Reading and Phonics

Phonics at Our Lady’s Catholic Primary School.

When your child is learning to read there are two crucial things to learn:

  • the sounds represented by written letters
  • how to blend the sounds together to make words.

Synthetic Phonics is a way of teaching reading.

Children are taught to read letters or groups of letters by saying the sound(s) they represent – so, they are taught that the letter l sounds like llllll when we say it. Children can then start to read words by blending (synthesising) the sounds together to make a word.

At Our Lady’s, children are taught phonics using ‘Letters and Sounds: Principles and Practice of High Quality Phonics’ scheme.  It 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.

Phonics is taught daily and children are grouped according to the phase at which they are working.  Children also have Phonics Workbooks which provide reinforcement and extension activities; these are often given as homework in Year 1 and Year 2.

In the Summer Term, children in Year 1 will take a Phonics Screening Check.  This is not a formal test, but a way for teachers to ensure that children are making sufficient progress with their phonics skills to read words and that they are on track to become fluent readers who can enjoy reading for pleasure and for learning.

The Phonics Screening Check is taken individually by all children in Year 1 in England. It is designed to give teachers and parents information on how your child is progressing in phonics. It will help to identify whether your child needs additional support at this stage so that they do not fall behind in this vital early reading skill.

It will check that your child can:

  • Sound out and blend graphemes in order to read simple words.
  • Read phonically decodable one-syllable and two-syllable words, e.g. cat, sand, windmill.
  • Read a selection of nonsense words which are referred to as pseudo words.

At Our Lady’s, we track progress carefully, and identify children who are not progressing at the expected rate, or who require additional support.  These children will participate in a targeted intervention programme.  This support continues into Key Stage Two if required.  These children use age-appropriate materials, such as Project X Code (Oxford University Press) or Dockside (Rising Stars) which are phonic-based reading materials specifically aimed at older children.

During the Autumn Term, we hold a Phonics Morning where parents are invited into school to participate in a range of phonics activities alongside their children.  They also receive top tips and further resources to use at home to develop their children’s phonic knowledge.

Reading at Our Lady’s Catholic Primary School.

Research shows that children who can read are overwhelmingly more likely to succeed at school, achieve good qualifications and subsequently enjoy a fulfilling and rewarding career.  Those who cannot read will find themselves at a constant disadvantage.

Reading opens up a new world for children and gives them the opportunity to explore new ideas, visit new places and meet new characters.

At Our Lady’s, we place a high priority on developing skills to enable our children to become competent and fluent readers, and to promote a lifelong love of reading for pleasure.  Our Learning Challenge Curriculum™ is underpinned by the use of Quality Texts which facilitate teachers in the planning of effective literacy units with purposeful learning outcomes for the children.

Reading at Our Lady’s is taught using various teaching strategies, such as Shared Reading, Guided Reading and Individual Reading.

During Shared Reading, the teacher will demonstrate how to use a range of comprehension strategies (for example, model active engagement with the text; rehearsing prior knowledge;  demonstrate how fluent readers monitor and clarify their understanding; plan opportunities to interpret and respond to the text; teach strategies for using inference and deduction).

Every day, there is a Guided Reading session, whereby the teacher or teaching assistant works with a group to explicitly model and teach a range of reading strategies to develop word recognition and comprehension.  These are followed up by independent activities to reinforce and extend these key skills.

The Reading Scheme books that we use at Our Lady’s School are carefully selected to provide opportunities for reading interesting and engaging texts from a wide range of genres.  They are carefully structured into Book Bands which are organised according to reading age.  Our Reading Scheme books are drawn from a range of sources, such as Oxford Reading Tree, Treetops (Oxford University Press), Project X, Sunshine Spirals, PM and Collins Big Cat.  These are usually used for reading at home, but are also used for individual reading in school, particularly where a child is working below the expected level for their age.  This may be done with the class teacher, a teaching assistant or a parent volunteer.

Our curriculum also ensures that each class has the opportunity to visit our School Library once a week, and children are able to borrow books using the ‘Junior Librarian’ system, an interactive software package which tracks reading progress.  Our Library is a valued reading environment, which is maintained by our Year 6 Librarians.  Our well-resourced Library also houses a range of story sacks and puppets, which are used to develop oral story-telling alongside the teaching of reading.  We have recently purchased a set of Kindles to engage and motivate reluctant readers, especially boys.

At Our Lady’s, we are always looking for ways to enhance reading provision both at school and at home, and have recently loaned a set of Curiosity Kits from the Learning Support Service.  The Curiosity Kits aim to capture the interests of reluctant readers and to encourage family members to read and share books with their child.  They are sets of rucksacks, each based around a topic which appeals to Key Stage Two children, such as football, dinosaurs or magic.  Each rucksack contains a range of resources around the topic, such as fiction and non-fiction books, a magazine, a wordsearch, a toy or game and a comment book.  Children can take a rucksack home for a week at a time to share and enjoy the contents with adults in the home.

We work with Book Trust, an organisation which provide book packs and teaching resources to encourage wider reading, and support creative thinking and development to inspire a love of books.  Time to Read and The Ant Club are two of their initiatives.  Time to Read provides every four-year old with a free book to enjoy and share at home.

The Ant Club is a programme offered to primary schools, providing free resources for children in Reception and Year 1.  These specially developed materials are designed to complement the curriculum and to engage children, teachers and parents alike. School receive a new package of resources every term, containing a set of materials for each reception and Year 1 class. The resources are flexible so every child should be able to enjoy and learn through the Ant Club.

We have links with our local library in Edgeley, and our children visit throughout the year.  Many children also participate in the annual Summer Reading Challenge.

We also train a group of our Year 6 children to be Storytellers, who share a range of well-chosen picture books, story sacks and puppets with children in the Infants on a weekly basis.

At Our Lady’s, we participate in many activities to promote the enjoyment of reading.  These include dressing up for World Book Day and Roald Dahl Day, and class swap sessions where staff share a favourite story with different groups of children.  We invite different theatre companies into school so that children can experience a live performance linked to popular fiction.  Recent performances have included ‘Dick Whittington’ and ‘The Snow Queen’.  During the Year 6 residential visit to London, we take the children to watch a show, and Year 4 have been to Manchester Opera House to see a performance of ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’.

Further information.

If you require any further information about reading or phonics, please speak to your child’s class teacher.

Read our parents’ leaflet: Helping Your Child At Home

Reading Book Letter

Oxford Owl is a great website which provides further information, free resources and top tips to support your child with reading and phonics.  Visit www.oxfordowl.co.uk