Children in Reception and Key Stage 1 (Year 1 & 2) follow a systematic synthetic phonics approach to teaching phonics. This teaches children that individual letters and groups of letters are called graphemes and that they make different sounds. These sounds are then blended together to form a complete word. Or words are segmented into sounds to understand how they are spelt.
At Ashton St. Peter’s we follow the Department of Education’s approved systematic synthetic phonics programme: Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS).
This programme is divided into 4 phases: Phase 2, 3, and 4 are taught in Reception and Phase 5 is taught in Year 1. Each phase builds upon the skills and knowledge of previous learning. Children have time to practise and rapidly expand their ability to read and spell words. They are also taught how to read and spell ‘tricky words’, which are words with spellings that are unusual or that do not follow a ‘rule’. This include words such as: ‘to’, ‘was’, ‘said’ and ‘the’. These words cannot be segmented into their sounds, so children are taught to recognise them.
In nursery children are taught Phase 1. They are taught to listen attentively to environmental sounds, such as: traffic, children playing and birds singing. They are also taught to listen to the sounds in our spoken language. They learn a wide range of nursery rhymes and songs and will read books with repetition to help increase their vocabulary.
Children begin to learn Phase 2, which introduces 19 letters of the alphabet or ‘graphemes’ as they are called and the corresponding sound it makes. These sounds are called Phonemes. The children are taught a mnemonic for each grapheme that helps them learn how to write it. For example: ‘t’ is a picture of a teacher and we say ‘down her body and cross her shoulders’.
The children are taught a crucial skill in early reading of how to segment and blend words to read them. We begin by orally segmenting and blending, so that the children can learn how to hear the sounds and how they are blended together to make a word. At the same time, children are taught how to segment and blend already learnt graphemes, e.g. ‘s’, ‘a’, ‘t’ is ‘sat’. We then move onto simple captions, e.g. ‘cats and dogs’.
During this phase, children begin to bring home grapheme flash cards to support their learning at school. We encourage parents to ask their child “what sound does this grapheme make?” and also “can you find the ___ ?”. After a few weeks, children begin to bring home a reading book, which has been carefully matched to their phonic understanding. We encourage parents to support their child’s segmenting and blending of the words in the book and listen to them read every day.
In Phase 3, children are taught 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’. We also begin to move onto reading more complex captions, sentences and questions.
In Phase 4, children do not learn any new sounds, as they concentrate on learning to blend and segment longer words, captions and sentences. This includes learning to blend adjacent consonants, e.g. ‘mp’ in ‘jump’.
In both Reception and Year 1, Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS) is taught as a whole class and any misconceptions are addressed immediately within interventions that are taught to the children after the lesson.
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’. During this year the children sit the government’s Phonics Screening Check, which assesses children’s ability to segment and blend words.
As children begin year 2, they start phase 6. This phase concentrates on spelling rules and consolidating all previous knowledge taught so far.
Key Stage 2 (Years 3, 4, 5, and 6)
In Key Stage 2, the teaching of spelling builds upon the learning in Phase 6 with patterns, rules and word groups explored and investigated. Once children have learnt a particular rule or pattern, they are encouraged to use this new learning in their written work.
In Lower Key Stage 2 (Years 3 and 4), repetition and consolidation of all phonics learning continues as a regular whole-class activity.
Where needed, explicit phonics teaching will continue into Upper Key Stage 2 (Years 5 and 6) as part of our catch-up intervention programme.
Ways you can support your child at home
Developing good listening skills helps to improve your child’s reading skills too. Noting sounds in the home (a ticking clock, the microwave ping) or on a walk (bird song, the whoosh of a train), as well as more sophisticated letter sound games like sound lotto, will help your child to hear the sounds that words make.
Play this game as much as possible with your children at home. This will encourage them to understand the beginning sound for individual words.
You could be on the bus, walking to the shop, looking at logos on your clothes or even watching TV. Point out the letters and say the sound of them.
What’s in the box…?
If you don’t have lots of objects at home to play sound games with, then don’t worry. You can play the imaginary game that we play at school, called ‘What’s in the box’? You just pretend that you have a box with lots of objects in and you can be as creative as you like. You just say…’In my box today I have a d o g’ (in a robot voice) your child then has to blend the sounds together to make the word. If your child struggles with this at first then you can give them a clue, this will encourage positivity and allow them to achieve.
Clap and Chunk
Clapping out syllables or chunks in words and names can help with reading longer words: Di-no- saur! Cho-co-late! Or point out that some words are made up of two words, so wind and
then mill makes windmill.
Read, Read, Read
It’s really important to read as much as possible with your child. Read the books that come home from school, borrow library books, and buy books and magazines. Read signs and notices, and find interesting websites to read. And keep reading together at bedtime too!