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Phonics and Early Reading

Phonics and Early Reading:


At Sheen Mount, we are passionate about supporting all children in becoming confident and enthusiastic readers and writers. We aim to develop each child so that they are able to read with fluency as well as develop a love of reading that will stay with our children all their lives. Being able to read is the most important skill children will learn during their early schooling and has far-reaching implications for lifelong confidence and well-being. Early reading skills and phonics is fundamental in giving children the skills needed to enjoy and access their learning and the wider world around them. The learning of phonics is the beginning of children’s body of knowledge, skills and understanding that are an essential part of learning to read. Phonics is the process that is used to help children break down words into sounds (segmenting) and put sounds back together to read words (blending). It helps with building letter and word recognition. In order to read and understand texts children must learn to recognise/decode the words on the page. Good quality phonics teaching allows the child to be secure in the skills of word recognition and decoding which allows children to read fluently. Children further learn to segment words to support their spelling ability, making phonically plausible attempts at spelling words. We aim to teach high quality phonics to ensure the children have the best start possible in reading and writing. By the end of their time here at Sheen Mount, our pupils will be able to read fluently and confidently, enjoy reading for pleasure, and they will have developed higher order reading for meaning skills.


At Sheen Mount we use the “Letters and Sounds” document and lessons are discrete, systematic, multi-sensory and follow clear progression. We use phonics as the prime approach to decoding print and lessons are taught every day. Children have an opportunity to practise and apply their phonics and learning is revisited and reviewed so that deeper learning can take place. We follow the structure of Revisit/Review-Teach-Practise-Apply-Consolidate. Lessons are taught following clear termly progression maps which map out the focus sounds and words week on week, phase by phase. Clear links are made to the Early Years Framework and the KS1 Word Reading and Spelling National Curriculum to ensure coverage and so that reading and writing/spelling is developed side by side.  This means that children are provided with a structured, clear route to meet the expected standard in word reading and spelling, and they develop their speaking and listening skills too. All children practise oral segmenting and blending skills, apply them to reading words and sentences and develop the grapheme phoneme correspondence with writing. Phonics is also practised outside of lessons and children are encouraged to use their phonics for reading in all lessons so that they have an opportunity to practise and apply throughout the day. In Reception, well planned continuous provision provide opportunities for pupils to practise and apply their phonics skills and knowledge. 

See document 'Sheen Mount Progression of Phonics Phases'. 

What phonics and early reading looks like at Sheen Mount:


In Reception, teachers use ‘Jolly Phonics’ to teach letters and sounds, starting from Phase 2 and progressing to Phase 4. This involves learning discrete sounds using songs, actions, games and a range of multi-sensory activities. Children learn to segment and break up a word before blending the sounds back together to form the word. They use strategies such as sound buttons, beans and sausages and counting sounds to segment and blend words. Children also begin to learn ‘exception words’ which are words that are not decodable. These are sometimes referred to as ‘tricky’ words.  


In KS1, children continue to use a range of activities to develop their phonic knowledge and have a discrete lesson every day. Each class will teach phonics at a similar pace and lessons are planned in this way but assessment for learning is used as required. In Year 1, children are supported in their transition and revisit/consolidate their learning from Reception by recapping sounds using Jolly Phonics actions before moving on to using different sound mats/friezes/flashcards. They consolidate their recognition and reading of phase 3 sounds/words and phase 4 words, before moving on to new sounds in phase 5 where there are different ways of representing the same sound. For example the ‘a’ sound is written as ‘ai, ay, a_e’. They move from ‘simple code’ to more ‘complex code’. The children develop their reading of Year 1 ‘exception words’.  In Year 2, children revise what they have learnt the previous year before spending time on phase 5 sounds, looking at alternative pronunciations and spellings in more detail. They not only go over the reading of words with phase 5 sounds but investigate patterns and rules and focus on the spelling of these words. They continue to spell by making phonically plausible attempts and spell more accurately. Dictation is used to support children’s spelling and writing. They also begin phase 6 which investigates and explores spellings, tenses and other elements of the spelling and grammar national curriculum. Children learn to read and spell Year 2 ‘exception words’. Phonics support continues in Year 3 for those who have not yet met the expected standard. 


Reading Schemes:

In Reception, children have 1 scheme book per week, chosen by children from a selection of ‘phonically decodable books’ which links to the phonics ability and knowledge. In KS1, children have 2 reading scheme books and choose their own free choice book from the class reading area. Children choose their own reading book, especially in Year 2, and support is given to children in Year 1 to help them choose a phonically decodable book that suits their phonics ability, based on teacher assessment. A reading diary is sent home and parents feedback on their child’s reading. Teachers also comment in the records when children have formally been read with. Children also have access to the OxfordOwls website in order to access books remotely. In Year 3, children continue to access the scheme books for those that need to work on reading fluently.

We use a variety of reading scheme books such as Floppy Phonics, Songbirds, ReadWriteInc, Biff, Chip and Kipper stories and Fireflies. This gives children access to a wider range of interesting texts and helps to balance fiction and non-fiction.  The different scheme books are banded into colours (Lilac, Pink, Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, Orange, Turquoise, Purple, Gold, White, Lime, Lime +, Grey). They have been carefully grouped to provide progression, from very simple texts (Pink Band) to texts for more fluent readers (White band). However, it is important to remember that children do develop as readers at different rates and at Sheen Mount, we want to support children’s reading journey in a personal way. The colour stages are aligned to the phonics phases and some of the schemes match more closely to this than the others. Teachers use children's phonics ability and knowledge and match the colour band books to this. Books are matched in this way in order to support them in using and applying their phonics skills to phonically decodable books, and in order to support children's confidence in being able to read successfully, but also with a good level of challenge. The chart below details progression through the book bands:

Phonics Phase Progression in Colour Bands:

The colour stages are aligned to the phonics phases and some of the schemes match more closely to this than the others. There are some books that will include trickier sounds and words outside of the phonics phases. Teachers consider the phonics phase children are working at (using teacher assessment and other assessment procedures) and match a phonically decodable book to this so that children are able to use their phonics successfully and with confidence. As the children progress in their phonic understanding and skills, so too do they in their reading scheme books.  We aim to support children’s personal and individual reading journey in order to help them progress in a way that is inclusive and confidence building. The scheme books are important but we also want to foster a love of reading and encourage reading of a wide range of books.

Please see the document 'Sheen Mount Reading Scheme Colour Bands linked to Phonics Phase Progression'. 


Coming soon!