PHONICS AND EARLY READING
Reading is a top priority at our school. As Michael Morpurgo suggests: ‘Reading is the one ability, that once set in motion, has the ability to feed itself, grow exponentially and provide a basis from which possibilities are limitless’. We are passionate about our responsibility to not only develop our pupils as fluent, confident and proficient readers but to open their minds to the magic and joy of reading. It is our mission to ensure that every child leaves Beech Grove as a reader and that no child ‘slips through the reading net’.
We recognise the importance of children making a strong start in learning to read. We have adopted a rigorous, systematic phonics programme called ‘Read Write Inc.’ (RWI) which ensures children in Reception and Year 1 quickly gain the phonics knowledge and early reading skills they need.
RWI Phonics is an inclusive programme for all children learning to read. Children learn the 44 common sounds in the English language and how to blend them to read and spell. The use of pictures and memorable phrases is used to aid children’s retention and recall of phonemes for reading and spelling. Children are given opportunities to orally explore characters’ actions, thoughts and feelings and to rehearse their writing.
The RWI sessions are expected to occur each day with no exceptions, as the continuity and pace of the programme is key to accelerating the progress of children’s reading development.
Our aims are to teach children to:
- apply the skill of blending phonemes in order to read words.
- segment words into their constituent phonemes in order to spell words.
- learn that blending and segmenting words are reversible processes.
- read high frequency words that do not conform to regular phonic patterns.
- read texts and words that are within their phonic capabilities as early as possible.
- decode texts effortlessly so all their resources can be used to comprehend what they read.
The 5 principles below underpin our teaching:
Praise – Children learn quickly in a positive climate.
Pace – Good pace is essential to the lesson.
Purpose – Every part of the lesson has a specific purpose.
Passion – This is a very prescriptive programme. It is the energy, enthusiasm and passion that teachers put into the lesson that bring the teaching and learning to life!
Participation – A strong feature of RWI lessons is partner work and the partners ‘teaching’ each other (based on research which states that we learn 70% of what we talk about with our partner and 90% of what we teach).
Pupils work within ability groups which are defined by their performance on RWI phonic assessments. Pupils are re-assessed every 6 weeks and the groups are re-organised accordingly.
Teacher generated planning is minimised as the planning is integrated into the teacher’s handbooks and follows set routines. Each group leader has a printed format for planning ditties or storybook lessons. To this framework, is added the particular ditty/storybook being studied, new phonic elements that are being introduced and any other points worthy of note for future use.
Delivery of Phonics
- Initial sounds are taught in a specific order.
- Sounds taught should be ‘pure’ ie ‘b’, not ‘buh’ as this is central to phonic teaching and children's ability to recognise sounds in words.
- Children are to be taught that the number of graphemes in a word always corresponds to the number of phonemes. This greatly aids spelling.
- Set 2 sounds are to be taught after Set 1 (initial sounds)
- Letter names are to be introduced with Set 3.
Here are a few video clips to show the teaching of phonics in one of our reception classes:
Assessment and Recording
Children are assessed throughout every lesson. Every time partner work is used the teacher assesses the progress of the children. The teacher assesses how children:
- read the grapheme chart
- read the green and red word lists
- decode the ditty/story
- comprehend the story
For those children needing frequent repetition, 'pinny time' is carried out in EYFS classes. For those children at risk of falling behind, formal 1:1 tutoring sessions are implemented by the support staff working across year groups to address the gaps.
Monitoring and Review
The RWI lead:
- organises the assessment of all pupils accessing phonics and designates pupils to the correct groups
- assigns leaders to groups
- ‘drops in’ on RWI groups to give advice and to informally check that pupils are in the correct groups
- models lessons where necessary
- attends up-date meetings when they occur and reports back to the RWI group leaders
- speaks with the head teacher regarding groupings, teaching spaces and other pertinent matters
- is responsible for reporting to the governors about the quality of the implementation of RWI and the impact on standards.
To encourage regular reading and reading for pleasure, all classes have daily opportunities for reading and are read to daily.
HOME READING BOOKS
The children take home five reading books each week. These fully decodable books link to our RWI programme and the books the children have been taught in school.
- Two books are paper, black and white story books. One of these is a previously taught book and the other is a book they are currently learning in RWI. These books give your child the opportunity to practice the sounds and skills they have been taught in their RWI lessons, so they are a really important part of the programme. These are books that the children should read to someone at home.
- Two books are our ‘book bag books’. One of these is linked to a previously taught RWI book and the other is linked to the RWI book they are currently learning. These are books that the children should read to someone at home.
- One book is a picture book from the library or classroom: The children have free choice of this book. This book is not decodable and does not match where the children are in the RWI programme. Therefore, this is a book which an adult should read to the child for enjoyment and pleasure.
In addition, all children have the opportunity to select books that interest them from our library, during their regular library slots, as well as enjoying daily class story time.
Through the teaching of systematic phonics, our aim is for children to become fluent readers by the end of Key Stage One. This ensures they are freed up to focus on developing their comprehension skills as they move through the school.
Attainment in phonics is measured by the Phonics Screening Check (PSC) at the end of Year 1. As a school, we consistently perform well above the national average in this check. If any child does not reach the standard, they continue on the RWI programme to ensure they reach the standard in Year 2. No child is left behind.
Further information for parents
- What is phonics and why do we teach it?
Phonics is a way of teaching children to read skillfully.
They are taught how to:
- recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes;
- identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make – such as ‘sh’ or ‘oo’; and
- blend those sounds together from left to right to make a word.
Children can then use this knowledge to ‘decode’ new words that they see or hear. This is the first important step to learning to read.
Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5 to 7.
Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and read for enjoyment.
Children who have been taught phonics also tend to read more accurately than those taught using other methods, such as ‘look and say’. This includes children who find learning difficult to read, for example those who have dyslexia. At Beech Grove we use the RWI scheme for teaching phonics.
Please see www.gov.uk/government/collections/phonics for more information.
- What is meant by Set 1, Set 2 and Set 3?
Set 1 sounds
Children learn their sounds in groups, building to using these groups of sounds to read and spell words in Word Time sessions. To begin with there are 6 groups in set 1.
Set 2 sounds
As children progress into learning set 2 sounds they will move from ditty books onto books with one, longer story. RWI lessons will contain time to learn new sounds, existing sound practice, time for reading and also writing.
Set 3 sounds
Children begin to learn that there are multiple ways to read and spell some sounds. They are reminded of one way and learn another, new way.
- What is meant by 'green' words?
'Green' words are phonetically decodable words that the children learn to read. They allow children to become fluent readers because regular reading of these words mean that they become familiar and are able to recognise/read them on sight. They can then use their knowledge of these words to read similar words more quickly. The following are not an exhaustive list of the only words that children will read but instead are an indication of the types of words that will be read at each stage. Children are not tested on these as reading or spelling tests but their ability to read them may be used to inform us of their progress.
The Green words build in stages, called 'Word Time' lessons and during these sessions the children use their recently learnt sounds to segment and blend words.
- Word Time 1 Green Words
- Word Time 2 Green Words
- Word Time 3 Green Words
- Word Time 4 Green Words
- Word Time 5 Green Words
- Word Time 6 Green Words
- Word Time 7 Green Words
- What is meant by 'red' words?
These are words that children will need to learn on sight because they contain parts that are not decodable. They are arranged into groups according to the colour of the books that they appear in. They might only be red words until a specific sound is learnt or because people pronounce them differently in different parts of the country.
- Ditty Books Red Words
- Green Books Red Words
- Purple Books Red Words
- Pink Books Red Words
- Orange Books Red Words
- Yellow Books Red Words
- Blue Books Red Words
- Grey Books Red Words
- Who is Fred?
Fred is our RWI mascot/friend. He can only speak in sounds though, so we have to help him learn to say words, instead of sounds. For example Fred says 'c-a-t' instead of cat. We also teach him not to add 'uh' to our sounds in order to keep them pure. For example we say 'c' and not 'cuh'.
- What is meant by 'Fred Fingers'?
We use 'Fred Fingers' to help make the transition between oral sounding out and spelling with magnetic letters or on paper.
Firstly we count how many sounds we can hear:
"cat, c-a-t, 3 sounds".
Then we hold up that many fingers.
For each sound we use our other hand to squeeze a Fred Finger and say the sound
Then we use our free hand to 'sweep' over our Fred Fingers and to blend the sounds into a word
Watch out - words such as fish needs 3 Fred Fingers - "f-i-sh". Words such as flight need 4 Fred Fingers - "f-l-igh-t".
As children become more confident with their sounds and spelling words they will move away from using their Fred Fingers and instead rely on sounding out in their head.
- What books will my child read in their RWI lessons?
After children have learned enough sounds they will begin to read 'Ditty' books in their RWI lessons, as well as continuing Speedy Sounds and Word Time sessions. Ditty books contain 3 short stories that the children read and these stories are made up from green and red words.
Following Ditty books children continue to read groups of books that have been specially written to support progress through the scheme.
Each colour band contains 10 main books, with extra books to support non-fiction reading as well. Children are taught to read the 'green' and 'red' words at the beginning of each book, before checking understanding using the 'vocab check' page. The children also talk about the upcoming story to make links to their own experiences before reading the book, usually 3 times. The first time is to practise decoding the words, the second time is to practise expression and the third time is to read for comprehension. Each book focuses on a particular sound or set of sounds, allowing the children to practise the sounds that they have been learning most recently. Adults will move their group through the books, picking and choosing books that they feel will best support the learning of their group.
- Why do children practise reading 'nonsense' words?
Research has shown that incorporating nonsense words into teaching reading can be an effective way to establish blending and segmenting skills. However it is important to ensure that children understand that they are reading nonsense words (and why) so that they are not confused by trying to read the words for meaning. By reading nonsense words children develop their ability to decode individual sounds and then blend them together to read. They are an indicator of early reading skills and work as a quick, reliable and valid way of assessing children.
Below you can find some examples of nonsense words for each stage of RWI Of course, any number of nonsense words exist and the following lists are only to give an idea of the kinds of words that might be used.