Phonics & Reading
Information for Parents on Phonics
What is Phonics?
Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skillfully. They are taught how to:
- recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes;
- identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make - such as ‘sh’ or ‘oo’; and
- blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word.
Children can then use this knowledge to ‘decode’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read.
Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5 to 7.
Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment.
Children who have been taught phonics also tend to read more accurately than those taught using other methods, such as ‘look and say’. This includes children who find learning to read difficult, for example those who have dyslexia.
What is the Phonics Screening Check?
The phonics screening check is a quick and easy check of your child’s phonics knowledge. It helps your school confirm whether your child has made the expected progress.
The check takes place during June each year.
National and Manor Way Primary Academy Standards
Nationally, 81% of pupils met the expected standard in the phonics screening check at the end of year 1, an increase of 23 percentage points since the introduction of the check in 2012. The proportion of year 1 pupils who meet the expected standard in phonics has increased year-on-year from 58% in 2012 to 81% in 2017.
At Manor Way 96% of pupils met the expected standard in the phonics screening check. 15% higher than national.
How Does the Check Work?
- Your child will sit with a teacher he or she knows and be asked to read 40 words aloud.
- Your child may have read some of the words before, while others will be completely new.
- The check normally takes just a few minutes to complete and there is no time limit. If your child is struggling, the teacher will stop the check. The check is carefully designed not to be stressful for your child.
What are ‘Non-Words’?
The check will contain a mix of real words and ‘non-words’ (or ‘nonsense words’). Your child will be told before the check that there will be non-words that he or she will not have seen before. Many children will be familiar with this because many schools already use ‘non-words’ when they teach phonics.
Non-words are important to include because words such as ‘vap’ or ‘jound’ are new to all children. Children cannot read the non-words by using their memory or vocabulary; they have to use their decoding skills. This is a fair way to assess their ability to decode.
After the Check
We will share with you your child’s progress in phonics and how he or she has done in the screening check in the end of year school report.
All children are individuals and develop at different rates. The screening check ensures that teachers understand which children need extra help with phonic decoding.
If your child has found the check difficult, we will also tell you what support we have put in place to help him or her improve. We will work with you to support your child to take the next step in reading. Children who have not met the standard in year 1 will retake the check in year 2.
Helping your Child with Phonics
Phonics works best when children are given plenty of encouragement and learn to enjoy reading and books. Parents play a very important part in helping with this.
Some simple steps to help your child learn to read through phonics:
- Attend the phonics workshop or ask your child’s class teacher about the school’s approach to phonics and how you can reinforce this at home. All the workshops information and powerpoint will be on the class page on the website.
- Your teacher will be able to tell you which letters and sounds the class is covering in lessons each week. You can then highlight these sounds when you read with your child. Teaching how sounds match with letters is likely to start with individual letters such as ‘s’, ‘a’ and ‘t’ and then will move on to two-letter sounds such as ‘ee’, ‘ch’ and ‘ck’.
- With all books, encourage your child to ‘sound out’ unfamiliar words and then blend the sounds together from left to right rather than looking at the pictures to guess. Once your child has read an unfamiliar word you can talk about what it means and help him or her to follow the story.
- Your child’s teacher will also be able to suggest books with the right level of phonics for your child. These books are often called ‘decodable readers’ because the story is written with words made up of the letters your child has learnt. Your child will be able to work out new words from their letters and sounds, rather than just guessing.
- Try to make time to read with your child every day. Grandparents and older brothers or sisters can help, too. Encourage your child to blend the sounds all the way through a word.
- Word games like ‘I-spy’ can be an enjoyable way of teaching children about sounds and letters. You can also encourage your child to read words from shopping lists or road signs to practise phonics.
- Children at Manor Way have a reading record, which is a great way for teachers and parents to communicate about what children have read. The reading record can tell you whether your child has enjoyed a particular book and shows problems or successes he or she has had, either at home or at school.
Useful websites are:
Phonics Scheme Letters and Sounds
Helping you understand how we teach phonics...
The scheme that we use is Letters and Sounds and we teach in line with the 6 phases laid out in the document. We use a range of resources to support teaching Letters and Sounds.
Phase 1 During Pre-School and ongoing through Reception
Phase One activities are arranged under the following seven aspects:
The aim is for children to experience regular, planned opportunities to listen carefully and talk extensively about what they hear, see and do. Each aspect is divided into three strands:
Activities within the seven aspects are designed to help children:
Phase 2 During Reception Autumn Term
In Phase 2, letters and their sounds are introduced one at a time.
As soon as each set of letters is introduced, children will be encouraged to use their knowledge of the letter sounds to blend and sound out words. For example, they will learn to blend the sounds s-a-t to make the word sat. They will also start learning to segment words. For example, they might be asked to find the letter sounds that make the word tap from a small selection of magnetic letters
A letter is introduced daily and consequently a set of letters is taught each week, in the following sequence:
Phase 3 During Reception Spring Term
By the time they reach Phase 3, children will already be able to blend and segment words containing the 19 letters taught in Phase 2.
Over the twelve weeks which Phase 3 is expected to last, twenty-five new graphemes are introduced (one at a time).
During Phase 3, children will also learn the letter names using an alphabet song, although they will continue to use the sounds when decoding words.
Phase 4 - Last term of reception and recap at the start of Year 1
When children start Phase Four of the Letters and Sounds phonics programme, they will know a grapheme for each of the 42 phonemes. They will be able to blend phonemes to read CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words and segment in order to spell them.
Children will also have begun reading straightforward two-syllable words and simple captions, as well as reading and spelling some tricky words.
In Phase 4, no new graphemes are introduced. The main aim of this phase is to consolidate the children's knowledge and to help them learn to read and spell words which have adjacent consonants, such as trap, string and milk.
Phase 5 Year 1
Children entering Phase Five will already be able to read and spell words with adjacent consonants, such as trap, string and flask. They will also be able to read and spell some polysyllabic words.
In Phase Five, children will learn more graphemes and phonemes. For example, they already know ai as in rain, but now they will be introduced to ay as in day and a-e as in make. Alternative pronunciations for graphemes will also be introduced, e.g. ea in tea, head and break.
With practice, speed at recognising and blending graphemes will improve. Word and spelling knowledge will be worked on extensively.
Phase 6 Year 2
At the start of Phase Six of Letters and Sounds, children will have already learnt the most frequently occurring grapheme–phoneme correspondences (GPCs) in the English language. They will be able to read many familiar words automatically. When they come across unfamiliar words they will in many cases be able to decode them quickly and quietly using their well-developed sounding and blending skills. With more complex unfamiliar words they will often be able to decode them by sounding them out.
At this stage children should be able to spell words phonemically although not always correctly. In Phase Six the main aim is for children to become more fluent readers and more accurate spellers.