Making Phonics Fun At First Steps

6th December 2016

We are delighted that the lovely Janna, who regularly visits all three of our nurseries introducing Fun Phonics to the children, is our guest blogger this month. Here she tells you a little more about herself and what she does.


Fun Phonics for parents

Fun Phonics came about by accident when my son started reception at St Mary’s school in Pulborough. As a parent and qualified primary school teacher, I found myself listening to and helping parents with their concerns about their children’s education. It became apparent to me that many parents were confused about phonics. Consequently, I hired out a village hall and set up a free workshop for parents to actively learn about phonics through games and discussion. I created a Facebook page to promote the event and thus Fun Phonics was born.


Fun Phonics for pre-schoolers

Before long, I had interest from many local pre-schools. First Steps were among the first nurseries to ask me to work with their children. I devised a short, but active, phonics session for pre-schoolers, and the children loved it! I use a range of techniques to teach the children including sign, rhyme, alliteration, song, dance and of course PLAY.


So how do I help your children? 

I always begin by engaging the children with sounds. I play a variety of sounds and ask the children to identify them. During these sound sessions, the children have been to the ocean and the forest, they have listened to the sounds of birds and insects and they have drummed on saucepans and rattled their shakers. I have developed their ears to hear subtle differences in sounds and this has laid the foundations for their early letter sound recognition.


What’s in the bag? 

I have become famous for my song, ‘what’s in the bag?’  The children all sing along and put their hands up eagerly to discover what is inside the bag each week. The small objects inside the bag are always linked to the letter sound of the week and the children are becoming experts at hearing the first sound in many words.


Sound of the week

The weekly activities, nursery rhymes and stories are always linked to the sound of the week. The children have looked for snakes in the grass, they’ve had tea with tigers and zoomed cars down race tracks, among many other carefully planned activities. I enjoy watching all of the children grow and develop each week.





Thank you Janna. We at First Steps have no doubt that Fun Phonics plays a big part in helping our children transition smoothly from pre-school to reception and, watching the reaction Janna gets when she arrives each week, shows just how much the children enjoy her sessions!

If you’d like to contact Janna or find out more about Fun Phonics, take a look at her Facebook page for fun and friendly help and advice.  Janna urges no one to push children to read, but knows there are loads of fun ways to approach it through play and storytelling. You can also watch Janna’s ‘what’s in the bag?’ YouTube videos with your children  which are useful guides for parents.

Janna holds regular phonics workshops for parents in many different venues and you might like to subscribe to her website to receive notifications about forthcoming events.


If you would like to be a guest blogger for First Steps, please get in touch with We’d love to hear from you.

Meet … Michelle Cogger

3rd October 2016

Michelle Cogger is our wonderful Nursery Manager at First Steps, Chichester. She is shortly moving to our Bersted nursery to cover for their Manager Becky whilst she is on maternity leave. We therefore thought it would be an excellent opportunity to find out a bit more about her so have asked our own questions, along with a few more taxing ones on behalf of the children!


How long have you worked in Childcare Michelle?

28 years


And how long at First Steps?

At the time of typing this 18 years, 5 months, 5 days, 5 hours and 17minutes!


What do you enjoy most about your job?

The smiles and cuddles!

As a Childcare Practitioner – watching the children move through the nursery, growing and developing into confident independent little people and knowing I’ve been a part of that.

As a Manager – watching the staff grow and develop within their careers into confident, professional childcare practitioners themselves and again knowing that I have been a part of that.


Can you outline a typical day as Nursery Manager for us?

No, there’s no such thing as a typical day!  Jack of all trades, one minute I can be in the office, head buried in occupancy and budget figures; the next, cuddling a baby, feeding a toddler, digging in the garden or having my hair re-styled in the pre-school room!

To sum up, the role involves supporting in the rooms as and when needed, meetings, organising staff rotas, holiday allocation, occupancy and budget records, student placements, staff reviews and appraisals, resources and supplies, liaising with external professionals, training, staff meetings, organising events, showing visitors and potential new families around.

I oversee the day to day running of the nursery, dealing with any problems that arise and ensuring the fantastic staff team have everything they need to provide the children with the best possible learning environment and experience.


What’s your proudest moment in your career to date?

When I volunteered and spent two weeks working in Kenya in 2013.


What do you think makes First Steps special?

It’s staff team


What’s the funniest thing a child has ever said to you?

On encouraging a child to eat their carrots, I told them it would help them to see in the dark, to which they replied, I don’t need to eat carrots to see in the dark, my daddy’s got a torch.


How do you relax when you’re not at work?

Gardening and playing badminton


What’s your favourite film?

Dead Poet’s Society


We’ve seen you riding the exercise bike at nursery as part of a fundraising initiative. Do you cycle?

Yes. I spent my very first set of wages from my Saturday job in Habitat on a racing style bike, which I still have.


What’s your favourite holiday destination?

Anywhere that’s hot with a pool and a beach!


Where were you brought up?

Canterbury in Kent


Do you have a favourite childhood memory?

Waking up to a snowy Christmas morning


And here are those more grilling questions on behalf of the children:


Do you have any pets?

Yes, 3 Goldfish called Squidge, She and Pete


What’s your favourite meal?

Roast Dinner with Yorkshire pudding, followed by chocolate fridge cake


What colour is your car?

 Officially moondust silver but basically dark grey!


Who do you prefer: Peppa Pig or Bob the Builder?

 Definitely Bob the Builder, he’s much more useful than the pig.