Reading & Phonics
Phonics and early reading
We teach systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) using the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme, which was accredited by DfE in July 2021 and meets the core criteria for effective teaching of early reading.
Little Wandle enables us to have high expectations for children’s learning in phonics, which is essential for children to get off to a fast start with reading from Reception. In Reception and key stage 1 we provide daily engaging phonics lessons and we plan ‘catch up’ lessons for any children who need to consolidate their learning.
In phonics children learn that the 26 letters of the alphabet represent sounds and that letters in combination can represent different sounds. For example, we teach the sounds for ‘c’ and ‘h’ and that a different sound is made by the letters together in a digraph ‘ch’: a digraph is two letters representing one sound.
There are 44 sounds in the English language and over 140 combinations of letters that represent those sounds in words. The children learn to recognise all of the different sounds and combinations that they might see when they are reading or writing.
In Nursery our children follow Foundations for Phonics, which enables them to start to listen to the sounds in spoken words. In Reception children start to learn to link spoken sounds to letters, or graphemes, in phase 2, which is initially single letter sounds. From Reception children learn sounds in a very specific sequence that allows our children to build on their previous phonic knowledge and master specific phonic strategies as they move through school. As a result, we aim for all of our children to be able to tackle any unfamiliar words that they might encounter in reading or writing.
Alongside these phonic lessons we teach children how to apply their phonic skills in whole class shared reading and in guided reading with small groups of children. In English we use the ‘Talk for Writing’ approach which has a strong focus on the development of language skills, because we know that speaking and listening are crucial skills for reading and writing in all subjects.
How we teach phonics
- In Nursery, children follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised ‘Foundations for Phonics’ guidance. The focus is on daily oral blending and language development through high quality stories and rhymes.
- In Reception and Y1, children follow the progression within the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme. Phonics is taught daily and there is a review session on a Friday.
- Phonics starts in Reception in week 2, to ensure the children make a strong start.
- By the end of Reception, children will have been taught up to the end of phase 4.
- By the end of year 1, children will have been taught up to the end of phase 5.
- Reception lessons start at 10 minutes, with daily additional oral blending – increasing to up to 30 minutes as soon as possible.
- Y1 lessons are up to 30 minutes long.
- In Y2 and Y3, phonics lessons are taught daily to children where appropriate – following the model of Little Wandle but plugging specific gaps identified through assessment.
- From Y2 to Y6 there are planned phonic ‘catch-up’ sessions following a set model to address specific reading/writing gaps. These are short, sharp sessions lasting 10-15 minutes in length and are planned to take place at least three times a week.
Reading practice sessions
- Children in Reception begin to apply their phonics knowledge to reading by using fully decodable reading books in small group reading practice sessions as soon as they can blend sounds together to read words.
- In Reception and KS1 we use sets of books that are matched to the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme. There are up to 6 children in a group and each group will have up to 3 reading practice sessions a week. Some children will have additional daily reading.
- When children have met the end of Y1 phonics standard and they can read phase 5 books fluently they will move onto our sets of levelled readers to build fluency and read more widely for pleasure and enjoyment.
How do we assess phonic knowledge?
- In Reception and year 1, at the end of each week there is a review session which recaps the learning. There are also whole review weeks (pre-planned and bespoke review weeks to address gaps identified by the class teachers’ ongoing formative assessment).
- Teachers use their daily assessment to target children who may need additional practise with the daily learning on the same day as far as possible. If children are identified as in danger of falling behind, catch up sessions are put in place following the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme, so that there is fidelity to the programme.
- In Reception and year 1, the children are assessed at the end of every half term using the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessments.
- The children in Y1 do the statutory Phonics Screening Check (PSC) in the summer term, which involves reading a set of words to assess how well they can decode.
- Children who do not meet the standard of the PSC in Y1 will have additional teaching and take this again in Y2.
- Children who need to consolidate their phonics skills beyond Y2 will need ‘catch up’ sessions are will be assessed to establish any gaps so that the lessons can be tailored to what is needed.
If you would like more information about how to support your child with phonics at home, please follow this link to find the Reception and Year 1 overview as well as videos of the sound pronunciations, letter formation sheets and other helpful resources.
Reading for pleasure and enjoyment
Alongside phonics teaching at Meadhurst we prioritise reading for pleasure and enjoyment because the research shows that both frequent reading and reading for pleasure and enjoyment lead to higher achievement at school.
To encourage children to read for pleasure we timetable a daily story time in every class, which might be an engaging picture story book or a gripping novel. We have a school library and every classroom has a book corner with a wide selection of engaging fiction and non-fiction texts.
myON online e-book library
We also have a subscription to an online e-book library with myON from Renaissance, which children can access from home. Every child from Nursery to Y6 has a username and password to access the website at the following webpage:
The myON library is for both listening to books and for reading them independently. Using the settings on the menu, parents can listen to the books with their children or read the books to their children with the sound turned off. Children can either listen to the books and follow along, or they can read the books independently. If your child has an Accelerated Reader ZPD range (Years 3/4 to 6), books can be matched to your child’s independent reading level and age interest.
This year we have access to 5,849 books (an increase of 5,000 books from last year!).
In the last school year we were congratulated by Rennaisance for the huge number of books children at Meadhurst Primary read online. We were delighted by this, as promoting reading for pleasure and enjoyment is something that we take very seriously at Meadhurst.
For online guides and tips please visit:
http://www.renlearn.co.uk/parent-resources/reading-literacy/. There are links to help pages for parents on how to use myON at home (logging in etc).
Supporting reading at home guidance
Reading at home helps children to build their reading stamina and reading mileage. Depending on which year group children are in, they will bring home decodable books to practise their phonics skills, or, when phonic skills are fluent, books that are arranged in a gradient of challenge reflecting their developing reading stamina, level of understanding and age interest. The books that come home from school should be read fluently, about 95% word perfect, so that the focus can be on what the book is about and enjoying the reading.
Parents play an important role in supporting children with their reading, just by hearing them read and talking to them about the book. We have produced two guides to help you to support your child with their reading at home.