At Ashton St. Peter’s Church of England VA Primary School we are passionate about supporting children to be able to read with fluency and automaticity by the end of year 6. We believe that phonics provides the foundations of reading and writing, allowing children to access our challenging curriculum. Through our daily phonics session, children learn to decode words, by segmenting the word into the sounds to support their spelling ability and blending sounds into words to read. We also develop their comprehension, by explaining the meaning of words in context to ensure their comprehension skills progress as well as their decoding skills. We consider the teaching of phonics to be of the highest priority in our school curriculum.
At Ashton St. Peter’s we use the Department of Education approved systematic synthetic phonics programme: Essential Letters and Sounds. This scheme was designed by teachers in the Knowledge Schools Trust, which support our school as our English hub and is a progressive programme covering phases 2 to 5. Children are introduced to phase 1 in their nursery settings.
Our children begin learning phase 2 in Reception, which introduces 19 letters of the alphabet or ‘graphemes’ as they are called in phonics and their corresponding sound or phoneme. Phase 1 listening games are also played in the first few weeks of starting school to ensure that children are ready for phase 2. Essential Letters and Sounds is taught as a whole class and any misconceptions are addressed immediately within interventions that are taught to the children after the lesson.
Following on from phase 2, the children start phase 3, which introduces the remaining 7 letters/graphemes of the alphabet and their corresponding sound/phoneme. We then begin to introduce digraphs, which are two letters that make one sound, e.g. ‘ch’. Throughout phases 2 and 3, children are taught how to orally segment and blend sounds together to be able to read words and are sent home with reading books that allow the children to practise applying their knowledge.
These early phases are crucial in allowing children to learn the simple code of reading and because of this, parents are invited into school to attend two workshops. Firstly, to explain how we teach phonics and secondly, to explain how to listen to your child read, which helps parents to understand how to ask their child questions to develop their comprehension and also how to use their child’s flashcards to make words to help them practise segmenting and blending. We also put videos on our website of how to pronounce the sounds.
The last phase in reception is phase 4. No new sounds are taught within this phase, instead children learn to segment longer words with adjacent consonants, e.g. ‘mp’ in ‘jump’. They also carry on with practising reading their appropriately chosen reading books.
As children begin year 1, they start phase 5 which is a more complex code, as it now begins to introduce children to the idea that there can be more than one grapheme for each sound and that additionally, there are different ways of pronouncing the graphemes that they have already learnt, e.g. ‘a’ as in ‘hat’ or ‘acorn’. To support our parents, we invite them in for another phonics workshop to talk about how phase 5 is taught, how they can support their children’s reading within year 1, and how they can help their child with the Phonics Screening Test.
Through the teaching of Essential Letters and Sounds in reception and year 1, we teach children to master the skill of segmenting and blending and to progress to reading words automatically, which is one of the first steps for children to become fast, accurate and effortless readers. Progress is measured in phonics by the Phonics Screening Test at the end of year 1.