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Engagement and Enjoyment in Year One Phonics

After attending the first session of ‘How do we know it works?’ we narrowed our research focus to the children’s enjoyment and engagement in taught phonics lessons, as well as research into the ways different schools adapt the teaching of phonics to their particular cohort and context. From our subsequent literature review, it became apparent that whilst there is research into instructional approaches to teaching phonics (analogy phonics, analytic phonics, embedded phonics and synthetic phonics), there is limited research which considers methods employed within overriding approaches. The research into the varied approaches agrees that systematic synthetic phonics is the most effective and widely used instructional approach to teach phonics (Rose, 2006) This approach underpins phonetic instruction as required by the National Curriculum of England and Wales through its promotion of systematic synthetic phonics (Department of Education, 2014).

As a research team, we work as part of a growing academy trust within Cambridgeshire. This enables us to share our expertise and ideas, as we often have opportunities for professional dialogue. Although we work closely in our trust we do, however, all work at schools in different demographic areas. We are aware that it is essential to good teaching practise that the teaching approaches utilised in our schools are tailored to our specific school contexts.

The aim of our research is to examine how our individual schools’ phonics teaching programmes, under the umbrella of systematic synthetic phonics, impacts on the engagement and enjoyment of our children. To this end, we are currently conducting our research into whether the enjoyment and engagement of children impacts their phonics attainment in Year One. We are using pupil questionnaires and the Leuven Scale (Laevers, 1994) within three of our academy schools. We are hoping that from this research we will be able to further improve our teaching of systematic synthetic phonics and the teaching of others. Additionally, we hope, in some way, fill a gap in the research of this curriculum area - a central part to the teaching of reading and writing in the Early years and Foundation Stage and Key Stage One curriculum.

Ultimately, for us, the primary motivation for this research is to ensure and improve the enjoyment of children in their phonics learning and experience. This is an integral part to ensuring the engagement of children, as if they do not enjoy a subject research suggests they may “avoid it or give only partial attention to learning it.” (Cunningham & Cunningham, 2002:88). Therefore, if they enjoy a subject they are more likely to be engaged, impacting on their learning as “engaged learners…employ whatever skills and strategies they have with effort, persistence, and an expectation of success.” (Ibid, 2002:88). We see this as a key tenant in developing their love of reading and writing.

Bethan Pritchard, Liz Wyatt and Joanna Warboys

CPET Primary Education Trust


Cunningham, P.M. & Cunningham, J.W. (2002) in A.E. Farstrup & S.J. Samuels (Eds.), What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction(3rdEd., pp. 87-109).

Department for Education (2014) National curriculum in England: complete framework for key stages 1 to 4 – for teaching from September 2016. Available at: 26 March 2019).

Laevers, F. (1994), The Leuven involvement scale for young children. Leuven:

Centre for Experiential Education.

Rose, J. (2006), Independent review of the teaching of early reading. London: Department For Education.

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