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 Letterland initially and children revise these skills using the Phonic Bug materials. Intervention is planned for those children who are working below expected levels. In Phonics session children have the opportunity to revisit, 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.
In Nursery phonics teaching is focused on Phase 1, 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, rhythm and 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) are vital prerequisite skills for spelling and reading.
Children in Nursery are also introduced to a Letterland characters each week through stories and songs. ‘Squiggle While You Wiggle’ sessions develop children’s gross and fine motor skills through a range of differentiated activities inspired by the letter of the week.
Staff also use the Launchpad to Literacy materials to complement children’s phonological awareness. There are key skills in the Launchpad approach that significantly impact pupil’s phonic development, these include developing a child’s Sequential Auditory Memory. In order to read a simple three letter word a child must first be able to recall 3 things (they know really well) said orally in sequence, for example, animals (pig, cow, horse). Staff also support children in developing their visual discrimination skill, e.g. the ability to identify similarities and differences of shapes and this includes letters. Teachers are mindful of the similarities and differences in relation to the digraphs and support the development of pupil’s visual discrimination skills.
In Reception children learn the sounds (phonemes) and the letters which make these sounds (graphemes). Teachers use the Letterland characters when introducing these letters to children. The use of the character is reduced as children become more confident. 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 single letter sounds 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 high frequency ‘tricky 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 tricky 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 CVC words made from these graphemes.
Children in Reception finish the year in 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.
Key Stage One
In Year 1 children will revisit Phase 2, 3 and 4 where appropriate and concentrate on consolidating and refining their knowledge, allowing them to become more confident with their reading and spelling. Teachers use the schools 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 move onto Phase 5 where they learn new graphemes and alternative pronunciations for these, for example, learning that the grapheme ‘ow’ makes a different sound in ‘snow’ and ‘cow’. They will also learn more high frequency ‘tricky words’ and continue to 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.
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.