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Phonicshark 4

  1. Published by Whitespace

  2. Literacy

  3. KeyStage 1 & 2

Professional Context
I am the Head Teacher of a Primary School with a one and a half form entry. I teach throughout the school but more predominantly in Key Stage 2. The school serves a mixed catchment area with some pockets of significant deprivation. Phonic Shark 4 is most suitable for Reception and Key Stage 1 although it could be used as a support program for children with Special Educational Needs in Key Stage 2.

Students’ usage
The program is not difficult to use and as the teacher or administrator can set restrictions on what users can have access to, it will take a nominal amount of time for children to learn how to use it.
The program can be used independently; the teacher can create users and can select appropriate tasks. This provides opportunities to consolidate previous learning although when the program indicates that errors have been made, it is not always possible to see where. It would be much more effective to use the program either in small groups or pairs (so that dialogue between children can support learning) or through the interactive whiteboard as a whole class, with the teacher taking the lead.
It could be used in the ICT suite. However, headphones would be required.
The program is well designed to support children with SEN, using speech, written words and pictures to support.

Curriculum Focus
The program is designed to support and help deliver the DfE Letters and Sounds synthetic phonics programme, and the language used mirrors this document. The activities start at phase 2 and there is a week by week programme to follow, with a range of games and activities to support the lessons for each day. It is a progressive program and each week builds on the previous one with different daily activities. These activities surround physical opportunities to recognise letters, blends and diagraphs. The use of a sound recorder allows the children to mirror the sounds and compare them with play back facilities. Although designed as a weekly programme, it could be used to support those in need of specific intervention, with targeted lessons chosen by the teacher. As phonics sessions are usually delivered in short, sharp bursts the program could be used as a stand-alone product. However, it is likely that most teachers would complement it with games from the original Letters and Sounds activities or other phonics games.

Value as a teaching resource
The resource is a really useful way of teaching the ‘Letters and Sounds’ synthetic phonics lessons with a visual and tactile approach. The program visibly shows how words are constructed and how different sounds equate to different diagraphs or letter sounds. The ability to compare children’s sounds with the computer is also a unique feature.

It is refreshing to see a program that has been written to directly support a DfE programme without claiming to be anything else. The direct link and use of language including the phases involved in the phonics progression programme, aids the teacher immediately in pitching the work at the right level.
The use of word lists (which can be printed) and the ability to choose appropriate tasks for the children ensures ease of use, and makes it flexible enough to be used for children with SEN.
The icons used are quite ‘clunky’ and old fashioned in today’s technological world. However, this is unlikely to detract from the quality of activity available to the learner.

The program directly links with Letters and Sounds and, with the onset of the new phonics and reading test for year 1 children, it is a very useful resource to use in the classroom. The daily activities and progressive nature of the program supports the teacher well. All children in foundation stage /Key Stage 1, and where appropriate Key Stage 2, are to be taught synthetic phonics so it is a highly relevant resource. The use of games makes the product very attractive to young users.

Phonicshark 4 is an interactive resource which helps the teacher to deliver the DfE programme Letters and Sounds, focusing on the teaching and learning of synthetic phonics. The program uses the same language and phonic phases so it is easy to see the correlation. There are a number of games that are highly interactive, which would ideally suit whole class/group whiteboard teaching, although they could be used on an individual basis. The teacher is able to select what the child has access to, and can print resources such as word lists to help. Some of the icons are a little old fashioned. However, the games are fun and engaging. The program is ideally aimed at Foundation Stage /Key Stage 1 but could be used as an intervention program for older users. This is a good program to either deliver phonics in its entirety or to complement the Letters and Sounds programme.