Phonics at St Thomas
Phonics at St Thomas
At St. Thomas’ we aim to create a love of speaking, listening, reading and writing; the consistent approach of phonics teaching is one of the ways that we ensure this. The systematic teaching of phonics has a high priority throughout the Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1, and it is our intention that by the end of Year 2 the children will have progressed through the phonics phases and have developed strong blending and decoding skills. These skills, in combination with a range of word recognition, comprehension and grammatical knowledge that they continue to build on throughout Key Stage 2, will assist them with speaking, reading and writing throughout their life. We aim for every child to leave the school with the skills of an accomplished public speaker, reader and writer.
Children at St. Thomas’ are taught to read by breaking down words into separate sounds or ‘phonemes’. You may have heard this referred to as Synthetic Phonics. They are then taught how to blend these sounds together to read the whole word. Children are taught to spell by hearing a word and splitting it up into the sounds that make it. This is called ‘segmenting’. Children then use their phonic knowledge to record the letters that represent those sounds in the correct order. The children are encouraged to use these strategies to read and write in all lessons. Phonics and Tricky Words are taught according to the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised systematic synthetic phonics programme:
Phase 1 – Nursery into Reception
- Looks at sound discrimination, rhyme, oral blending and oral segmenting.
Phase 2 – Reception
- Introduces the first set of phonemes and teaches children to blend the sounds together to read whole words.
Phase 3 – Reception
- Teaches another 25 phonemes, most of which are digraphs (two letters making one sound e.g. ow in cow) and some trigraphs (three letters make one sound e.g. igh in high).
Phase 4 – Reception / Year 1
- Teaches children to read and spell words with adjacent consonants e.g. jump or stamp and polysyllabic words (more than one syllable e.g. sandwich).
Phase 5 – Year 1/ Year 2
- Teaches children alternative ways of representing sounds they already know e.g. in Phase 3 they learnt ow (cow) and in Phase 5 they learn ou (loud).
Consolidation and Rediscover – Year 2
- Focuses on becoming fluent readers and accurate spellers by teaching rules for suffixes such as -ing, -ed and –est;
- It consolidates the learning of previous phases;
- Develops strategies for learning spellings;
- Focuses on comprehension and reading for pleasure;
- Is a transition from learning to read to reading to learn.
In Reception, phonics is taught as a whole class approach to ensure that quality first teaching is accessible to all children. This enables staff to ensure application across subjects, embedding the process in a rich literacy environment for early readers. The children start by building on their Phase 1 knowledge from nursery before moving onto Phase 2 and up to Phase 4 by the end of the academic year. The teaching approach is visual, auditory and kinaesthetic to appeal to all learning styles and therefore, increasing the likelihood of success. Phonics is taught daily in Reception and Year 1. The children will be heard read in small groups 3 times a week, focusing on decoding, prosody (rhythm, stress, and intonation) and comprehension.
Children in Year 1 continue to follow the Little Wandle programme in their daily phonics sessions and group reading. In June they sit the Phonics Screening Check. In Year 2, children have regular whole class phonics sessions to rediscover the sounds taught so far, whilst also learning the National Curriculum spelling rules through the use of Spelling Shed. Children in Year 2 receive small group phonics interventions if they have not reached the required level in their Phonics Screening Check or if it is felt that they will benefit further from these.
In Key Stage 2, for those children who need further embedding of phonic knowledge, they will follow the Little Wandle Rapid Catch-Up programme.
As well as the sounds taught at each phase there are also ‘High Frequency Words’. Some of these words are decodable but some cannot be broken down into separate phonemes and are considered ‘Tricky Words’. We teach the children to be able to spell and read the whole word by sight, for example, ‘said’ or ‘what’. We have clear and comprehensive lists of these words which are taken from the requirements of the National Curriculum word lists for each ‘stage’.
Each Phonic session follows the same structure:
- Introduce lesson focus
- Revisit and Review (Rediscover)
- Teach and Practise
- Practise and Apply
The children have reading books, which match their current phonics level, which they are encouraged to read at home. The books are phonetically decodable apart from pre-taught ‘Tricky Words’, thus setting the children up to succeed with reading from the outset. Phonics sound cards and Tricky Word flashcards are also sent home as a revision tool once they have been taught in class. As part of our Home School Link we run parent workshops on Early Literacy Skills, including Phonics.
All classes in the school display the Grow the Code Little Wandle phonics poster and all children use appropriate Little Wandle resources to support reading and spelling.
The impact of our phonics teaching is monitored by our English and Phonics Leaders through work scrutiny, reviews of assessment and lesson observations. Class Teachers regularly assess the children’s phonics knowledge. These assessments allow teachers to identify any gaps in learning, which is used to inform future planning. Our thorough tracking system, which is updated termly, enables teachers to check children’s progress in relation to the curriculum. Regular Pupil Progress Meetings with Year Group Teams and Senior Leaders ensure that any child that is not making expected progress can be supported with timely and appropriate interventions and targeted phonics teaching.
By the end of Reception, most children are able to:
– Say a sound for each letter in the alphabet and at least 10 digraphs;
– Read words consistent with their phonic knowledge by sound-blending;
– Read aloud simple sentences and books that are consistent with their phonic knowledge,
including some common exception words;
– Spell words by identifying sounds in them and representing the sounds with a letter or
– Write simple phrases and sentences that can be read by others.
Our results from the Phonics Screening Check show the positive impact of our early phonics teaching. Parents report increased confidence and knowledge of phonics after attending our Early Literacy Skills and Phonics Workshops, therefore better equipped to support their children’s reading at home. Phonics teaching at St. Thomas’ supports every aspect of our S=P+A+C+E (Success = Perseverance + Attitude + Confidence + Effort) for Learning approach. From the start of their journey in phonics learning at St. Thomas’, the children’s Success is ensured by our inclusive and nurturing approach of praising their Perseverance, positive Attitude and Effort, thus increasing their Confidence.
The whole team approach of quality teaching of phonics ensures that the children have the skills to decode words, moving on to be able to read texts with fluency and comprehension. We expect that all St. Thomas learners become confident, able readers.