Phonics and Early Reading
“So it is with children who learn to read fluently and well: They begin to take flight into whole new worlds as effortlessly as young birds take to the sky.”
Reading is the key to success. At Grayswood CE Primary School, we recognise that learning to read unlocks unlimited possibilities, so from their very first day with us in Reception, our pupils are given the chance to explore a range of high quality texts and an introduction to systematic phonics. Phonics then remains a key focus in supporting the children’s growth towards becoming fluent readers and book-lovers, combined with frequent shared story-times and weekly guided reading to aid comprehension.
Teaching children the skills to enable them to decode and understand language to ensure that they become independent, confident and fluent readers at the earliest possible stage is of great importance to us.
All our children enjoy the pleasure of being read to everyday. They are guided in finding and choosing books that they love as well as being introduced to exciting new authors, poets and topics to broaden and enrich their reading diet.
At Grayswood CE Primary School we believe that all our children can become fluent readers and writers. This is why we teach reading through Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised, which is a systematic and synthetic phonics programme. We start teaching phonics in Reception and follow the progression of learning designed by Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised, 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. 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 Grayswood CE Primary School we value reading as a crucial life skill. By the time children leave us, 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.
Phonics is taught daily in Reception and Year 1. Children make a strong start in Reception, with phonics teaching beginning in week 3 of the Autumn term. We follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised expectations of progress and every teacher and LSA in our school has been trained to teach reading to ensure consistency in the delivery of phonics lessons and to lower children’s cognitive load.
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 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 Phases 3 and 4 and are taught to read and spell words using Phase 5 GPCs with fluency and accuracy.
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 and above 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 Rapid Catch-up assessments to identify the gaps in their phonic knowledge to ensure children quickly catch up to age-related expectations in reading.
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
- 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: decoding, prosody and comprehension.
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 Years 2 and 3, 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. We value reading for pleasure highly and each child takes home ‘sharing books’ for parents/carers to share and read to children. We hold a phonics workshop at the start of each year to support parents in their understanding of early reading.
The children at Grayswood CE Primary School are exposed to high quality, vocabulary rich texts each day during story times. We choose these books carefully as we want children to experience a wide range of books, including texts that reflect the children at Grayswood and our local community as well as books that open windows into other worlds and cultures.
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 and weekly in the Review lesson to assess gaps and secure fluency of GPCs.
Summative assessment for Reception and Year 1 is used every six weeks to assess progress, identify gaps in learning that need to be addressed and to plan the Keep-up support for those that need it.
A placement assessment is used with any child new to the school in Reception and Year 1 to quickly identify any gaps in their phonic knowledge and plan and provide appropriate extra teaching.
Fluency assessments are used from Year 1 to measure children’s accuracy and reading speed in short one-minute assessments to check if they are ready to exit the programme. For Year 1 children, this is when they read the final fluency assessment at 60–70+ words per minute. Older children can exit the Rapid Catch-up programme when they read the final fluency assessment at 90+ words per minute. At these levels, children should have sufficient fluency to tackle any book at age-related expectations. After exiting the programme, children do not need to read any more fully decodable books
The Rapid Catch-up assessment is used with any child new to the school in Year 2 and above to understand their phonic knowledge and if necessary, plan and provide additional teaching. Children in Years 2 to 6 who are in need of additional phonics teaching will complete the Rapid Catch-up initial assessment to identify gaps and inform teaching.
Children in Year 1 sit the Phonics screening check in the Summer Term.
For more information about the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised scheme, including information and guidance videos on how to pronounce the sounds and support your child at home, please click on the link.