Here at Tithe Barn Primary School, we love to read!
The Importance of Phonics
Word-reading is one of the essential dimensions of reading; the other is comprehension. Skilled word-reading involves working out the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) and recognising familiar printed words. Underpinning both of these is the understanding that letters represent the sounds in spoken words. Fluent decoding supports pupils’ comprehension, because they don’t have to devote mental energy to individual words. A good grasp of phonics is also important for spelling, contributing to fluency and confidence in writing. (DfE 2012)
Phonics is the method of teaching reading and writing by correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters. There are 44 sounds in the English language which we put together to form words. Some sounds are represented by one letter like the 't' in tin, whilst other sounds are represented by two or more letters like 'ck' in duck.
Children are taught the sounds, how to match them to letters and finally how to use the letter sounds for reading and spelling.
Phonics in Reception and Year 1
At Tithe Barn, we follow a fully resourced Systematic Synthetic Phonics Programme called 'Rocket Phonics', which enables children to learn how to read and write. Teachers use a combination of digital and printed resources, along with a fully matched series of decodable reading books. There is also an online platform, meaning that books and resources can be assigned digitally, to be used at home.
The Rocket Phonics lessons follow a Review, Teach, Practice and Apply format. Lessons last 30 mins and are taught four times per week. By the end of Reception, children who are working at Age Related Expectations will have been taught all of the sounds and Common Exception Words in Set 1 and they will have completed Practice Books 1, 2 and 3 and they should be reading a yellow or yellow plus coloured book.
By the end of Year 1, children who are working at Age Related Expectations will have been taught all of the sounds and Common Exception Words in Set 2 and they will have completed Practice Books 4, 5 and 6 and they should be reading an Orange coloured book.
Year 2, children working at Age Related Expectations should now know all of alphabetic code, so no new sounds are introduced, but decoding strategies are still revised and referred to frequently, as a means to decode new and unknown words.
By Phase 6, children should be able to read hundreds of words using one of three strategies:
- Reading them automatically
- Decoding them quickly and silently
- Decoding them aloud
Children should now be spelling most words accurately (this is known as 'encoding'), although this usually lags behind reading. They will also learn, among other things:
- Prefixes and suffixes, e.g. ‘in-’ and ‘-ed’
- The past tense
- Memory strategies for high frequency or topic words
- How to use a dictionary
- Where to put the apostrophe in words like ‘I’m’
- Spelling rules
Although formal phonics teaching is usually complete by the end of Year 2, children continue to use their knowledge as they move up the school. ‘The whole aim of phonics teaching is not just to learn the sounds, but to use them as a tool for reading and spelling. ‘Everything leads on to independent reading and writing.
Technical Vocabulary Explained:
- Phoneme: the smallest unit of sound. There are 44 phonemes in English. Phonemes can be put together to make words.
- Grapheme: way of writing down a phoneme. Graphemes can be made up from 1 letter e.g. p, 2 letters e.g. sh, 3 letters e.g. tch or 4 letters e.g ough
- Digraph: a grapheme containing two letters that makes just one sound (phoneme).
- Trigraph: a grapheme containing three letters that makes just one sound (phoneme).
- GPC: grapheme-phoneme correspondence
- Blending: Looking at a written word, looking at each grapheme and using knowledge of GPCs to work out which phoneme each grapheme represents and then merging these phonemes together to make a word. This is the basis of reading.
- Oral Segmenting: Hearing a whole word and then splitting it up into the phonemes that make it. Children need to develop this skill before they will be able to segment words to spell them.
- Segmenting: Hearing a word, splitting it up into the phonemes that make it, using knowledge of GPCs to work out which graphemes represent those phonemes and then writing those graphemes down in the right order. This is the basis of spelling.
Set 1 sounds taught during Reception - Flash Card Set 1 download PDF below
Set 1 sounds taught during Year 1 - Flash Card Set 2 download PDF below
The Alphabetic Code
This short video for parents, carers and families explains what the English alphabetic code is and how we teach it through the Rocket Phonics SSP programme.
Phonics Screener information for Parents
In Year 1, during the month of June, all children are required to sit the statutory Phonics Screener check. Children will be shown a mixture of real words and alien words, containing a mixture of phase 3 and phase 5 sounds. Your child will be asked to read the word, which they can either sound-out and blend or just read. Children either pass or don't pass the test. Children who don't pass the test, are given the opportunity to re-sit the test during the Summer Term of Year 2. We have a workshop for parents in January which provides further information on this assessment.
Rocket Phonics Pupil and Parent Guide