Phonics in the Deaf Provision

Floppy Phonics

In the Deaf Provision, we use ‘Floppy’s Phonics’. This takes the form of a Teacher-led interactive whiteboard lesson which is followed the next day by a worksheet lesson. The worksheet lesson reinforces the sound being taught, as well as words that contain that sound and the skills to segment and blend words. Children have opportunities to understand and see new vocabulary through these lessons, the skills to identify that sound within the word, and where the sound is made through visual phonics.

Our approach to teaching is auditory/oral. The children use spoken English to communicate and make maximum use of their hearing to access spoken language.  All of our classes for deaf children are soundproofed to minimise background noise.  Children wear radio aids while the class teachers wear microphones.  Our mainstream classes and halls also have suspended ceiling panels to reduce background noise.

  • The majority of our children have access to speech sounds across the frequency range. However, they need the support of lip reading and visual cues e.g. visual phonics where felt to be appropriate.
  • Each deaf child from Reception up has an assessment of their ability to discriminate between phonemes and this continues after each phase has been taught in class.
  • The children are taught in a quiet acoustic environment as well as taught in small groups to optimise their access to all of the speech and phonic sounds. This helps to ensure that children are able to learn new vocabulary and also have it explained to them.
  • Phonics is continued past Year 2 and right up to Year 6 if required.

When comparing a deaf child’s receptive and expressive language skills to those of a hearing child’s, it’s highly important to understand that they may not be at an age appropriate level. This does not mean that deaf children won’t benefit from a high quality phonics programme, they may need adaptions to the pace and content of each lesson that is taught by a Teacher of the Deaf.

Why the Deaf Provision use a different phonics scheme to the mainstream school

Each child has individual needs. As with all interventions to support inclusion, you will find that a graduated response to supporting the needs of deaf children is appropriate when applied to any phonics programme. Therefore, to be effectively included, the deaf child may require –

  • Relatively minimal adjustments to the published programme that has been chosen by the school.
  • More differentiated support to acquire listening or language skills; consequently more modifications or alternative published programmes.
  • Significantly differentiated or totally different approaches to the acquisition of literacy and communication skills.

It is important to take into account the level of language development of each child as some deaf children may have age-appropriate language skills, while others will have significantly delayed language skills and this will have a significant effect on their phonological development.

Using Floppy’s Phonics, we are able to provide and use a multisensory approach so that children learn from simultaneous visual, auditory and kinaesthetic activities.

Floppy’s Phonics vs Read Write Inc (RWI)

For many of our children, the initial pace of RWI is too quick and the language is too abstract and not yet in their vocabulary. They will need more direct teaching opportunities than other children to establish each new phonic sound as it is absolutely necessary to achieve mastery (know the sound attributed to the letter or letters) in each new sound if the child is going to apply this knowledge effectively to decoding tasks. The deaf child may need to progress at a slower pace than other children. When teaching deaf children phonics, Teachers of the Deaf will use their professional judgement when assessing and delivering Floppy’s Phonics. This can mean that the children may repeat a stage or parts of a stage that are in line with their continuing development.

The deaf child may need a longer time to respond to phonic decoding tasks as all children must learn to:

  • Recognise the letter/s (grapheme) and its sound (phoneme)
  • Identify the sounds in the word in the order in which they occur
  • Hold the sounds in their memory
  • Blend these sounds together in order to decode the word accurately.

These four distinct steps put a heavy load on the auditory memory, which is often less well developed in deaf children. This explains why the deaf child may require, and should be given, a longer processing time than other children.

To enable children to start learning phonics knowledge and skills using a systematic, synthetic programme by the age of five, it is crucial to provide the teaching of discrete, daily phonics sessions progressing from the simple to more complex phonics knowledge and skills.

When teaching and delivering the Floppy’s Phonics programme, there are:

  • high expectations and challenging but realistic targets.
  • Proactive development of listening skills – throughout the teaching Floppy’s Phonics on the interactive whiteboard, children are given many opportunities to listen for words as a whole and as individual sounds. This significantly helps deaf children to develop their auditory skills as well as the aural skills.
  • Ongoing assessments of the children’s phonological awareness through segmenting and blending, both auditory and verbally.

All phonics programmes ultimately cover the same sounds but the order in which the sounds are introduced, the resources and the vocabulary used can and will vary from programme to programme.