Establishing lifelong learning: rooted in knowledge, enriched by experience
Our approach to teaching phonics and early reading
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. 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 we teach phonics:
Our phonics lessons are delivered by highly skilled practitioners using the six phase Letters and Sounds framework. We provide engaging, interactive and practical daily phonics lessons for all children in EYFS and KS1. From phase two onwards our phonics lessons follow a four-part lesson structure and teaching sequence (review – teach – practise – apply) which promotes independence, resilience and success in all our learners.
In our Nursery, we begin with phase one and the main focus is to develop children’s speaking and listening skills. Through a range of practical activities, games, songs, stories and rhymes our children will explore environmental and voice sounds, rhythm and rhyme and alliteration. By the end of phase one we aim for all children to be confident in the skills of oral blending and segmenting in preparation for phase two.
In Reception, the children begin phase two and are introduced to specific graphemes and taught the matching individual sounds (phonemes). They learn how to blend these sounds together to read simple words and captions. They are also taught how to segment words into their sounds when spelling. For example: c-a-t, b-e-ll, s-o-ck.
Phase two graphemes: s, a, t, p, i, n, m, d, g, o, c, k, ck, e, u, r, h, b, f, ff, l, ll, ss.
When the children are confident in phase two, they then move on to phase three. In this phase they learn that sounds can also be represented by two or three letters - digraphs and trigraphs. For example: f-or-k, r-ai-n, l-igh-t. They continue to practise blending to read and segmenting to spell using the phase three graphemes.
Phase three graphemes: j, v, w, x, y, z, zz, qu, ch, sh, th, ng, ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er
At the end of Reception and the beginning of Year One our children will focus on phase four. No new graphemes/phonemes are learnt in this phase and instead the children are taught to read and spell more complex words and captions that contain adjacent consonants and compound and polysyllabic words (words with more than one syllable). For example: shift, lunchbox, children.
Throughout Year One the children deepen their understanding of grapheme - phoneme correspondence and will move onto phase five. At this stage, most children will already be able to read and spell words containing adjacent consonants, such as trip and string and will be able to read and spell some polysyllabic words. During this phase they will be introduced to alternative pronunciations for the same grapheme (ow-snow and ow-brown) and learn new graphemes for phonemes they are already familiar with. For example: ai-rain, ay-play and a-e-shake.
Phase five graphemes: ay, ou, ie, ea, oy, ir, ue, aw, wh, ph, ew, oe, au, ey, a-e, e-e, i-e, o-e, u-e
In Year Two the children will work through phase 6. In this phase there is a greater emphasis on word specific spellings and the expectation is that children will become more fluent readers and increasingly more accurate spellers. Through explicit teaching and spelling investigations the children will learn specific spelling rules, such as adding suffixes ( - est, - ly, - ful, - ness, - ment, - ing) and prefixes (un - , im - , dis - , re - ) to words. They are also taught the rules for making plurals and how to spell homophones such as blue/blew, see/sea.
Matching books to children’s needs:
From Reception we ensure that all children take home a reading book that is closely matched to their phonic ability. Teachers match books to children’s needs through careful observation, assessment and monitoring. We have a fully decodable library that is organised into the letters and sounds phases, thus ensuring children can directly apply their knowledge and phonic skills at an appropriate level. Parents are invited to attend phonics and reading workshops to support their children with the development of their early reading and phonics skills.