At Neville’s Cross Primary School and Nursery, we recognise the importance of phonological decoding as one of a number of strategies to develop early reading skills. When combined with reading dialogue and the promotion of reading for pleasure, our children can apply these skills to tackle unfamiliar texts and to express themselves in written form, becoming more independent readers and writers.
We use the ‘Letters and Sounds’ program (from the Department For Education) to deliver daily discrete phonics lessons in Foundation Stage and Key Stage One, enabling children to decode effectively. We support this by using the ‘Read Write Inc’ letter cards to help our children have a ‘hook’ for their learning (please see useful websites at the bottom of the page for a copy of these for your home use).
Please refer to our NX Phonics Policy for more information regarding our phonics aims, intent and implementation.
Our approach to phonics
Letters and Sounds programme
The ‘Letters and Sounds’ programme aims to build children’s speaking and listening skills in their own right as well as to prepare children for learning to read, by developing their phonic knowledge and skills. It sets out a detailed and systematic programme for teaching phonic skills for children starting by the age of five, with the aim of them becoming fluent readers by age seven.
Throughout the Foundation Stage at Neville’s Cross, early phonetic awareness is promoted and developed through every day activities and routines such as listening games, shared reading, singing and interactive planned sessions. Children are encouraged to identify familiar letters in their name and hear the sounds they are making, identify familiar words, to listen for sounds and to remember sounds.
In Nursery, Reception and Key Stage One phonics is timetabled to be taught daily in discrete, planned sessions of 20 minutes. Children are taught to segment and blend words and apply their learning for reading decodable and tricky words. A wide range of activities and resources are used by our teachers to help engage children so they can achieve the goal of fluent word recognition.
Our children are ability grouped in order to maximise individual learning time and this is reviewed on a regular basis by our teachers.
Each phonics lesson follows the same structure:
- Share learning and teach
Each phonics session is well planned to provide the children with a variety of multi-sensory, visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning experiences. Our teachers sometimes make use of planning from ‘Bug Club’ to support their own ‘Letters and Sounds’ plans. Through the ‘apply’ element of each session, our children use their phonic knowledge for reading and spelling.
The ‘Letters and Sounds’ programme is split into six phases. This allows sounds to be taught in a certain order.
The children in our Nursery follow Phase One of Letters and Sounds. This focuses on developing their listening skills and involves listening to and identifying; environmental sounds, animal sounds, body percussion, instrumental sounds, rhyming, alliteration and oral segmentation.
When children finish our initial induction period they begin Phase Two of ‘Letters and Sounds’. Sometimes this can be taught in our Nursery to accommodate more able children. The sounds are taught in sets.
Set 1: s, a, t, p
Set 2: i, n, m, d
Set 3: g, o, c, k
Set 4: ck, e, u, r
Set 5: h, b, f, ff, l, ll, ss
They are also taught to read some ‘tricky words’ – words which are not phonetically decodable (please see ‘What are ‘tricky words’?’ for more information on this).
Children then reach Phase Three and are taught to use the digraphs (two letters that make one sound) –
Set 6: j, v, w, x
Set 7: y, z, zz, qu
Consonant digraphs: ch, sh, th, ng
Vowel digraphs: ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er.
Our children are taught and encouraged to use their blending and segmenting knowledge when reading and spelling and this is when the terms ‘sound buttons’ are used. Single letter phonemes are identified with a dot underneath and digraphs and tri-graphs have a line drawn underneath to show they are two or more letters which represent one sound.
Our children then reach Phase Four. This is a consolidation phase and no new sounds are taught, apart from consonant clusters br, bl, tw, st, sc, fl, fr, gr, gl, pr, pl, etc It is also when children begin to read, write and spell ‘cvcc’ and ‘ccvc’ words such as; help, hold, crab, stop, spin etc.
Our children then practice reading and spelling polysyllabic words e.g lunchbox, desktop. By the end of Reception, all children should be secure in Phase Three sounds and some will be secure with Phase Four words.
In Year One, our children will revisit aspects of Phase Four and will then be taught Phases Five and Six. This is when children are introduced to ‘split diagraphs’ – a-e, e-e, i-e, o-e, u-e (including in words such as game, these, like, bone, tune). The split e makes you say the name of the first vowel. Teachers will expect children to identify the split e diagraphs by drawing a line below the word.
They are also taught alternative spellings; such as ‘e’ – this can be in bed but ee in see, e in he, ey as in monkey. ie as in Bobbie, ea as in sea. This is important as they will need to select the correct grapheme to represent phonemes when spelling.
Children in Year One will also be taught the spelling rules and conventions appropriate to their age; including past tense, adding suffixes, strategies for spelling longer words and words with irregularities.
What are ‘tricky words’?
At the same time as teaching the new sounds to the children, whole words that cannot be broken down easily (we call these ‘tricky words’) are taught. These are words that need to be learned by heart and don’t fit into usual spelling patterns. In order to read simple sentences, it is necessary for children to know some words that have unusual or untaught spellings. It should be noted that, when teaching these words, it is important to always start with sounds already known in the word, then focus on the ‘tricky’ part.
Please refer to this table to see the ‘tricky words’ that fit with each phase to be able to support your child:
|Phase 2||Phase 3||Phase 4||Phase 5|
What are ‘high frequency words’?
High frequency (common) words recur frequently in much of the written material young children read and that they need when they write. The first 100 can be found by clicking the link below:
Assessment and Home Learning
The phonic knowledge of all of our children in Nursery, Reception, Year One and Year Two will be assessed half termly. These assessments will be used to inform the teaching of individual pupils as well as highlighting any gaps which have emerged to shape the teaching of phonics for the coming half term for the class, groups and individuals.
Towards the end of Year One, in line with national requirements, all children will take part in the national phonics screening check. Within this, they will achieve either a pass or fail. The results of this screening will be included in your child’s annual report. Prior to this, in Spring Term, Year One and some Year Two children will gain experience of accessing similar test materials as those used in the screening to address any gaps in knowledge. If a child fails the screening test they will retake it in Year Two. Children will receive additional phonics support and interventions to close their gaps in knowledge.
Phonics parent events
Our parents across EYFS and Key Stage One are invited to phonics workshops in the Autumn Term to help with strategies and games to support their children with home learning in phonics and reading. These workshops also cover information about the Year One statutory screening check. If you have any concerns or questions about phonics in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact your child’s class teacher.
Please see the following link to access the most recent phonics event materials:
Useful websites for parents
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqhXUW_v-1s – the correct pronunciation of all phoneme sounds to help you articulate these correctly for your child.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7sW4j8p7k9D_qRRMUsGqyw – YouTube channel for Mr Thorne phonics
Interactive games for children