At London Colney, we know the importance that learning high quality phonics has on our pupils’ abilities to learn to read (decode) from a young age. In order to be a successful reader, children need to have a secure knowledge of the phonetic code. Although there are 26 letters of the alphabet, there are 44 spoken sounds (phonemes) that we teach as well as the letter / letters that represent these sounds in writing (graphemes). It is this knowledge of phonemes and graphemes that children need in order to decode the words that they read.
Phonics is taught, starting in our Early Years Foundation Stage, continuing into KS1 and consolidated in KS2 where needed. We teach phonics each day. Monday – Thursday, children are taught phonics in set focus groups whereby they learn the sounds they do not yet know, according to the regular assessments we complete. On a Friday, children learn as a whole class, reviewing the learning that has taken place that week. The phonics we teach is delivered in a systematic, synthetic way, with children learning the sounds in order of frequency within texts and in a way that allows children to remember the sounds they have learned and apply them to their reading and writing.
Our school’s systematic, synthetic programme (SSP) that we use to deliver phonics is Ruth Miskin’s Read, Write Inc.
We strongly believe that our teaching and learning of RWI Phonics should consistently demonstrate the 3 Ps:
Pace – sessions should be delivered with pace so that children remained engaged with learning phonics whilst also ensuring that they are acquiring a sound phonic knowledge as quickly as possible so that they are able to start reading.
Pitch – through the use of regular and ongoing assessments, children are grouped for sessions, meaning that they are continuing to learn the sounds that they do not yet know, making progress with their phonic knowledge and reading. The content of sessions is also appropriate for young children, making their sessions engaging and fun.
Praise – children should always know they are doing well to be motivated to continue to learn. Our sessions use a wide range of praise prompts, such as ‘Marshmallow Claps’, ‘Treemendous’ and ‘Hip, Hip, Hoorays’ so that children feel praised for their achievements within their sessions.
In order for our phonics sessions to have a good pace, we use behaviour techniques and silent signals to support our positive behaviour management, meaning that children get the most out of their time. These would be some of the silent signals we use in our sessions. Why not try some at home?
When we teach phonics, it is really important that we teach children the sounds in their purest form. It is easy for us as adults to sometimes over pronounce sounds which can often lead to us saying ‘muh’, ‘nuh’ or ‘luh’. If we do this, it will often lead to children not being able to blend or spell correctly. We ensure that as teachers, we model saying the sound in it’s purest form, such as ‘m’, ‘n’ or ‘l’. Please click on the following link to see how each should should be pronounced …
Within Set 1, we teach single letter sounds (phonemes) and their corresponding letter (grapheme). Towards the end of Set 1, we then teach children their first ‘Special Friends’. ‘Special Friends’ are sounds that that have more than one letter in their grapheme. These are also known as diagraphs. Here are our Set 1 sounds ..
Set 2 and Set 3
Within Set 2, we learn more of our ‘Special Friends’. In Set 2, we have our first exposure to our long vowel sounds and the graphemes that represent these. These are typically the most common diagraphs we will see in words. In Set 3, we explore these sounds further, thinking about the alternative graphemes that also make these sounds.
Here are our Set 2 sounds …
Here are our Set 3 sounds …
Once children have mastered their first few sounds and are able to blend these to say words, we then teach the children how to spell using them. When we teach children how to spell, we develop their sense of segmenting words (splitting the word up into the smallest units of sounds). For example, when teaching children to spell the word ‘ship’, we would segment the word into sh-i-p. To support children with this, we teach and encourage the use of ‘Fred Fingers’, whereby children use their fingers to show how many sounds there are in the word they want to spell. The following link will take you to a brief video that you can use to support you with helping your child to spell at home.
Spelling Using ‘Fred Fingers’ Video
Phonics Screening Check
Each year, children in Year 1 are required to complete the Phonics Screening Check. This check is designed to allow schools to see which pupils have a secure knowledge of their sounds and can read these sounds in words. This information is then used to inform the Year 2 teacher where further support may be needed.
The pass mark for 2022 is 32. If a child scores 32 or more, they will have met the phonics standard and will continue their work on spelling. If a child scores less than 32, further support and teaching of phonics will be required in Y2 and that child will have the opportunity to attempt the check again in the summer term of Year 2.
The following link will take you to a brief video that further explains the purpose and nature of the Phonics Screening Check.