Here at St Luke’s, we ensure that our children are equipped with the best possible tools for reading and one of the most fundamental is phonics. Research has shown that a systematic phonics approach has been consistently found to be effective in supporting pupils to master the basics of reading, particularly in the earlier stages of reading (between the ages of 4-7).
We teach phonics in a rigorous, systematic manner, with fidelity to one scheme in order for the children to make rapid and meaningful progress from EYFS and throughout KS1.
What is phonics?
Phonics helps children hear, identify and use different sounds that distinguish one word from another in the English language.
Letters or strings of letters (graphemes) are associated with particularly sounds (phonemes). This is called GPCs (Grapheme-phoneme correspondence), e.g. The letter ‘m’ is pronounced mmm.
Children are taught to recognise these GPCs in a systematic order. These are either pronounced in isolation or blended together (synthesised). For example, children are taught to take a single-syllable word such as cat apart into its three letters, pronounce a phoneme for each letter in turn /k, æ, t/, and blend the phonemes together to form a word.
Phonics specifically teaches the skills of decoding new words by sounding them out and combining or ‘blending’ the sound-spelling patterns.
How do we teach Phonics in St Luke’s?
We use the Bug Club Phonics Scheme throughout EYFS and KS1.
Children are taught in groups appropriate to their level of understanding to avoid gaps occurring in reading skills. Previously taught GPCs are regularly revisited and practised in order for the children to develop automaticity and fluency in reading.
This Phase begins in our EYFS (Nursery) and continues throughout the other phases. The focus is primarily on developing speaking and listening skills so that children can distinguish different sounds in the environment and within words.
- Environmental sounds — encouraging children to listen to the sounds around them and comparing them within different settings.
- Instrumental sounds — encouraging children to compare sounds made by different instruments.
- Body percussion — developing an awareness of rhythm within songs
- Rhythm and rhyme — experiencing rhyme within stories and identifying syllables
- Alliteration — identifying words/objects that begin with the same sound.
- Voice sounds — identifying different sounds within words (beginning to identify phonemes).
- Oral blending and segmenting — beginning to identify words/objects from sounding them out. E.g. c-a-t cat, sit s-i-t
Children are taught the names of the letters (alphabet) alongside the first sets of GPCs:
- Set 1: s, a, t, p.
- Set 2: i, n, m, d.
- Set 3: g, o, c, k.
- Set 4: ck, e, u, r.
- Set 5: h, b, f, ff, l, ll, ss
Once GPCs have been introduced, the children are taught to sound out and blend them together to read words, e.g. p-a-t pat Children also learn to segment words (break up a word into its constituent sounds e.g. din d-i-n)
Correct letter formation and writing practise is taught alongside the reading.
Children begin to read and write short captions.
Children continue to be systematically introduced to new GPCs
- Set 6: j, v, w, x
- Set 7: y, z, zz, qu
- Consonant digraphs: ch, sh, th, ng
- Vowel digraphs: ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er
By the end of Phase 3, the children will know a grapheme for each of the 42 phonemes in English.
The application of phonics in reading and writing continues.
In phase 4, the children deepen their familiarity and gain confidence with the previously taught GPCs and begin to put them together to read longer and more difficult words including 2 syllable words, e.g. monster or dragon.
- Words with adjacent consonants (CVCC e.g. pest or thank)
- Words with adjacent consonants (CCVC e.g. train or plum)
- Words with adjacent consonants (CCVCC e.g. shrink or blond)
- Words with adjacent consonants (CCCVC g. strum or splat)
- Words with adjacent consonants (CCCVCC g. splint or strict)
During this phase, the children are taught further graphemes for reading, alternative pronunciations for graphemes, how to read and spell two and three-syllable words, as well as alternative Spellings for Phonemes.
The new GPCs are:
- wh, ph,
- ay, a_e, eigh, ey, ei
- ea, e_e, ey, ie, y
- ie, i_e, y, i
- ow, o_e, o, oe
- ew, ue, u_e, (short u vowel sound oul)
- aw, au, al
- ir, ear
- ou (ow sound), oy (oi sound)
- ere, eer (ear sound) ; are, ear (air sound)
- c, k, ck, ch (c sound)
- c, sc, st, (s sound) ; se (s and z sounds)
- g, dge (j sound)
- le (l sound) ; mb (m sound) ; kn, gn (n sound) ; wr (r sound)
- thch (ch sound) ; sh alternatives ; ea (e sound) ; s (zh sound) ; wa (wo sound) ; u (o sound)
The Bug Club Phonics scheme supports learners to transition to the National Curriculum programmes of study by introducing:
- Suffixes -ing, -ed, and how to use these suffixes after a split digraph
- Suffixes -s, -es
- Prefixes re-, un-,
- Prefix, root, suffix e.g. uncovering or replayed
Common Exception Words
Common exception words (CEWs) also begin to be introduced gradually and systematically throughout the phases so that children are able to access a wider range of texts and can use different strategies for reading. These words are not easily decodable such as: do, the, was, are, there and are often referred to as ‘tricky words’.
Children take home decodable individual reading books that are closely matched to their phonics level in order for them to practise their segmenting and blending skills. This will continue until the pupil has completed the full phonics programme and has a secure phonic knowledge.
Children will be regularly assessed on their recognition of GPCs, segmenting, blending and spelling skills. This on-going assessment will be used to plan the next steps in their learning, which may include targeted interventions, additional sessions, moving phonics groups and/or whole class revision.
Termly summative assessments take place to keep track of pupil progress and results are discussed in Pupil Progress Meetings with the Assessment Coordinator/Literacy Lead.
At the end of Year 1, pupils participate in a statutory Phonics Screening Check to test pupils phonic knowledge. This data is reported to the Local Authority. Pupils who do not meet the standard at the end of Year 1, will retake the Check in Year 2.
Therefore, most children will have completed Phase 5 by the end of Year 1.
Parents and carers are kept regularly updated through parent’s meetings, reports and informal discussions with teachers, in person and via our learning platform Class Dojo. Parents are also regularly invited in for Phonics workshops to help them to help their children at home.
Useful links and resources:
Bug Club Phonics