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What’s a floost got to do with reading?

How an imaginary monster helps teachers track learning readers’ progress.
27 February 2020

Phonics - understanding the connection between a letter and its sound - is a basic building block of learning to read.  Every child starting school arrives with different knowledge and will make the phonics connection earlier or later than others.

It’s vital that teachers can identify children who might need extra support at this important stage so they have the best chance of learning to read.

The phonics screening check - where we’ll find the spotty, long tailed floost - is a quick exercise that kids enjoy and is simple for teachers to use. More than 13,000 year 1 students in South Australian government schools took part in the phonics check in 2019.

The check has two sections, each with real and made-up words for children to sound out. The first section is easier with words like ‘chin’ and the second is harder, moving to words like ‘brighter’. Every made-up word is illustrated with a colourful imaginary monster, such as a phope, a rird or even the floost.

A drawing of some phonics monsters. There are 17 monsters and none of them are the same. They're all different colours. Some are fuzzy, some have spikes. Most of them have teeth. All of them are smiling.

Meet the phonics monsters, helping children learn to read.

Using made up words means that the child needs to sound out the word without relying on a word they might already know, so that the check is an accurate assessment of their phonics understanding. The made-up words use only letter and sound combinations found in English words.

There’s no pass or fail, with the ability to decode 28 of the 40 words successfully showing that a child’s phonics knowledge is developing well. Every child’s results are used to inform their next learning steps.

The 2019 results, the second year of the check, show exciting progress from the 2018 results. An improvement of 9 percentage points in children meeting the expected measure means that 52% of first graders are showing a good phonics understanding.

The slightly monstrous phonics check is key to making sure that all South Australian children are learning to read well and setting up this basis for life-long learning.

This year’s check will take place between 3 and 28 August. The check is performed once with each child.

Reading with your child, sounding out letters and words, playing word games, singing and nursery rhymes all help build phonics knowledge and are fun.