At South Wilford, we aim for all children to learn to read by the end of Key Stage 1. Our children will be fluent readers who self-monitor and self-correct, understand what they are reading and read for pleasure and enjoyment.
What is Phonics?
Phonics is a way of helping young children learn to read and write by teaching them the sounds that the letters of the alphabet make (not the letter names), and how these sounds can be blended and segmented to read and write words.
Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured, systematic way, it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment.
Phonics lessons involve teaching children to:
We teach phonics using the Rocket Phonics Scheme. Phonics is taught right from the beginning of Reception for 20 – 30 minutes a day and children are taught 2 phonemes a week.
In school we teach the children to use ‘pure sounds’, this means only making the actual sound the letter says, without adding an ‘uh’ on to the end. E.g. Say ‘ssss’, not ‘suh’, ‘ffff’ not ‘fuh’. This makes it much easier for them to blend and segment phonemes when reading and writing words.
We use actions and songs to support learning. Phoneme mats with a picture which matches the action are used to support learning. Children refer to these mats during phonics lessons and also at other times when reading and writing.
Unfortunately, not all words in the English language are decodable (phonetic) and so some words have to be learned by sight. We call these common exception words or ‘tricky words’ and teach them in a particular order so that children have been taught the tricky words that will appear in their reading books. See below for the list of tricky words. They are colour coded by the colour of reading book that they occur in. For example, the words 'I' and 'the' appear in pink books and the words 'some' and 'said' appear in yellow books.
We use fully decodable phonics books published by Rocket Phonics which enable children to practise their phonics skills, particularly the skill of blending. These books follow the exact teaching sequence that is used in school which enables us to ensure that children are only given books which contain the sounds that they have been taught and know. Children are only moved up to the next reading band when they know all the sounds in that band. The Rocket phonics assessments are used to check this.
Children are encouraged to re-read their reading books numerous times to build up their fluency. In Key Stage 1, children will read their reading book to their class teacher or teaching assistant at least once a week.
We do find that the children who have support at home with Phonics generally make faster progress with their reading and writing and are more confident in class. Please encourage your child to read at home at least 3 times a week to give them the necessary time to practise their phonics knowledge and decoding skills.
When reading with your child, we suggest you support their reading by focusing on the following decoding strategies. The decoding strategy mat is stapled into your child's reading diary for easy reference.
The phonics screening check is a quick and easy check of your child’s phonics knowledge at the end of Year 1. It helps us confirm whether your child has made the expected progress, or if they may need additional support in Year 2. It is carried out in a friendly school setting with a familiar teacher.
The Phonics screening check contains a mix of real words and ‘non-words’ or ‘pseudo-words’ (or ‘nonsense/alien words’). Children are familiar with pseudo-words because we use them every day in our Phonics lessons. They are important to include in the screening check 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 ability to decode.
We will let you know how your child got on with the screening check at the end of Year 1. If they found it difficult, we will talk to you about what we can do in school and at home to help support them in their next steps. Children who do not reach the expected level in Year 1 will retake the Phonics screening 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.
Below are some previous checks that you can download and practise with your child:
In addition to your child's school reading book, below are some websites that you may find useful at home with games, videos, information, print outs and e-books. Most of these websites also have equivalent Apps to use on tablets.