a speech bubble so it is clear that this the noise to make.

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Big Adventure Kristina Stephenson

This book is perfect for directing attention to alliteration, with wiggly woos and a deep dark forest, not to mention stinky socks of course! Let the children become brave knights afterwards with alliterative names (‘Shocking Shihab’ or ‘Tickly Tiana’). Give the children name labels so that names can be used all day

Gorilla Loves Vanilla Chae Strathie and Nicola O’Byrne

Lots of rhyming pairs of words to identify in this story. Once the children get the hang of the rhythm, let them shout out the final word (it doesn’t matter if it’s different to the text, or even a made-up word!), e.g.

Little Sam Sundae is known as the king

Of cornets and wafers and flavours that…

(here the children might say ‘ping’ or ‘sing’ or ‘bling’!)

Dinosaur Roar Paul and Henrietta Stickland

Most EYFS classrooms have a stockpile of dinosaurs lurking about. This small world play can help the children to reproduce an oral retelling. Explore other noisy eating words that the dinosaurs might make (chomping, burping, gurgling, slurping) and create cards to go with each dinosaur. Adults can model oral segmentation as they write and oral blending as they read

Stomp, Chomp, Big Roars Kaye Umansky and Nick Sharratt

Use this text alongside ‘Dinosaur Roar’ to extend children’s language and vocabulary. Encourage the children to create a dinosaur trail around their learning environment (a picture and label of the relevant dinosaurs would help here). Where would each creature go? E.g. Stomping dinosaurs outside where they can stomp around / Friendly dinosaurs at the table with the cups on drinking their tea / Diving dinosaurs in the water tray / Daddy Bigfoot in the sand tray etc…

Bear Snores On Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman

Lots of lovely language to draw upon in this wintery tale. Explore quiet sounds and loud sounds with the children by providing different materials and instruments for them to explore (crinkly plastic, a rain stick, a tube and a cork to go ‘pop’, chitter-chatter speech bubbles). Can the children sort them into two baskets or hoops one with a picture of a sleeping bear and the other a wide-awake bear? Which ones would wake him up? Can they use the same one quietly so he doesn’t wake up?

Down by the Cool of the Pool Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees

When sharing this book allow the children to dance and join in with the different creatures to support their understanding of the new vocabulary. Build the music of the story by having an instrument for each creature until there is a cacophony of sound as they fall into the cool of the pool. If you have an outdoor story area it’s even better