Phonics

At St. Michael’s, Bodenham, we strive to teach children to read effectively and quickly using the Read Write Inc. Phonics programme (RWI), which includes teaching synthetic phonics, sight vocabulary, decoding and encoding words, as well as spelling and accurate letter formation.

We passionately believe that teaching children to read and write independently, as quickly as possible, is one of the core purposes of a primary school. These fundamental skills not only hold the keys to the rest of the curriculum, but also have a huge impact on children’s self-esteem and future life chances.

Using the RWI phonics program, we teach children to:

  • Read easily, fluently and with good understanding.
  • Develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information.
  • Write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences.

In practice, children learn the 44 common sounds in the English language and are taught how to blend these sounds to decode (read) words.

We start in our Nursery with Phase 1 phonics games, where children are supported to distinguish between environmental and instrumental sounds, join in with body percussion and begin to have an awareness of alliteration and rhyme, through stories and learning traditional nursery rhymes and songs.

Next, we teach children to read and blend the first thirty Set 1 sounds. Once they have conquered this skill, they start reading stories and texts that have words made up of the sounds they know. This means that they can embed and apply their phonic knowledge and start to build their reading fluency.

Once secure, children learn Set 2 and Set 3 sounds and then read texts with increasingly more complex sounds and graphemes. Throughout this process, there is a focus on comprehension, reading with expression and reading for enjoyment.

Children are taught in small groups that reflect their phonic knowledge and reading fluency. We regularly assess children so that they are taught in a RWI group which matches their phonic knowledge. We make sure that pupils read books that are closely matched to their increasing knowledge of phonics and ability to read ‘tricky words’, so that they experience early reading success and gain confidence and belief that they are readers.

Year 1 Phonics Screening Check

In the Summer Term, Year 1 children will take a Phonics Screening Check in which they will be expected to read 40 decodable 'words'. This progress check identifies those children not at the expected level in reading – and these children will be re-checked in Year 2.

What are Nonsense or Pseudo words and why are they included?

These are words that are phonetically decodable but are not actual words with an associated meaning, eg. ‘brip’, ‘snorb’. These words are included in the check specifically to assess whether your child can decode a word using phonic skills and not just rely on their memory.

The pseudo words will be shown to your child with a picture of an alien. The children will be asked what the alien’s name is by reading the word. This will make the check a bit more fun and provides the children with a context for the nonsense word. Crucially, it does not provide any clues, so your child has to be able to decode it. Children generally find nonsense amusing so they will probably enjoy reading these words.

How will the results from the screening check be used?

You will be informed of your child’s progress in phonics, and how they have done in the screening check, towards the end of the Summer Term. All of the children are individuals and develop at different stages. The screening check ensures that teachers understand which children need support with decoding.

What happens if a child struggles with the screening check?

The screening check will identify children who have phonic decoding skills below the level expected for the end of Year 1 and who, therefore, need extra help and support. Schools are expected to provide extra help; children will then be able to re‐take the assessment in Year 2.

SEN

If there is a need, pupils will be given extra support to help them improve reading skills and make progress. Support will also be provided for older pupils who may be experiencing difficulty in reading/writing because they have missed or misunderstood a crucial phase of systematic phonics teaching.

How can I help my child?

Here are a number of things that parents can do with their child to support early reading development:

  • Let your child see you enjoy reading yourself.
  • Read menus, signs, labels and instructions together.
  • Immerse your child in a love of reading.
  • Make time for your child to read their school book to you. In Key Stage 1 and Foundation Stage, books are changed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
  • With all books, encourage your child to 'sound out' unfamiliar words and then blend from left to right, rather than looking at pictures to guess.