Phonics

Phonics and Early Reading
 
Teaching children to read and write independently is one of the fundamental purposes of a Primary School.  Reading opens the door to all learning.  For a child to read effectively they must decode and comprehend.  To help each and every child conquer the complex English spelling code, we teach them a structured and systematic phonics programme.
 
What is Phonics?
 

Simply put, phonics is a method of teaching people to read by linking sounds (phonemes) and the symbols that represent them (graphemes or letter groups). Building an understanding of the relationship between sounds and their corresponding letters is essential to learning how to read. In the English language there are 44 phonemes (sounds), however the English language can be complex and sometimes one sound can be represented in different letter groups. For example there are three sets of letter groups making the same sound; (er) as in letter, (ir) as in bird and (ur) as in church. This is why a systematic approach is essential.

In phonics lessons children are taught three main things:

GPCs (Grapheme Phoneme Correspondences)

This simply means that they are taught all the phonemes in the English language and ways of writing them down. These sounds are taught in a particular order.

Blending

Children are taught to be able to blend. This is when children say the sounds that make up a word and are able to merge the sounds together until they can hear what the word is. This skill is vital in learning to read. At Our Lady and St Joseph we use pure sounds (‘m’ not’ muh’, ’s’ not ‘suh’, etc.) so that your child will be able to blend the sounds into words more easily.

Segmenting

Children are also taught to segment. This is the opposite of blending. Children are able to say a word and then break it up into the phonemes that make it up. This skill is vital in being able to spell words.

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Phonics in Our School
 
We follow the Letters and Sounds phonics programme.  It sets out a detailed and systematic programme for teaching phonics to children with the aim of them becoming fluent readers by age seven. There are six overlapping phases. The programme begins in Nursery and continues into Year Two where the children complete Phase 6, however this is based on the average child. Additional phonics support is also provided later on in the school for pupils who have struggled to read or for some children where English is an additional language.

By the end of Phase 6 children will have learnt all 44 sounds (phonemes) in the English language, and different ways they are represented in letter groups (graphemes).

While we follow the ‘Letters and Sounds’ scheme, we take elements and resources from different places to ensure children take part in engaging and meaningful lessons. To help the children to learn the 44 sounds and the corresponding letters/letter groups we use ‘Read Write Inc.’ flash cards. Each card contains a grapheme (letter/letter group), a simple picture prompt and a catch phrase.

Supported Reading
 
The systematic approach to phonics sits alongside a daily supported reading programme.
 
  • Children learn to read words using sound blending.
  • Children read engaging stories featuring sounds they have been taught.
  • Children have meaningful discussions led by an adult where they build on their comprehension and understanding of the story.
  • Children read in groups that suit their level of need, pace and challenge.
Early intensive support is also given to help children who are struggling with their reading.
How You Can Help at Home
 
  • Listen to your child read a book of their level daily.  In Reception, Year One and Year Two, children receive two levelled books a week.  Praise your child when they face the challenge of reading.  It is vital that they find learning to read and write a positive experience; building their confidence is important.
  • Share lots of stories and book with your child.  It is important you read to your child as well as listening to them read.  Model an enjoyment of books at home, we want to ensure that all children build a love of reading.
  • Practise saying the sounds.  Ask your class teacher for a 'Letters and Sounds' sound mat. These will show you all the graphemes (letters/letter groups) taught in each phase, and a picture prompt of a word containing that grapheme and corresponding sound.
  • Encourage your child to be a 'phonics detective'.  Help them spot the digraphs and trigraphs (two or three letters making one sound).  For example, when reading the word 'church', help your child to spot the three digraphs ch/ur/ch.  We call digraphs and trigraphs 'special friends'.
  • Write words for your child that contain the sounds you have just practiced.  For example, if you have focused on the 'ch' sound in phase three, write words including the 'ch' sound for them to read (church, chat, chin, chicken).  Encourage your child to say each sound whilst using their robot arms, and then blend the sounds to read the word.
Useful Links
 
Play interactive games to keep phonics fun!  Below are some websites that include games as well as further information on phonics and how it is taught in school.
 
  • The Oxford Owl website is packed with expert advice, top tips and activity ideas so you can help your child with reading at home.
  • Alphablocks is a fun Cbeebies series.  Watch as the letters of the alphabet tell stories and make words using phonics.  Play the learning game, watch clips and print colouring pages.
  • Mr Thorne does phonics, is a handy website of phonics videos that are set-out according to the Letters and Sounds phases.
  • Phonics Play has a good selection of phonics games, divided into phases of learning.
  • The Family Learning website contains lots information and links to useful resources to explain various aspects of the UK curriculum, and how you can help your child to learn without causing confusion.
  • ICT games has a good selection of fun, interactive Literacy games.
There are also lots of fun and free phonics apps available if you search 'phonics' or 'phonics games' in the app store.