Phonics and Early Reading
Phonics (reading and spelling)
At Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, we believe that all our children can become fluent readers and writers. This is why we now teach reading through Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised, which is a systematic and synthetic phonics programme. We start teaching phonics in Reception and from January 2021 we now follow the Little Wandle Progression Overview, which ensures children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering phonics to read and spell as they move through school.
As a result, all our children are able to tackle any unfamiliar words as they read. At Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, we also model the application of the alphabetic code through phonics in shared reading and writing, both inside and outside of the phonics lesson and across the curriculum. We have a strong focus on language development for our children because we know that speaking and listening are crucial skills for reading and writing in all subjects.
At Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, we value reading as a crucial life skill. By the time children leave KS1, they read confidently for meaning and regularly enjoy reading for pleasure. Our readers are equipped with the tools to tackle unfamiliar vocabulary. We encourage our children to see themselves as readers for both pleasure and purpose.
Because we believe teaching every child to read is so important, we have a Reading Leader who drives the early reading programme in our school. Our reading leader works alongside the English Hub and completes regular leadership training with Little Wandle to ensure she maintains the highest quality in both her teaching and leadership of phonics and early reading within our school. She is highly skilled at teaching phonics and reading, and alongside our Head of School, monitors and supports our reading team, so everyone teaches with fidelity to the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme.
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 Progression Overview:
- 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.
Daily 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 daily phonics lessons for any child in Year 2 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.
Teaching reading: Reading practice sessions three times a week
- We teach children to read through reading practice sessions twice 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 in Week 4. 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, we continue to teach reading in this way for any children who still need to practise reading with decodable books.
- The decodable reading practice book is taken home to ensure success is shared with the family. (I read to you books)
- Reading for pleasure books also go home for parents to share and read to children. (You read to me books)
- We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised parents’ resources to engage our families and share information about phonics, the benefits of sharing books, how children learn to blend and other aspects of our provision, both online and through workshops.
Ensuring consistency and pace of progress
- Every teacher in our school has been trained to teach reading, so we have the same expectations of progress. We all use the same language, routines and resources to teach children to read so that we lower children’s cognitive load.
- Weekly content grids map each element of new learning to each day, week and term for the duration of the programme.
- Lesson templates, Prompt cards and How to videos ensure teachers all have a consistent approach and structure for each lesson.
- The Reading Leader and SLT use the Audit and Prompt cards to regularly monitor and observe teaching; they use the summative data to identify children who need additional support and gaps in learning.
Ensuring reading for pleasure
‘Reading for pleasure is the single most important indicator of a child’s success.’ (OECD 2002)
‘The will influences the skill and vice versa.’ (OECD 2010)
We value reading for pleasure highly and work hard as a school to grow our Reading for Pleasure pedagogy.
- We read to children every day. We choose these books carefully as we want children to experience a wide range of books, including books that reflect the children at Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School and our local community as well as books that open windows into other worlds and cultures. Books are carefully chosen to support our curriculum as well as to introduce children to ambitious vocabulary.
- Every classroom has books displayed within the classroom or a book corner that encourages a love for reading. We curate these books and talk about them to entice children to read a wide range of books.
- In Reception, children have access to the reading corner every day in their free flow time and the books are continually refreshed.
- Children from Reception onwards have a home reading record. The parent/carer records comments to share with the adults in school and the adults will write in this on a regular basis to ensure communication between home and school. Home reading is celebrated through our reading incentives of ‘Reading Stars’.
- The school library (Starbooks) is made available for classes to use at protected times.
- Children across the school have regular opportunities to engage with a wide range of Reading for Pleasure events (book fairs, author visits and workshops, national events etc). We invite parents and carers into to school to share with some of these events.
Assessment is used to monitor progress and to identify any child needing additional support as soon as they need it.
- 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.
- by SLT and scrutinised through the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessment tracker, to narrow attainment gaps between different groups of children and so that any additional support for teachers can be put into place.
- Children in Year 1 sit the Phonics Screening Check. Any child not passing the check re-sits it in Year 2.
All children will take a reading book home daily.(See above). If they are reading regularly at home, they can change these books as often as they like (under the guidance of the class teacher). Children are also able to borrow books from the school, class and outdoor libraries should they wish to do so. We also carefully monitor the children’s reading at home and encourage parents to be fully active and engaged with us in this, in order to support their children’s ongoing development. As well as their reading books, children take home flash cards to practise and develop their recognition of High Frequency Words.
Working in Partnership with Parents
At Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, we want to encourage every child to read with a grown up at home every night. Children who read with their families grow in confidence much more quickly and develop a love of reading that can last a lifetime. In recognition of the important role parents have we hope our home/school reading initiatives will motivate children to read at home whilst earning ‘rewards’ for their efforts.
We held a meeting for all parents early in the spring term in order to explain the new scheme for phonics and our updated reading schemes, procedures and expectations. Throughout the year, we offer sessions for parents of children in all year groups, to explain how they can support with reading development at home.
Hints for listening to your child read
- When reading together at home try to make the time relaxed, enjoyable and positive.
- Vary it. Read together, read to your child and take turns or have them read to you.
- Before reading, talk about the cover, the title and the pictures, and discuss what the book may be about.
- During reading, discuss what has been read up to that point and predict what might happen next.