Early Reading and Phonics

At Rowena the teaching of early reading and phonics has a high priority throughout school and phonics is taught daily to children in Foundation Stage, Year 1 and to those in Year 2 who have not passed the Phonics Screening Check. Children are systematically taught the relationship between sounds and the written spelling patterns that represent them. Phonics is largely delivered in a whole class format, through the Essential Letters and Sound (ELS) systematic, synthetic phonics programme (SSP). Intervention is planned for those children who are working below expected levels.  In Phonics sessions children have the opportunity to review, learn, practise and apply their learning.  Teachers use technical terminology when teaching phonics such as “phoneme”, “grapheme”, “digraph” and “trigraph”.  The terms are used consistently throughout school.

Foundation Stage

In Nursery phonics teaching is focused on Phase 1 of Letter and Sounds, developing children’s speaking and listening skills with an emphasis on getting children attuned to the sounds around them and ready to begin developing oral blending and segmenting skills. Children do this through listening for environmental and instrumental sounds, alliteration, rhyme and voice sounds. These activities will develop children’s ability to segment words into sounds and to blend sounds into words (oral blending and segmenting) vital prerequisite skills for spelling and reading. ‘Squiggle While You Wiggle’ sessions develop children’s gross and fine motor skills in preparation for writing, through a range of differentiated activities.

Staff use the Launchpad to Literacy materials to help children develop the skill they need to be successful in phonics and early reading. There are key skills in the Launchpad approach that significantly impact pupil’s phonic development, these include developing a child’s Visual Memory, their ability to identify and remember things and their Sequential Auditory Memory, their ability to remember things in the correct order.  Staff also support children in developing their Auditory Blending skills by teaching children to blend compound words (e.g. toothbrush) and words with more than one syllable (e.g. elephant) as a prerequisite to blending sounds together to read words.

In Reception children learn the sounds (phonemes) and the letters which make these sounds (graphemes). Teachers use the Essential Letters and Sound (ELS) programme when introducing these letters to children. There are 44 sounds in all, some are made with two letters (digraph) and some are made with three letters (trigraphs). In Phase 2, children focus on learning the most common graphemes and by the end of Phase 2 children should be able to read some vowel-consonant (VC) and consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words, and spell them out. They also learn some ‘Hard to Read and Spell’ (HRS) words.

In Phase 3 children are introduced to phonemes mainly made up of two letters such as /ch/, /ar/, /ow/ and /ee/. Alongside this, children are taught to recognise more ‘Hard to Read and Spell’ (HRS) words. They learn the names of the letters, as well as the sounds they make. By the end of Phase 3, they should be able to say the sound made by most, or all, Phase 2 and 3 graphemes, blend and read words made up of these graphemes and read simple sentences containing them.

After Easter Reception children look at Phase 4, which teaches them to blend and segment longer words with adjacent consonants. Adjacent consonants are two or more consonants that are next to each other in a word. For example, in the word ‘lost’ the ‘s’ and ‘t’ are adjacent consonants.

Children in Reception finish the year by learning 20 new Phase 5 graphemes and more HRS words. Children’s progress is assessed and tracked carefully throughout their time in Reception and teachers use the ELS and Launchpad to literacy materials to help those children who may need it.

Key Stage One

In Year 1 children will revisit Phases 2, 3, 4 and 5 taught in reception, where appropriate, and concentrate on consolidating and refining their knowledge, allowing them to become more confident with their reading and spelling. Teachers use the Phonics Assessment Materials to identify pupil’s gaps in learning and to inform their planning and teaching. This enables the teacher to monitor and identify which pupils are ‘keeping up’ with the pace of teaching and ensure additional support is given to those pupils who require it. Gaps in learning are targeted through quality-first teaching, group or 1:1 intervention. Where appropriate teachers use the Launchpad to Literacy materials to support pupil’s gaps in learning.

Children will then continue with Phase 5 learning the alternative spellings for the previously taught sounds for example, learning that the sound /air/in the word ‘care’ is spelt <are>. They will also learn more HRS words and develop their ability to use and apply their knowledge in their reading and writing.  

In school nonsense/pseudo words are also described as alien words (words that are not real). These are primarily used to assess and ensure phonic knowledge is secure and children are taught to be able to differentiate between a real and not real word. Towards the end of Year 1 pupils will be assessed using the Phonics Screening Check, which assesses their ability to use their phonic knowledge to read real and pseudo words.

In Year 2 children revisit previous phases of phonics teaching as appropriate. Those pupils who did not pass the Phonics Screening Check at the end of Year 1 will continue to receive daily phonics lessons and targeted intervention. Phase 6 phonics takes place throughout Year 2, with the aim of children becoming fluent readers and accurate spellers. Children will learn how to use prefixes, suffixes, about past tense, new spelling rules and when to use apostrophes.  

Reading Books

Pupils have access to phonetically decodable books, which align with the sets of sounds taught in the school’s phonic programme, which they take home throughout the week. Pupils also have access to Phonic Bug, a web-based reading scheme and teachers allocate children with phonetically decodable e-books at the appropriate level for each child, these can be accessed online at home and at school.