Friends Of Phonics

23rd June 2014

Today we have a lovely post written by Janine Barnett-Phillips, who helped inspire the creation of PhonicsThruMusic. Here she talks of how she met Nate, the creator and became involved with the idea. 


Five years ago I attended an after school presentation given by Nathan Dicks

of LearnThruMusic at the Howardian Centre in Cardiff. I had just started 

teaching in a special school for pupils aged 11- 19 with severe to moderate 

learning difficulties. The evening was about using music to help with the revision 

of GCSE English texts. 

It was no longer relevant to my day job. 

However, I was interested because I had always tried to incorporate 

music into my teaching of GCSE and A Level. Indeed, as a kid myself, I’d often 

tried to put my revision notes to music. What LearnThruMusic was doing excited 

me and I thought ‘At last!’ I knew I had to meet Nathan. 

The talk was inspirational and I sat there wishing I’d come across 

LearnThruMusic years ago. However, an idea was hatching.

I was using music in the classroom more than ever before. I had kids in 

my class who, like every other teenager, listened to music all the time. Some of 

these were young adults with reading ages below five years old but who loved 

Tupac and could remember all his lyrics. These were young people with low 

self-esteem trying hard to learn phonemes with the help of talking ducks and 

pirates. It was all rather insulting. I adapted every phonic resource I could; 

created what I could but was aware that it wasn’t enough. These teenagers 

deserved more. I chatted to Nathan about my idea of teaching phonics with a 

character who was perhaps a rapper or DJ. We arranged to meet up.

We have been meeting for years and last year my wonderful colleague, 

Lisa Purcell, came on board. What has happened since our meeting with Ben and 

Nathan in Swansea last year has been extraordinary. Thanks to Nathan, and his 

passionate and hardworking team at LearnThruMusic, students of all ages now 

have exciting phonic resources at their fingertips. The end product – Phonics 

Thru Music – is better than we could have ever imagined. Our students love it. 

They want to use it. They say it’s cool. And, when they’re happy, they learn.

One of my students met Nathan and said, “That guy is wicked.”


Janine Barnett-Phillips

Woodlands High School, June 2014.


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