Early Reading and Phonics Policy
At St Monica Primary School we value reading as a key life skill and are determined that every child will learn to read regardless of their background, needs or abilities, ensuring a lifelong love of reading. Phonics is taught as our main approach to early reading. We aim to deliver high quality phonics teaching that builds on children’s speaking and listening and is matched to their developing needs.
Phonics and reading are core elements of our curriculum at St Monica Primary School. We follow the ‘Letters and Sounds’ synthetic phonics programme throughout Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 (and Key Stage 2 where needed) to teach the children essential phonic skills that are required to successfully read and spell. By adopting this phonics approach, we ensure rigour, consistency and therefore, impact. Phonics is solely Letters and Sounds driven - there is no cross contamination of schemes. All staff are trained in the delivery of phonics to ensure they have a secure knowledge of early reading and the phonics lead provides regular support, monitoring and training.
Children begin to learn phonics sounds as soon as they start school in Early Years Foundation Stage EYFS. They develop their phonological awareness (the ability to hear sounds) through listening games and rhyming activities. From the EYFS phonics is taught in small ability groups so that it is reactive to the changing needs of our learners. Children progress through phases securing and applying their phonetical knowledge with a sequence of reading books matched closely to their ability.
All children across EYFS and KS1 receive a 30-minute phonics lesson every day with the aim that all children will have completed the programme by the Autumn Term of Year 2. As well as this, reading skills and the promotion of reading for pleasure, are also developed through guided reading with the teacher, 1:1 reading with an adult and additional reading opportunities within our curriculum. Children are provided with a rich learning environment that provides opportunities for the over learning and application of phonics. See lesson structure Appendices A.
Through daily phonics lessons, children are taught to recognise letters, understand the sound they make and then blend them together to read words. The vocabulary of ‘segmenting’ and ‘blending’ is used with the children. Some words, which cannot be phonetically sounded out, are taught at each phase. These are ‘tricky words’ or ‘common exception words which are taught through sight recognition. If required, visual clues are used to support with the development of vocabulary.
Pace in a lesson is important to maintain engagement and teacher talk should be kept to a minimum and focused on the learning so that there is clarity in the teaching.
At St Monica Primary School, we recognise the importance of a consistent approach across the school. This is particularly important as children transition from year groups or as they move fluidly between phonics groups within their year group depending on their current need. Therefore, we have agreed the following approaches as a staff:
Sound buttons are ‘lines’ and ‘dots’ as shown below.
We will use the correct vocabulary with the children. For example, segmenting, blending.
When reading (in whatever context) we will teach children to use their ‘reading finger’, pointing with their index finger underneath the word as the read.
We will use the phrases ‘my turn’, ‘together’ and ‘your turn’, using both hands to help explain this. For example, both hands pointing to chest for ‘my turn’.
In EYFS/Year 1, we will model writing for reading in print no ‘lead ins’. We will teach ‘natural lead ins’ in Year 2 when appropriate. See handwriting policy for more guidance. We will use Sassoon font to support this where needed.
When teaching children to segment the sounds in words, we will use our ‘phoneme fingers’, pinching the thumb first moving towards the index finger using the dominant hand. We will encourage children to do the same.
Children are assessed at regular intervals (every half term) throughout the year to ensure they make rapid progress. Children in EYFS and KS1 are grouped across their cohort according to their learning needs. This ensures children are practising and overlearning sounds and thus reduces phonics gaps. Individual assessment and AfL is used continuously throughout lessons so as to give children targets to allow ownership of their own learning. This also allows targeted individual or group support with the aim to ensure no child falls behind.
Children are assessed in classes and these assessment documents are used as working documents to support planning. Phonics books and word lists are created from assessments and are used in school and at home to provide daily practice in reading words containing focus letter sounds. The children also practise their reading with fully decodable books that are chosen by the teacher. These books contain only the sounds and tricky/common exception words that the children have been previously taught, for further application of phonics knowledge. The reading books have been carefully selected from a range of reading schemes and reflect the progression followed in Letters and Sounds following advice from The Springhill English Hub. The pace through the programme should be guided by the assessment tracking and milestones.
Parents as partners
We recognise our parents as partners, understanding the vital role they play in securing the best outcomes. Phonics training sessions are provided to support parents, giving them an insight into their child’s learning for further application beyond the school day.
Children who are able to read almost all words fluently, will access reading books from our book banded scheme, reading a Turquoise level or above. These books include those from the Oxford Reading Tree scheme and other age/level appropriate books, with a range of fiction and non-fiction.
All children have access to our school library where they are able to choose a reading for pleasure book. This may be a book they are able to read or a book they can enjoy a parent reading to them.
All children at St Monica Primary School will be confident, fluent readers by the end of Key Stage One so that they can focus on developing fluency and comprehension as they move through the school. Children will engage in phonics and understand the importance for themselves, knowing it provides the key to their learning. Children will be familiar with a range of stories, poems, rhymes and non-fiction developing a love of literature and their own love of genres and authors. Children will be excited by the possibilities that reading can bring and excited by being able to independently access quality texts. Phonics practice happens across the curriculum. When writing for children, teachers model using ‘phonics fingers’ to segment and when encountering new words, phonics knowledge is used to show children how new words can be sounded out.
Reading a page in Phonics Booklet
Reading decodable book
Reading Higgldy Piggldy Book