Reading and Phonics
In a speech on the importance of phonics to the Reading Reform Foundation Conference in 2015, the then School Reform Minister Nick Gibb quoted a report from the Australian National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy:
‘The evidence is clear […] that direct systematic instruction in phonics during the early years of schooling is an essential foundation for teaching children to read. […] Moreover, where there is unsystematic or no phonics instruction, children’s literacy progress is significantly impeded, inhibiting their initial and subsequent growth in reading accuracy, fluency, writing, spelling and comprehension.’
Reflecting such evidence, at Avening Primary School, phonics is at the core of how we teach the early stages of reading.
Our Curriculum Intent for Early Reading and Phonics
At Avening Primary School, our aim is for children to develop a life-long love of books and reading. Phonics is an important skill that we use to teach children to learn to read and we place high importance on teaching how to phonetically decode through daily phonics lessons. Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way, starting with the easiest sounds, progressing through to the most complex, it is a very effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 4–7.
Almost all children who have 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. Children who have been taught phonics also tend to read more accurately than those taught using other methods, such as ‘look and say’. This includes children who find learning to read difficult, for example those who have dyslexia.
What is phonics?
Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write. It helps children hear, identify and use different sounds that distinguish one word from another in the English language.
Written language can be compared to a code, so knowing the sounds of individual letters and how those letters sound when they’re combined will help children decode words as they read.
Understanding phonics will also help children know which letters to use when they are writing words.
Phonics involves matching the sounds of spoken English with individual letters or groups of letters. For example, the sound k can be spelled as c, k, ck or ch.
Teaching children to blend the sounds of letters together helps them decode unfamiliar or unknown words by sounding them out. For example, when a child is taught the sounds for the letters t, p, a and s, they can start to build up the words: “tap”, “taps”, “pat”, “pats” and “sat”.
How is Phonics taught at Avening Primary School?
At our school:
- We follow the Essential Letters and Sounds programme from Reception to Y1.
- There are daily phonic sessions beginning as soon as the children enter school in the EYFS.
- Each session has five parts: Revisit and Review; Teach; Practise; Apply; Assess.
- Children are taught to ‘blend’ letters or ‘graphemes’ to read them. They are taught to ‘segment’ sounds or ‘phonemes’ to spell words. We say the word, stretch the word, segment the word with our robot arms, blend, count the sounds on our fingers, say the words, and then write the sounds.
- Within each phase, the children are introduced to ‘harder to read and spell’ words which they practise reading and spelling, e.g. ‘the’ and later ‘because’.
- All teaching areas have a sound chart displayed.
- Children in EYFS and Key Stage 1 have phonetically decodable reading books closely matched to the phonic phase in which they are working, or one which reinforces graphemes that need revision as a result of assessment information.
- Phonic assessments are completed each term to ensure children are suitably placed. These are recorded on a phonics reading tracker. Children at risk of not passing the Year 1 Phonics Screening test are identified and given additional support as required.
- From Year 2, when children have passed the phonics screening check, children follow a spelling programme which meets the spelling requirements of the National Curriculum.
Outside the phonics lessons children will practice their phonics skills when reading in guided reading lessons. The books they read, and activities they carry out, are tailored to their reading skills along with phonics that they are learning. This regular practice helps children apply their skills and become confident and fluent readers.
In the early stages, when children have phonetically decodable reading books, they will be expected to read them a number of times at home to ensure that they are fluent and so that the children feel a sense of achievement as a reader.