Establishing lifelong learning: rooted in knowledge, enriched by experience
Phonics and Early Reading
ROOTED IN KNOWLEDGE
Why is phonics important? Our approach:
At Alexandra Primary School, we believe that for children to become confident and fluent readers and writers, phonics needs to be taught using a systematic and structured phonics programme. This is why we teach reading through Little Wandle Letters and Sounds revised. We start teaching phonics in our Nursery and follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised progression, which ensures children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering phonics to read and spell as they move through the school.
Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way, starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex, it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for 5- to 7-year-old children. DFE 2013.
HOW IS LEARNING SEQUENCED? How we teach phonics:
Our phonics lessons are delivered by highly skilled practitioners and we provide structured daily phonics lessons for all children in EYFS and KS1
Foundations for phonics in Nursery
We provide a balance of child-led and adult-led experiences for all children that meet the curriculum expectations for ‘Communication and language’ and ‘Literacy’. These include:
- sharing high-quality stories and poems
- learning a range of nursery rhymes and action rhymes
- activities that develop focused listening and attention, including oral blending
- attention to high-quality language.
We ensure Nursery children are well-prepared to begin learning grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) and blending in Reception.
Daily phonics lessons in Reception and Year 1
We teach phonics for 30 minutes a day. In Reception, we build from 10-minute lessons, with additional daily oral blending games, to the full-length lesson as quickly as possible. Each Friday, we review the week’s teaching to help children become fluent readers.
Children make a strong start in Reception: teaching begins in Week 2 of the Autumn term.
We follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised expectations of progress:
- Children in Reception are taught to read and spell words using Phase 2 and 3 GPCs, and words with adjacent consonants (Phase 4) with fluency and accuracy.
- Children in Year 1 review Phase 3 and 4 and are taught to read and spell words using Phase 5 GPCs with fluency and accuracy.
ASSESSMENT AND MONITORING
Assessment is used to monitor progress and to identify any child needing additional support as soon as they need it. Final end of year assessments are made using criteria that have been developed in line with the Early Years Framework/National Curriculum and the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds assessment documents. Age related expectation levels are reported to parents at the end of each year.
Assessment for learning is used:
Daily within class to identify children needing Keep-up support
Weekly in the Review lesson to assess gaps, address these immediately and secure fluency of GPCs, words and spellings.
Summative assessment is used:
Every six weeks to assess progress, to identify gaps in learning that need to be addressed, to identify any children needing additional support and to plan the Keep-up support that they need.
Children in Year 1 sit the Phonics Screening Check. Any child not passing the check re-sits it in Year 2.
Ongoing assessment for catch-up
Children in Year 2 to 6 are assessed through their teacher’s ongoing formative assessment as well as through the half-termly Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised summative assessments.
Keep-up lessons ensure every child learns to read
Any child who needs additional practice has daily Keep-up support, taught by a fully trained adult. Keep-up lessons match the structure of class teaching, and use the same procedures, resources and mantras, but in smaller steps with more repetition, so that every child secures their learning.
We timetable additional phonics lessons for any child in Year 2 or 3 who is not fully fluent at reading or has not passed the Phonics Screening Check. These children urgently need to catch up, so the gap between themselves and their peers does not widen. We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessments to identify the gaps in their phonic knowledge and teach to these using the Keep-up resources – at pace.
If any child in Year 3 to 6 has gaps in their phonic knowledge when reading or writing, we plan phonics ‘catch-up’ lessons to address specific reading/writing gaps. These short, sharp lessons last 10 minutes and take place at least three times a week.
Matching books to children’s needs:
Teaching reading: Reading practice sessions three times a week
We teach children to read through reading practice sessions three times a week. These:
- Are taught by a fully trained adult to small groups of approximately six children
- Use books matched to the children’s secure phonic knowledge using the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessments and book matching grids on pages 11–20 of ‘Application of phonics to reading’
- Are monitored by the class teacher, who rotates and works with each group on a regular basis
Each reading practice session has a clear focus, so that the demands of the session do not overload the children’s working memory. The reading practice sessions have been designed to focus on three key reading skills:
- prosody: teaching children to read with understanding and expression
- comprehension: teaching children to understand the text.
In Reception these sessions start after the autumn half term. Children who are not yet decoding have daily additional blending practice in small groups, so that they quickly learn to blend and can begin to read books.
In Year 2 and 3, we continue to teach reading in this way for any children who still need to practise reading with decodable books.
- After the children have read the same book three times the decodable reading practice book is taken home to ensure success is shared with the family.
- Reading for pleasure books also go home weekly for parents to share and read to children.
- Parents are invited to attend phonics and early reading workshops to support their children with the development of their early reading and phonics skills.