In this Tutor Spotlight series, we feature private tutors with years of tutoring experience in areas where we often see many questions and misconceptions in. See the other interviews here.
Are you familiar with Phonics? Many of us were not formally taught in this area while growing up, but the principles it teaches are essential in helping children develop their reading abilities and in turn speed up their learning of the language.
Mdm Lilo Lim has been specialising in English teaching for the past 10 years and have taught students from Nursery/Kindergarten up to Upper Secondary & JC students. For Preschoolers and Lower Primary students, it’s common for her to cover Phonics to build up their foundations. Whether it’s a group tuition class or a playful & energetic child, she always has her way to handle them.
“Mdm Lim is a very good at telling stories to young children. Nice teacher”
“Mdm Lim is a nice teacher”
“Tutor is good & patient, my child likes her”
These previous reviews from other parents have been stellar and we’re curious – how does she do it?
How did you come across Phonics and when did you start teaching Phonics?
Mdm Lilo: In the course of my work teaching Primary and Secondary school students English at tuition centres, I noticed a number of students did not know how to sound out words that were new to them. I then realised that many students did not know their letter sounds, hampering their reading ability. I started to wonder how many children really had a good grasp of Phonics from young.
Phonics was part of the curriculum in the international school I attended as a child whilst growing up overseas. What I learnt there stayed with me, so this personal experience, coupled with the observation that many children here do not have a good foundation in phonics from a young age, spurred me to start teaching Phonics to preschoolers in 2014.
Can you share your approach in teaching Phonics? Is there a difference between teaching Phonics to a Nursery student and a Primary school student?
Mdm Lilo: I think it is important to make the lessons interesting and fun, especially with younger children, and I achieve this through interactive games, songs, and engaging reading materials.
While the content is fundamentally the same, the scope, depth and approach would be different when teaching different age groups. I focus more on awareness of letter sounds, learning single letter sounds and blending to read simple words with Nursery students, whereas for Primary school students, I cover more complex words that have digraphs and trigraphs and I link my lessons to what they are learning in school to help them see the relevance of phonics and how it can help them in their schoolwork.
What types of book/games/learning materials do you find particularly effective in teaching Phonics?
Mdm Lilo: Magnetic letters and boards, flashcards, phonics readers, word/letter games and phonics songs are useful phonics teaching aids.
What are some of the more common difficulties that students face in learning Phonics? How do you usually help the students through them? E.g. common problems like confusion between similar-looking letters (b/d, h/n), homonyms, homphones, etc.
Mdm Lilo: Having trouble remembering the letter sounds is the most common difficulty students face when learning phonics. Besides regular reinforcement and revision of letter sounds, I also use songs and pictures to help students overcome this.
Blending the sounds to read words is another difficulty students often face when learning phonics. I use actions, games, and pictures to help students in this area. Differentiating similar-looking letters like the letter b from d and the letter h from n can be difficult for some students too. There are hand signs to help with this and I also use songs and pictures.
The same sound can be formed in many different ways and learning these different ways to form the same sound using different letter combinations can be confusing to many students. Playing silly and fun games and making up amusing stories and tongue twisters or riddles help my students in this area.
If a student is active, how do you tailor the lessons to suit such children?
Mdm Lilo: Playing games, assigning them timed tasks/activities and incorporating drama, music and movement into the lessons help harness the energy of active students.
How do you maintain the students’ interest and attention in Phonics class?
Mdm Lilo: I keep the lesson engaging and fast-paced and break up the lesson into short segments with specific learning goals. I rotate the materials used to maintain students’ interest and use colourful and captivating reading materials.
* Interview edited for brevity and clarity
Related to: English | For Parents | Interview | Phonics | Preschool | Primary | Tutor Spotlight