What is phonics?
At Someries Infant School and Early Childhood Education Centre, early reading is taught using a systematic approach using phonics as the main approach to reading.
We use a systematic approach for teaching children to read using phonics. It is split into six phases, from starting to learn about sounds at nursery to becoming fluent readers around age seven.
Traditionally, children were taught letter names like ay, bee, sea from the start. However, letter names do not always represent their pronunciation – examples include double u or em – and this might confuse children when they try to pronounce words made up of these letters.
Our approach encourages us to directly link letters (graphemes) to sounds (phonemes), and to teach children pure sounds like ah, b, k when encountering the alphabet. So, children learn how to put sounds represented by letters or letter groups (like ch or igh) together to read words in a more straightforward way.
During Nursery, phonics is used to support children’s developing speaking and listening skills and linking of sounds and letters. Activities are divided into seven groups:
- Environmental sounds
- Instrumental sounds
- Body percussion
- Rhythm and rhyme
- Voice sounds
- Oral blending and segmenting
Although children are encouraged to enjoy books from as early an age as possible, the focus of this phase is on listening to and repeating sounds, rather than on directly reading words.
During Reception, pupils are introduced to simple letter-sound correspondences. As letters and sounds are introduced, children are encouraged to use their new knowledge to sound out and blend words. For example, they will learn to blend the sounds s–a–t to make the word sat.
How we teach blending
How we teach tricky words
During Year One, children will learn some new graphemes for reading. They will also be taught alternative pronunciations for known graphemes. For example, they have already learned ‘ow’ as in ‘cow’ and will now learn ‘ow’ as in ‘blow’.
In addition, they will learn alternative spellings for known phonemes. For example, the sound /igh/ has been learned as the grapheme ‘igh’ as in ‘night’, but can also be spelled ‘y’, ‘ie’, and ‘i_e’.
During Year Two, children will read with increasing fluency. They will have learned most of the common letter-sound correspondences and can read familiar words automatically without needing to sound out and blend.
Children will work on spelling, including prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters, and so on.
Statutory phonics screening check
At the end of year one, pupils undergo a statutory phonics screening check.
This is a statutory assessment and all children in year one must take the check and any year two children who did not meet the expected standard in year one will take the check again.
The phonics screening check is designed to confirm whether or not individual children have learned phonics decoding to the appropriate standard.
The links below will enable you to download copies of previous phonics screening checks.
Our phonics workshop materials provide further details about the check.
Phonics and reading schemes
Someries Infant School and Early Childhood Education Centre uses Little Wandle Letters and Sounds to secure the progression the grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) and tricky words that we teach on a term-by-term basis. The progression has been organised so that children are taught from the simple to more complex GPCs, as well as taking into account the frequency of their occurrence in the most commonly encountered words.
All the graphemes taught are practised in words, sentences, and later on, in fully decodable books. Children review and revise GPCs and words, daily, weekly and across terms and years, in order to move this knowledge into their long-term memory. Children need to learn to read as quickly as reasonably possible, so they can move from learning to read, to reading to learn, giving them access to the treasure house of reading. Our expectations of progression are aspirational, yet achievable.
At Someries Infant School and Early Childhood Education Centre, all of our reading books are colour banded. Children are given a colour band to choose their home reading book from which will help to ensure that the books they select are at the appropriate reading level for them whilst also ensuring they are appropriately challenged.
Every colour band includes books from a range of reading schemes so that children will experience a range of text types. All books within each book band can be decoded using phonics skills and knowledge.
We use reading scheme called Project X during our guided reading lessons. Project X is published by Oxford University Press.