Using GPC Characters for Engaging Phonics Teaching and Learning

Why use GPC Characters?

Associating the characters with GPCs lends itself to story telling and putting these characters in meaningful contexts, which the pupils can relate to.

These characters underpin the whole of the scheme and are referenced in the flashcards, decodable books, lesson plans, interventions, teaching books and formation rhymes.

The characters are used when introducing digraph and trigraphs, assimilating pupil’s prior knowledge with their new knowledge thus making them progress at a fast pace.

Prior Knowledge

By activating prior knowledge, teachers help students become ready to assimilate new information. This cueing helps the learner associate new information with previously learned knowledge. Wendling, B.J. and Mather, N. (2008)

‘Donald Hebb who was influential in the area of neuropsychology famously said that “Cells that fire together, wire together” and, more formally, “any two cells or systems of cells that are repeatedly active at the same time will tend to become ‘associated,’ so that activity in one facilitates activity in the other”.

Improves the process of retrieving and recalling data

Grapheme-Phoneme Correspondences Taught in a Meaningful Context

Each letter is linked visually to an animal or human character. For example, Curly the cat and Monty the monkey. The visuals and alliterative names allow children to create concrete links with the sounds.

The use of characters will particularly aid those children who struggle with abstract concepts, especially when combined with the multi-sensory aspect of the programme.

The Importance of Stories

Schools who score highly in the Phonics Screening Check note that building a love of stories and reading plays a big part in their success (DfE, 2021).

2019 survey by the Literacy Trust found that children who enjoy reading were up to three times more likely to have higher than expected reading levels for their ages, and those who read daily are twice as likely to be above average in reading.

Since the 1960s, research has repeatedly shown that reading for pleasure is an indicator of reading ability. In fact, it was suggested in an international study that reading enjoyment and ability have more impact on children’s overall education than socio-economic factors.

The single letter GPC characters pop up in the associated digraphs and trigraphs to show the connection to the letter formation.

GPC Character Promote Active Engagement

Another key predictor of academic success is the amount of time the student is actively engaged in learning (Greenwood, Horton and Utley, 2002).

When the pupil is an active participant, attention and focus is increased as they are thinking about the task in hand. Wendling, B.J. and Mather, N. (2008)

Recall, imitating, actions, songs, reading and writing

Using GPC Characters in Songs

Continuing to associate the character with the sound and using another auditory process, as well as active participation from pupils.

Using GPC Characters with Actions

Kinaesthetic actions to engage pupils in active participation, whilst relating the GPC to the character and sound.

GPC Characters in Letter Formation

Letter formation rhymes associate the GPC character with the grapheme.

Using GPC Characters in Books

The pupils really get to know these characters through lessons and the activities mentioned in the multi-sensory scheme. They then see them in their decodable reading books and are able to add meaningful connections to the characters.

These Phonics Shed character-based stories also cover many other important and relatable themes, such as emotions, social skills, mental health and self-care. This allows the children to identify with the characters and engage at a deeper level. They can also help children address their own thoughts and feelings by talking about the stories and the issues raised in them.

Using GPC Characters in Daily Phonics Lessons

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