Phonics & Early Reading

The teaching of phonics and early reading strategies are a high priority at Castleward Spencer Academy. We have dedicated daily phonics sessions throughout the Foundation Stage and KS1, embedding the core skills of segmenting and blending. We ensure consistency in our approach through adopting a well-researched and proven systematic synthetics phonics programme, Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised. This is underpinned by outstanding teacher subject knowledge, rigorous assessment, high levels of pupil engagement and achievement, progression and challenge and a core expectation that pupils master the skills necessary to become competent when reading, writing and spelling.

 

Teaching Approach

At Castleward Spencer Academy, we follow the five phases of Letters and Sounds. The Letters and Sounds resource was published by the Department for Education and Skills in 2007 and aims to develop children’s speaking and listening skills, as well as prepare them for learning to read and spell by developing their phonic knowledge and skills.

As a school, we implement this guidance through the use of Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised, which is systematic and structured phonics programme. The programme is a balanced approach to the teaching of reading using systematic synthetic phonics as outlined in Letters and Sounds. It simultaneously teaches the segmentation of words for spelling, and develops phonemic awareness skills.

Developing strong phonological awareness, enables children to apply these skills to early reading and writing strategies. In the EYFS, KS1 and beyond if appropriate, children are given regular opportunities to apply their phonics knowledge by using a full matched decodable reading book, in a small group reading practice session. These sessions are 15 minutes long and happen three times a week. The sessions follow the model set out in Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised. The children then take the same book home the following week to share with their families.

 

The Importance of Pronunciation

An important part of phonics teaching to be aware of when supporting your child at home, is the precise pronunciation of the sounds taught. It’s vital that only pure sounds are used and that ‘uh’ is not added to sounds, for example, pronouncing the ‘m’ sound as ‘muh’. Please see the videos below to hear how each sound pronounced correctly.

Phase 2 sounds taught in Reception Autumn 1

 

Phase 2 sounds taught in Reception Autumn 2

 

Phase 3 sounds taught in Reception Spring 1

 

How We Teach Blending

As mentioned earlier we teach children that the letters of the alphabet each represent a different sound, that these can be used in a variety of combinations and are put together to make words. The children are taught to blend these sounds to read words. The video below demonstrates how the children are taught the skill of blending.

 

How We Teach Tricky Words

The children are also taught to read tricky words in phonics lessons. The tricky words we will teach as we move to the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised scheme are very similar to those currently taught under the original Letters and Sounds programme.

Tricky words are words that cannot be sounded out easily. They are common words that have complex spellings in them. The video below demonstrates how the children are taught to read tricky words.

 

Phonics Screening Check

In Year 1 children take part in a phonics screening check to assess their understanding of the different sounds taught and their ability to apply this to blending and reading words.

The check, which lasts 5-10 minutes and is administered 1:1 by each child’s teacher, requires pupils to read aloud forty words. To pass, they must correctly read aloud 32/40 of the words. Some of the words in the check are harder than others, and some aren’t actual words with any meaning, but made-up (alien) words. These made up words are used to see if children can apply their ability to decode sounds to correctly read them. This will ensure they can apply the same principles to learning new words as their vocabulary grows.

 

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