Learning and Development

How a ‘Welly Day’ Can Boost Early Years Phonics

These boots are made for talking, say Gill Coulson and Lynn Cousins, as they explain how you can create a fun-filled ‘welly day’ based on phonic awareness activities…

As we outlined in our first article, we believe that you can incorporate your phonic awareness teaching into activities you are already doing. In this article we show you how this can be done by planning a whole day where the adult-led activities have strong links to Phase One of ‘Letters and Sounds’. This time, the theme we have chosen is Wellington boots, which will no doubt be ubiquitous at every setting in the UK. Many popular themes can include a ‘welly day’; all you need to do is put up a sign for parents/carers to see – On Wednesday we will all be wearing our wellies – and then get ready to assess your children’s phonic awareness!

Planning and assessing

Every day your children can practise the skills for Phase One in activities that you have already planned for the other areas of the curriculum. You don’t need to plan lots of additional activities. As you write up your own plans, notice where some aspect of Phase One could be a focus, and mark it as such using your own coded symbol.

In the activities in this article we identify the EYFS area that is the planned focus for the children’s learning, and then point out which aspect of Phase One can also be covered. In order to assess the children’s achievements you will need to take note of their different levels of competence as they take part in these activities (see panel). During this special phonics session, staff can take it in turns to record their observations of the children’s phonic awareness abilities. The assessment question at the top of each activity links the aspect with Strand 1, 2 or 3.

Because we are concentrating on sounds as they are spoken and heard, there are no activities that have written words. Remember, only the sound is important, so names beginning /f/ can include Phoebe as well as Freddie.

1. Who wears Wellies? We do!

UW / Body percussion S1 / Who can stamp in time?

How many ideas can the children think of? Look in picture books for help.

Gardeners, builders, firemen, farmers, fishermen, zookeepers, lighthouse keepers – and we do on rainy or snowy days.

In pairs, children decide on one of the people mentioned, and say together, for example, “We are gardeners. We wear wellies.” They stamp their feet for each beat of the second line.

2. Heigh-ho, heigh-ho

UW / Environmental sounds S2 / Who can imitate sounds?

For each of the ideas the children gave you (above), ask the children to suggest some sounds that person might hear when working in their wellies.

● Gardener – bees, birds

● Builder – hammer, digger

● Fireman – siren, hose

● Farmer – cows, sheep

● Zookeeper – elephants, bears

● Lighthouse keeper – stormy sea, fog-horn

● Fisherman – shhh! (Or the fish won’t bite!)

All together, sing:

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho,
It’s off to work we go.

Adult says, for example, “Today we are farmers” and the children make an appropriate noise. Use ‘fishermen’ as a calming down end to the activity!

3. Teddy’s feet

PSED / Oral Blending & Segmenting S1 / Who can say the word and identify the named object?

Have one pair of Wellingtons and a selection of pairs of shoes and socks in a large bag, and a teddy bear. Who can guess what Teddy is going to wear on his feet today? You will give them a clue. They should listen as you sound out the word…

sh-oe, s-o-ck, b-oo-t

Each time one is guessed take just one of those items from the bag and leave it where the children can see it. As the game progresses the children will be able to sort them into pairs. With the second b-oo-t, the game is over.

4. A Welly Walk

UW / Environmental sounds S3 / Who can talk about sounds?

Talk about a walk around your grounds. Everyone will be wearing wellies; where might you go exploring? Let the children make suggestions.

Talk about the different surfaces, e.g. long grass, mud, sand, gravel, wooden decking, bark-chippings and sticks, concrete or tarmac.

What sounds might their footsteps make, e.g. crunching on the gravel, clumping over the decking, swishing through the long grass, cricking and cracking across the bark and sticks. Which will be the quietest and the loudest?

Go on your expedition and listen to your different footsteps. Tell the story of your adventure when you return adding sound effects made
by the children.

5. Who’s coming up the garden path?

Ma / Body percussion S3 / Who can talk about sounds they make?

Show the children Wellingtons in three different sizes, e.g. a baby’s, a child’s, an adult’s. Talk about the different footsteps each size would make.

Play three different sound effects for the three sizes of footsteps:

● Tap the table with your fingers – a quiet and quick foot step (smallest boot)

● Use your hands – a slightly louder sound (middle sized boot)

● Bang the table – the loudest sound (largest Wellingtons)

The children can practise the three sounds when you hold up each Wellington.

Play one of the three sound effects and ask, “Who’s coming up the garden path?” Choose one child to come and select the correct-sized Wellington.

6. Wellington boot folk

EAD / Alliteration S1 / Who can make up alliterative phrases?

Collect up some old Wellington boots. Children can add raffia hair around the top. Stick on googly eyes and a felt mouth. Make your Welly as odd/scary/beautiful as you can.

Everyone sits in a circle holding their decorated Welly. Go round the circle with children describing their Wellington: This is my wild/wacky/wonderful/ whiskery Welly

This is my big/beautiful/brown/bossy Boot

7. Water sounds

UW / Environmental sounds S3 / Who can identify sounds that are similar?

Take the children outside and create water sounds by…

● splashing in puddles; sprinkling water from a watering can onto an umbrella;

● pouring water from jugs and funnels into the water tray;

● squirting and dripping water from squeezy bottles;

● making ripples with their fingers under the water;

● blowing bubbles through a straw into a cup of water.

Record the sounds, then children can try to identify them when you replay them indoors.

8. Let’s sing a Welly song

EAD / Rhythm & rhyme S3 / Who can create their own rhyme?

To the tune of Jelly on a plate:

Wellies in a puddle, Wellies in a puddle Splish, splash, Splish, splash Wellies in a puddle.

Now, make up your own verses, e.g. Wellies up the ladder… Clip, clop.

9. Pitter patter raindrops

CL & Li / Voice sounds S2 / Who can respond with a sound on a target word?

Let the children stand under umbrellas as you recite this rhyme:

Rain on the flowers And rain on the tree Rain on the roof top But not on me!

Ask the children to make to make ‘pitter patter’ sounds whenever they hear the word ‘rain’.

10. Doctor Foster

EAD / Instrumental sounds S2 / Who can identify differences between the instrument sounds?

Teach the children the rhyme Dr Foster went to Gloucester. Encourage them to discuss which percussion instruments make the most appropriate sound effects for the different parts of the rhyme. Children then take turns to accompany the rhyme. Try…

● Claves or wood blocks – Dr Foster walking at the beginning and end of the rhyme.

● Xylophone, rainmaker or shakers – the rain shower.

● Tambourine or cymbal – ‘step in the puddle’.

11. Other rhymes & poems

CL & Li / Rhythm and rhyme S1 / Who enjoys rhythm and rhyme?

Rain, rain, go away
It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring
Incy Wincy Spider

Happiness by A.A.Milne (find it at poemhunter.com). Encourage the children to pretend to get dressed in their waterproof gear as you read this poem. Personalise it by replacing ‘John’ with names of children in the class.

12. When I’m wearing wellies, I can…

PD / Alliteration S2 / Who can suggest words that all start with /w/?

Children can suggest some action words that start with the sound /w/, e.g. wiggle, wobble, wash, whistle, walk, do a wheelie.

Then play a game. One child comes to the front and says, “When I’m wearing wellies I can…” and then mimes one of the actions. Who can guess which action it is?

13. Musical puddles

PD / Instrumental sounds S1 / Who can respond to musical sounds?

While wearing your wellies play a version of musical chairs using hoops scattered across the floor as ‘puddles’. Everyone jumps in a puddle when the music stops. Who will be out this time?

14. The Girl Who Loved Wellies

CL & Li / Voice sounds S1 / Who can recognise different vocal sounds?

Use exaggerated facial expressions and voice tones as you read this gorgeous book, by Zehra Hicks, to the children:

She loved them SO much she wore them
ALL the time…EVEN IN BED!
There was only ONE thing left to do…TAKE

Encourage the children to join in as you retell the story, using their voices to copy your tone and expressions. Leave the book around for the children to ‘read’ again. Maybe some children would like to retell the story to their parents later?

Change into a pair of flip flops to demonstrate the sound they make. Can the children recreate that sound with their voices?

Questions about the story

CL & Li / Oral Blending & Segmenting S1 / Who can blend phonemes to make words?

Ask the children questions about a familiar story using oral blending. Here are some suggestions to use with The Girl Who Loved Wellies.

● Who was M-o-ll-y?

● Did she wear Wellies in the b-a-th?

● Did she wear Wellies on the b-ea-ch?

● Why did everyone have to p-u-ll?

● Why did they all say p-oo-ey?

● What made the sound f-l-i-p f-l-o-p?

We hope you all enjoyed your ‘welly day’. By making phonic awareness an integral part of your daily activities, you will have made maximum use of your preparations and resources. We hope you now feel inspired to find lots more opportunities within your existing planning to practise and develop phonic skills.

‘Letters & Sounds Phase One’

There are seven aspects and three strands of phase one…

The seven aspects are as follows: Environmental sounds; Instrumental sounds; Body percussion; Rhythm & rhyme; Alliteration; Voice sounds; Oral blending and segmenting. To record how the children progress through each of these aspects, use the three steps of this progression, known as ‘strands’.

S1. Tuning into sounds – auditory discrimination, as children notice and identify different sounds S2. Listening and remembering sounds – using memory and sequencing sounds, as children recall sounds they have heard S3. Talking about sounds – developing their comprehension and vocabulary about sounds, as they discuss and compare sounds.

Individual children may be at different stages for different aspects.

Gill Coulson and Lynn Cousins are experienced teachers of early years and Key Stage 1, and the authors of Games, Ideas and Activities for Early Years Phonics, part of Pearson Education’s Classroom Gems series – the second edition of which is now available.