Early reading starts with phonics and developing good phonics skills in younger children is vitally important. At St Chad's. early reading is taught using synthetic phonics following the government published programme, 'Letters and Sounds'. Following Letters and Sounds, children learn to read effortlessly so that they can put all of their energy into comprehending what they read. It also allows them to spell effortlessly so that they can put all their energy into composing what they write.
Letters and Sounds aims to build children's speaking and listening skills in their own right as well as to prepare children for learning to read by developing their phonic knowledge and skills. It sets out a detailed and systematic programme for teaching phonic skills for children starting by the age of five, with the aim of them becoming fluent readers by age seven. Children are systematically taught the 44 phonemes that make up all the sounds required for reading and spelling.
Phonics is taught from Nursery and is divided into six phases, with each phases building on the skills and knowledge of previous learning:
- Phase 1 (Nursery)
- Phase 2 (Reception)
- Phase 3 (Reception)
- Phase 4 (Reception moving into Year 1)
- Phase 5 (Year 1)
- Phase 6 (Year 2)
Phase 1 (Nursery): This phase falls largely within the Communication, Language and Literacy area of learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage. The aim of this phase is to foster children's listening and speaking skills as preparation for learning to read with phonics.
Phases 2, 3 and 4 (Reception): During these phases, children learn:
- How to represent each of the 44 phonemes by a letter or sequence of letters
- How to blend phonemes together for reading
- How to segment (split) words for spelling
- The letter names
- How to read and spell some high frequency 'tricky' words e.g. they, my, you
Phase 5 (Year 1): Children continue to revise the previous phases. They also learn alternative ways of representing the same phoneme e.g. ai, ay, a-e. Children rapidly expand their ability to read and spell words with increasing challenge. They are also taught to read and spell words with more challenging and unusual spelling patterns e.g. treasure.
Phase 6 (Year 2): During this phase, children become fluent readers and increasingly accurate spellers.
As well as being taught to use their phonic skills and knowledge as their first approach to reading, children are also taught how to read high frequency words and 'tricky words'.
Tricky words are words that cannot be ‘sounded-out’ but need to be learned by heart. They don’t fit into the usual spelling patterns. In order to read simple sentences, it is necessary for children to know some words that have unusual or untaught spellings.
High frequency (common) are words that recur frequently in much of the written material young children read and that they need when they write.
The teaching of phonics is of high priority to all staff . We ensure that our teaching of phonics is rigorous, structured and enjoyable. Children have discrete, daily phonics sessions where they are introduced to new phonemes, can practise and revise previous learning and have plenty of opportunities to apply the knowledge they have. Children are grouped according to their ability so they can tackle work that is achievable, making it more enjoyable and allowing learning and confidence to flourish side by side.
As a school, we have clear expectations on our children's phonics progress term-by-term, from Reception to Year 2. We regularly assess children's phonics progress with the support of an assessment tool called Phonics Tracker.
We use a range of multisensory strategies to enthuse and engage the children, including the use of interactive whiteboards, magnetic letters, speaking and listening, songs, rhymes and practical activities. Children work with pace and are encouraged to apply their knowledge across the curriculum with any reading or writing activities.
We are committed to investing in high-quality phonetically decodable reading books in school. Books are sequenced systematically and are matched closely to our phonics programme. Quality time is given to children to practise reading and re-reading books that match the grapheme-phoneme correspondences they know, both at school and at home.
The school has devised its own 'Funky Phonics' speed sound chart to support the instant recall of phonemes and graphemes.