Collis follows a validated systematic synthetic phonics programme called Essential Letters and Sounds from the Knowledge Skills Trust. Phonics teaches the knowledge of the alphabetic code and the skills of segmenting (to spell) and blending (to read). Children apply their phonics to reading (decoding) and writing (encoding - spelling).
Words that are phonetically decodable for a child at that stage in their learning can be ‘sounded out’ to be read and can be spelt using our phonics knowledge. Some words might not yet be phonetically decodable for children because they have not yet learnt that letter-sound correspondence or because the word has particularly unusual GPCs. These are known as 'harder to read and spell words'. Both phonetically decodable and ‘harder to read and spell words’ are taught in your child’s phonics session and applied in writing and reading.
Phonics is taught daily in Reception from the beginning of Autumn 1 and is taught in phonics lessons. Phonics and reading is central to all of our pupil's learning experiences and we focus on creating a language-rich environment. Reception begin the year following Phase 2. Phase 1, which has begun in Nursery, focuses on sound discrimination, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds, oral blending and segmenting. Phase 2 teaches the first grapheme (spelling) for consonant sounds and short vowel sounds e.g. s, a, t. Reception then also cover Phase 3 (digraphs and first spelling of long vowel sounds e.g. ch, ai) and Phase 4 (blending adjacent consonants, polysyllabic words and revision e.g. stamp, playground). In the summer term, Reception begin to explore Phase 5. Reception apply these phonics skills to writing through mini whiteboards and p ‘ELS apply booklets’ as well as to the guided reading of fully decodable, phonics matched texts (weekly). Children take home the week’s ELS matched text as well as a text at a higher level to read with parents.
Phonics is taught daily in Year 1, revising Phase 4 and following Phase 5, which teaches alternative spellings of long vowel sounds, e.g. ay, ai, a-e. The first spellings of vowel sounds is taught in Reception and this is systematically built upon and developed in Years 1 and 2 through phonics investigations. Year 1 apply these phonics skills to writing through their daily ‘ELS apply booklets’ and writing lessons and to the guided reading of fully decodable, phonics matched texts (weekly). Children take home the week’s ELS matched text as well as a text at a higher level to read with parents.
Phonics and spelling is taught three times a week in Year 2, following Phase 5 and 6 (focusing on spelling rules). Children follow both phonics-based and spelling-based units, integrating an investigative approach to spelling rules and practising and applying their phonics to reading and writing. Guided Reading is taught three times a week, which allows all groups of pupils to be read with and engage in questioning at least once a week with a teacher or trained teaching assistant.
We aim for all children to 'keep up' rather than 'catch up'. However, some children will also benefit from ‘reinforcement’ or ‘catch up’ phonics sessions which are short interventions, additional to the main class teaching, aimed at enabling children to maintain good progress and close the gap. A limited number of children might be following an ‘instead-of’ systematic synthetic phonics curriculum, decided between the parents, SENDCO and English Lead, matched to their particular challenges.
How you can support your child with phonics at home?
Ensure that you and your children are pronouncing sounds correctly – without the schwa (the short /u/ sound which we sometimes accidently add to the end of pure sounds). For example, /t/ should not be pronounced /tuh/. Instead, you should be able to ‘bounce’ the /t/ sound, cutting as short as possible to ensure that you solely pronounce the pure sound.
Tips to support you in pronouncing pure sounds:
- Speak quietly and calmly – trying to say sounds loudly can cause us to mispronounce the
- Draw attention to your mouth movements, vibrations and position of tongue.
- If in doubt about the pure sound – test it in the context of a word, e.g. w – water, when and y – yes, yacht
- Consider if sounds are ‘bouncy’ (short) or ‘stretchy’ (long):
Bouncy sounds: a k I p t h b d g o j c e ck w qu y
Stretch sounds: f l m n r s v z
- Watch this video to support you:
Embed a culture of reading and interest in words outside of school.
- Do you read your own texts in front of, and at the same time as your children?
- Do you read with your children every day, or at least three times a week? When reading with your children, try to help them to recognise ‘sight words’ (words that they might not yet be able to phonetically decode, e.g. the, people). Your child might need help segmenting (sounding out) the word, e.g. m-e-ss, or blending the word (drawing the sounds together to read). Your child might need help spotting digraphs - it can initially be challenging for children to spot two (or three) letters making one sound, e.g. c + h = /ch/, or s + h = /sh/.
- Ensure that you also consider comprehension and reading for meaning. If your child has sounded out words within a sentence it is important that they then re-read the sentence to read for meaning. They might need help to retain or remember what they have just sounded out.
- Discuss texts with your children – why might an event have happened, or what do they think of a character? Discuss both the characters, events and information in the text – checking children can retrieve key information, but also that they can infer ideas from the text – and also children’s personal response to the text. Are children enjoying what they are reading? Have they read texts with similar narratives, characters or information or texts by the same author?
- Develop opportunities to read anything and everything – road signs, letters, emails, text messages, menus, logos… For example, could you do a sound hunt or a word hunt on a car journey? Your child might be able to spot letters/ sounds they recognise, they might be able to segment (sound out) individual words and then blend them, they might be able to recognise sight words (tricky words) within a larger text.
- Play games with sounds, rhymes and alliteration:
- Go on a sound hunt or be sound detectives in the park, or on the street. How many different sounds can you hear? Are some quiet and some louder? Can you describe the sounds or make the sounds yourself?
- Play ‘I spy’ with the initial sounds in words, as opposed to the first letter. E.g. I spy something beginning with /sh/.
- Play rhyming games like ‘Apples and Pears’ – replace a word in a sentence with a rhyming word and children have to work out the real word, e.g. Put on your box – Put on your… socks. Try exploring how many rhyming words you can say in a row, e.g. cat, hat, sat, mat, bat, fat… Play rhyming pairs – if you say a word, can you child say a rhyming word?
- Play alliterative games, e.g. can you make up silly sentences using words that start with the same letter or the same sound? Can you go through the alphabet naming as many animals/ children’s names/ objects as possible beginning with that letter?
- Play robots – children or adults speak like robots (segmenting words into their sounds) and others have to blend the sounds to be able to understand ‘robot speak’.
E.g. Pick up the b-oo-k. Let’s p-l-ay together. Shall we c-oo-k t-ea?
Have fun! Learn with your child! Speak to any of us at school if you’d like help or support.
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