The Magic Behind StoryTime Phonics
My whole life has been dedicated to supporting children learn to read in the most magical and exciting ways. As a primary school teacher, subject leader and consultant my aim has always been to instil a lifelong love of books, supporting children to be confident, greedy, avid readers.
As a child, I witnessed my own mother struggle with low self-esteem as she tried to survive life as an illiterate adult. Unfortunately, she was failed by the 1950’s education system and missed out of some life-changing opportunities, all because she was unable to read. To this day I see too many children leaving primary school unable to confidently read. This ignites the fire in my belly and inspired me to write a reading programme to support all learners. I spent several years writing StoryTime Phonics which brings years of teaching experience and research methodology from my time training lecturing at Cambridge University. I am so proud of the carefully curated bank of picture books that I used to contextualise each sound. The hundreds of phonics lessons (which we filmed) were created to inspire and support teachers to make their phonic lessons multisensory and fun, so that children would associate learning to read with pure joy.
I was extremely fortunate to have one of the TTS produce development managers observe me teach a phonics lesson. It was hooked on a book called ‘Shark in the Park’ by Nick Sharratt. I used the book to teach the ‘ar’ digraph and dressed up as Timothy Pope, a character from the book. I delivered the lesson outside whilst flying down a zip wire! I then introduced other multisensory activities (all associated with the book) outside in the playground. For example, we had children searching for sharks with their telescopes, others went hunting for sharks containing words with the ‘ar’ digraph. The children loved the lesson, remembering not only the stories off by heart, but the captions and actions associated with the main characters of the books. Months later I found myself at the headquarters of TTS in Nottinghamshire, encouraging everyone to join in the Timothy Pope activities. Fast forward a few months and I was writing a complete phonics programme and being filmed teaching each lesson. I also produced 64 Phonic Fairy films where The Phonic Fairy transforms into a character from each book. All while looking after my two children (1 and 3 years old) and who feature in some of the films. It took an enormous amount of effort, time and determination but I was blessed with the support of my incredible family, especially my husband Paul.
I’m always asked what my top books are and why! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the books that make children laugh out loud, so I included a number of comical books to demonstrate the pure joy books bring to children’s lives. These included ‘Whiffy Wilson’ by Carly Hart, ‘Shark in the Park’ by Nick Sharratt, Sam and ‘Dave Dig a Hole’ by Mac Barnett.
I also included other types of books that I knew would appeal to children exploring various emotions, for example the magical story of ‘Beegu’ by by Alexi Deacon which still makes me cry when I read it aloud. And who doesn’t love ‘Oi, Get off our Train’ by John Burningham? Which deals with animal extinction. I wanted children to experience the wide range of the emotions that books can provoke.
When it came to filming we had a fair share of amazing experiences! I’ll always remember the first Phonic Film we created ‘Egg Drop’ by Mini Grey, my daughter who was 3 at the time and her ballet school friends, wore the chicken costumes from my mum’s ballet school from years ago (my mum is a real hoarder and keeps everything). It was such a lovely sunny day filming outside inside an enormous bird’s nest with several baby chicks. A day full of joy that brought back fond memories from my own childhood.
I also have a soft spot for ‘Baby Brains’ by Simon James. We filmed my baby boy in his nursery during nap times. Whenever I watch this film I feel a sense of pride and achievement that I was able to write, produce and create a reading programme that would one day support so many children.
Last but not least ‘Oh Dear’ by Rod Cambell was such a fun memorable day. We were on location at a real working farm in Cambridge. The animals all lived happily altogether in one large field; horses, pigs, cows, sheep, goats, chickens and a very friendly goat who knew how to work the camera a true diva!
So What’s next for the Phonic Fairy? Well, I’ve just finished producing a Phonic Fairy App. It includes music, dances and games to accompany Story Time Phonics and other phonic programmes. I was lucky to have found the most incredible team of musicians, singers, chorographer and child performers. I can’t wait for everyone to sing and dance along to our eclectic songs. Each song includes the correct way to articulate the phonemic sounds sneakily incorporated within a memorable tune. The app will supporting children’s oral blending and segmenting skills, whilst strengthening their sound discrimination skills. And all without them even realising (sneaky teaching at its best).
Designed for use at home, school, nurseries or in the car to make those long journeys fly by – you can download by clicking the links below. There is also a “School Edition” of the app in the Apple App store for those schools using Apple School Manager. And as always, don’t forget to share your stories and adventures with us over on our social media channels. We love to hear what books you’ve discovered and what magical places you’ve visited.
With Fairy Wishes,
The Phonic Fairy xx