As you know, the ability to read and write is a vital skill for all children. Children learn and practise many of the skills they need for reading and writing from a very early age. They do this through a wide range of activities and experiences at home and in school. They explore through singing and saying rhymes, talking with others, sharing stories, dressing up, experimenting with writing and using puppets to retell stories. In order for children to make a good start in reading and writing, children need to have an adult listen to them and talk to them. Speaking and listening skills are the foundation for reading and writing. Phonics is a method of teaching reading and writing of the English language. It develops the ability to hear, identify and manipulate sounds and match them to their corresponding letters and spelling patterns.
At St Margaret’s Anfield Primary School, we follow the DfE Letters and Sounds scheme of work. Children begin to take part in phonics sessions from Nursery. When they are ready, they start in Phase 1. This supports the development of speaking and listening skills which paves the way for high quality phonic work. We plan fun multi-sensory sessions which involve lots of games to encourage children’s active participation. Teachers model oral blending of sounds in words which is a vital skill for reading.
Phase 2 marks the beginning of systematic phonic work. Children continue to practise their speaking and listening skills as they start to look at letters and their corresponding sounds. They learn how to put these sounds together to read and write simple words.
Phase 3 completes the teaching of the alphabet. The children move on to two letter sounds (digraphs) and practise blending and segmenting more complex words. They also build up a bank of tricky words and begin to spell some of them.
Phonics teaching continues into KS1 (Yr1 and Yr2.) In Phase 4, children continue to practise previously learnt letters and sounds. They learn how to use and apply their phonic knowledge in both reading and writing.
As the English language contains so many alternative spelling patterns, the aim of Phase 5 is to broaden children’s knowledge of letters and sounds needed for reading and spelling. The children become quicker at recognising complex sounds and can choose appropriate spelling patterns more easily. They also build up an extensive bank of tricky words.
In Phase 6, reading should become automatic. Children become much more fluent and can decode new words easily. The focus is placed on developing spelling skills as this is more difficult than reading. The children are taught word specific spellings and learn how to choose between spelling alternatives.
Phonics is seen as a process. The programme is a step by step guide to word recognition. The automatic reading and spelling of all words is the end goal. Children are regularly assessed as they move through the phonic phases. At the end of Year 1, the children take the DfE Phonics Screening Test. If they do not achieve the required standard, they take the test again at the end of Year 2. The idea of the test is to measure how well your child can use their phonic skills and to identify those who need extra help. Parents are informed of their child’s score at the end of Year1.