At Ordsall Primary School we believe in building strong foundations for our children within their learning in order to take advantage of opportunities, responsibilities and experiences in later life. This is particularly important for our early reading offer in order for our children to become confident, resilient readers, able to decode and understand a wide range of different texts across the curriculum as they progress through school and out into the wider world of work. We want children to love reading and we recognise the wide ranging neurological, educational, psychological, social and linguistic benefits that a firm foundation in reading rooted in a phonics approach provides.
At Ordsall Primary School early reading is taught right from the start of FS1 through a structured phonics program. In our school we use the Read Write Inc structured programme for phonics. This is a resource published by Oxford University Press.
We strongly believe that developing a secure knowledge of phonics provides the foundations needed for children of all abilities in our school to become confident and fluent readers and research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5 to 7.
Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skilfully. They are taught how to:
- recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes;
- identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make - such as /sh/ or /oo/; and
- blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word.
Children can then use this knowledge to ‘de-code’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read. Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words and they can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment.
Children across foundation stage and Key Stage 1 have a phonics lesson each day and they are encouraged to use these strategies to read and write in other lessons.
In Nursery, early phonics skills are taught through daily Nursery rhymes, ring games and story sessions. The children play games that develop their early phonological awareness using skills in the areas outlined below:
- A1 – Environmental sounds
- A2 – Instrumental sounds
- A3 – Body Percussion
- A4 – Rhythm and rhyme
- A5 – Alliteration
- A6 – Voice sounds
- A7 – Oral blending and segmenting
Once these skills are embedded and secure, children are introduced to the Read Write Inc Nursery Programme and the picture frieze is used to teach the picture representation for each letter of the alphabet. By the Summer term, daily sessions introduce sounds for the letters of the alphabet in RWI set 1.
In Reception, children are introduced to the remaining set 1 phonemes and the additional sounds from letters and sounds. Along with those they already know, they learn to say these, write these and begin to blend them to read words. Each phoneme within Read Write Inc is given a rhyme to help the children remember the sound that it makes and what it looks like. These are shown below, but can also be found within your child’s planner.
Towards the end of Reception children learn the phonemes contained within Set 2. These phonemes are known as special friends as they contain 2 letters which make one sound when they are together within a word. By the end of Reception, the majority of children will have learnt all set 1 and set 2 sounds.
Set 3 phonemes are taught within Year 1 following a revision of set 2 within the Autumn term.
By Easter in Year 1 the majority of children will have learnt all sets of sounds and be able to segment and blend these for reading in preparation for the phonics screening assessment.
Year 2 onwards
In year 2, children who have not passed the phonics screening check will continue to access daily phonics lessons through the Read Write Inc program. Those who are secure in their phonic knowledge at this stage will begin the Read Write Inc Spelling programme which will continue through phase 2 and beyond.
As part of the Read Write Inc program links are made to both guided reading and individual reading in order for children to apply their learning and phonics skills. Books are closely matched to the phonics stage that the children are working at and regular guided reading and individual reading opportunities are timetabled.
In our phonics learning children are taught to use the pure pronunciation of the sounds and this is very important so that children are then able to blend the sounds into words accurately e.g. ‘mmmmm’ not’ muh’,’s’ not ‘suh’. It is important as adults supporting our children that we do the same.
The links below gives examples of each of the pure sounds.
There are many terms that we use with the children during their phonics learning that you may find unfamiliar. To help you help your child we have included a glossary of some of these terms below.
Phoneme – the sound made by a letter or group of letters.
Graphemes – the written form of the sound.
Segmenting – splitting the word into its sounds e.g.
Blending – reading all the sounds together quickly to say the word. e.g.
Digraph (Special friends) – 2 letters that make one sound e.g. ‘ea’
Trigraph (special friends) – 3 letters that make one sound e.g. ‘igh’
Split digraph (chatty friends) – 2 letters that make a sound but are separated by another letter e.g. a_e in ate.
In Read Write Inc we use Fred the Frog to help us. Fred is a puppet who says, reads and spells words in pure sounds. He never says the whole word so the children do this for him.
Fred talk – This is speaking in sounds without saying the whole word.
Fred fingers – Using our fingers to identify the sounds in a word ready to spell it.
Fred in your head – Splitting the word into its sounds in your head.
Sound buttons/ Dots and dashes – These are used to show the sounds within words. Dots represent single graphemes and dashes represent special friends. A rainbow is used to show chatty friends. e.g.
Alien words – These are words which are not real, do not make sense but help the children to apply their phonics knowledge to read.
Alongside our phonic approach, the children are also taught ‘Red words’ as part of our early reading offer. These are words that cannot be ‘sounded out’ but need to be learned by heart as they don’t fit into the usual spelling pattern.
A list of these that you can use to support your child can be found here.
In KS2 the children move onto orange words which also have unusual spelling patterns
A list of all these words can be found within your child’s planner.
The Phonics Screening Check
The phonics screening check is carried out annually by the government and is taken by all pupils in Year 1. It is a quick and easy check of your child’s phonics knowledge and their ability to apply this knowledge to read words. It helps the school confirm whether your child has made the expected progress.
The check will contain a mix of real words and ‘non-words’ or ‘alien words’. Children will be told before the check that there will be non-words that he or she will not have seen before. Children will be familiar with this because we already use ‘alien words’ as part of the Red Write Inc Program. Non-words are important to include because words such as ‘vap’ or ‘jound’ are new to all children. Children cannot read the non-words by using their memory or vocabulary; they have to use their decoding skills. This is a fair way to assess their phonic ability.
We will tell you about your child’s progress in phonics and how he or she has done in the screening check in the last half-term of Year 1 as part of their Record of Achievement. Children who have not met the standard in Year 1 will retake the check in Year 2. All children are individuals and develop at different rates. The screening check ensures that teachers understand which children need extra help with phonic decoding.
Supporting your child in Phonics
There are many things that you can do to support your child with their phonics at home. Listening to them read and encouraging them to sound words out is really important.
There are also many games and activities that can be accessed online to help.
To visit our home learning page that contains many links to phonics games and activities, click here.
If you would like to access previous phonics screening checks to use with your child, these can be found here: