What is phonics?
Phonics involves the relationship between sounds and their spellings. The goal of phonics instruction is to teach children the most common sound-spelling relationships so that they can decode, or sound out, words. This decoding ability is a crucial element in reading success.
Why is phonics teaching important?
Most poor readers tend to rely so heavily on one reading strategy, such as the use of context and picture clues, that they exclude other strategies that might be more appropriate. To become skilled, fluent readers, children need to have a repertoire of strategies to draw on. These strategies include using knowledge of sound-spelling relationships in other words, an understanding of phonics. In addition, research has shown that skilled readers attend to almost every word in a sentence and process the letters that compose each of these words.
Therefore, phonics teaching plays a key role in helping children comprehend text. It helps children map sounds onto spellings, thus enabling them to decode words. Decoding words aids in the development of word recognition, which in turn increases reading fluency. Reading fluency improves reading comprehension because as children are no longer struggling with decoding words, they can concentrate on making meaning from the text.
In addition, phonics teaching improves spelling ability because it emphasises spelling patterns that become familiar from reading. Studies show that half of all English words can be spelled with phonics rules that relate to one letter to one sound.
How is phonics taught in our school?
Phonics teaching is taught explicitly in our school. Each day, all children in school receive a minimum of 20 minutes direct phonics teaching where they learn about sound-spelling relationships. Within this they play fun, active, fast paced games and undertake a range of activities with opportunities to blend, or sound out, words and apply learned sound-spelling relationships to actual reading and writing.
The school follows the Letters and Sounds phonics programme to structure the daily phonics session, which was published by the Department for Education and Skills in 2007 as a recommended high quality scheme. This scheme aims to build children’s speaking and listening skills in their own right as well as to prepare children for learning to read by developing their phonic knowledge and skills. It sets out a detailed and systematic programme for teaching phonic skills for children starting by the age of five, with the aim of them becoming fluent readers by age seven.
This is the programme we follow:
|Phase||Phonic knowledge and Ssills|
|Activities are divided into seven aspects: environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body sounds, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and finally oral blending and segmenting.|
|Phase Two (Reception) up to 6 weeks||Learning 19 letters of the alphabet and one sound for each. Blending sounds together to make words. Segmenting words into their separate sounds. Beginning to read simple captions.|
|Phase Three (Reception) up to 12 weeks||The remaining 7 letters of the alphabet, one sound for each. Graphemes such as ch, oo, th representing the remaining phonemes not covered by single letters. Reading captions, sentences and questions. On completion of this phase, children will have learnt the “simple code”, i.e. one grapheme for each phoneme in the English language.|
|Phase Four (Reception) 4 to 6 weeks||No new grapheme-phoneme correspondences are taught in this phase. Children learn to blend and segment longer words with adjacent consonants, e.g. swim, clap, jump.|
(Throughout Year 1)
|Now we move on to the “complex code”. Children learn more graphemes for the phonemes which they already know, plus different ways of pronouncing the graphemes they already know.|
(Throughout Year 2 and beyond)
|Working on spelling, including prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters etc.|
The Letters and Sounds programme is enhanced using the Jolly Phonics scheme. This is a fun and child-centred approach to teaching literacy through synthetic phonics. It involves teaching the children actions for each of the 42 letter sounds. This multi-sensory method is very motivating for children and teachers. The letter sounds are split into seven groups and are taught in a specific order (not alphabetically). This enables children to begin building words as early as possible.
Jolly Phonics teaches children five skills.
1. Learning the letter sounds
Children are taught the 42 main letter sounds. This includes alphabet sounds as well as digraphs such as sh, th, ai and ue.
2. Learning letter formation
Using different multi-sensory methods, children learn how to form and write the letters.
Children are taught how to blend the sounds together to read and write new words.
4. Identifying the sounds in words (Segmenting)
Listening for the sounds in words gives children the best start for improving spelling.
5. Tricky words
Tricky words have irregular spellings and children learn these separately.
The Book Banding reading scheme is in operation in our school. This scheme includes a vast selection of reading books to give the children a broad and balanced range of reading material.
All books are carefully graded into reading levels known as book bands. Children are given a book band and can select books from different reading schemes that are within that level. Each book band has its own colour and the appropriate coloured label is stuck to the book.
The books are labelled into 12 colours which range from pink to lime then rainbow readers.