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Phonics & Early Reading

At Colvestone, we use the Blossom Federation phonics programme who have devised their own programme that is based upon the principles of Letters and Sounds. We use a range of resources and strategies to tailor the phonics provision to meet the needs of our pupils. It aims to build children's speaking and listening skills in their own right as well as to prepare children for learning to read by developing their phonic knowledge and skills.

Each phonics lesson follows the following sequence:

Suggested Phonics Phases

 Year group  Age Phonics Phase 
 Nursery  3-4  Phase 1
 Reception  4-5  Phase 2-3
 Year 1  5-6  Phase 4-5
 Year 2  6-7  Consolidation of 1-6

Phase 1

Oral blending and segmenting the sounds in words are an integral part of the later stages of Phase One. Whilst recognising alliteration (words that begin with the same sound) is important as children develop their ability to tune into speech sounds, the main objective should be segmenting words into their component sounds, and especially blending the component sounds all through a word. Exploring the sounds in words should occur as opportunities arise throughout the course of the day’s activities, as well as in planned adult-led sessions with groups and individual children. Children’s curiosity in letter shapes and written words should be fostered throughout Phase One to help them make a smooth transition to Phase Two, when grapheme–phoneme correspondences are introduced. There is no requirement that children should have mastered all the skills in Phase One (e.g. the ability to supply a rhyming word) before beginning Phase Two.

Phase 2

Children entering Phase Two will have experienced a wealth of listening activities, including songs, stories and rhymes. They will be able to distinguish between speech sounds and many will be able to blend and segment words orally. Some will also be able to recognise spoken words that rhyme and will be able to provide a string of rhyming words, but inability to do this does not prevent moving on to Phase Two as these speaking and listening activities continue.

Phase 3

Children entering Phase Three will know around 19 letters and be able to blend phonemes to read VC words and segment VC words to spell. While many children will be able to read and spell CVC words, they all should be able to blend and segment CVC words orally. The purpose of this phase is to teach another 25 graphemes, most of them comprising two letters (e.g. oa), so the children can represent each of about 42 phonemes by a grapheme (the additional phoneme /zh/ found in the word vision will be taught at Phase Five). Children also continue to practise CVC blending and segmentation in this phase and will apply their knowledge of blending and segmenting to reading and spelling simple two-syllable words and captions. They will learn letter names during this phase, learn to read some more tricky words and also begin to learn to spell some of these words.

Phase 4

Children entering Phase Four will be able to represent each of 42 phonemes by a grapheme, and be able to blend phonemes to read CVC words and segment CVC words for spelling. They will have some experience in reading simple two-syllable words and captions. They will know letter names and be able to read and spell some tricky words. The purpose of this phase is to consolidate children’s knowledge of graphemes in reading and spelling words containing adjacent consonants and polysyllabic words.

Phase 5

During this phase children learn more complex sounds and also learn alternative ways to pronounce the sounds they already know

Phase 6

Throughout this phase, children child develop comprehension skills needed to become successful readers. Children learn a range of strategies that help them to develop their skills of inference this includes use of dictionaries to clarify meanings and extend vocabulary, generating questions to investigate texts and summarising texts read. Through all stages of phonics children are given opportunities to listen to texts, read a range of books in order to develop their love of reading.

Assessing Phonics

Phonic assessments are carried out using a federation designed template based upon the progression of phases in Letters and Sounds. All pupils are baseline assessed when beginning Reception. They are then assessed on a termly basis to inform teaching and groupings. Each child has a phonics tracking booklet which stays with the pupil throughout their school journey. Teachers assess the phonic development of the pupils on a termly basis to clearly see where the learning has been achieved and where the gaps in learning are.

Year 1 Phonics Screening Check

In the summer term of Year 1, the pupils undertake a phonics screening test. This is a short test to confirm whether individual pupils have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard. The aim of the test is to identify children who need extra support to improve reading skills. Throughout the year pupils complete practice screening tests to ensure all pupils are making progress and are on-track to pass the summer screening test. Pupils not on track at identified and interventions are put into place.

What is in the phonics screening check?

There are two sections in this 40-word check and it assesses phonics skills and knowledge learned through Reception and Year 1. Your child will read up to four words per page for their teacher and they will probably do the check in one sitting of about 5–10 minutes

What does it check?

It checks that your child can:

  • Sound out and blend graphemes in order to read simple words.
  • Read phonically decodable one-syllable and two-syllable words, e.g. cat, sand, windmill.
  • Read a selection of nonsense words which are referred to as pseudo words.

What are nonsense or pseudo words and why are they included?

These are words that are phonically decodable but are not actual words with an associated meaning e.g. brip, snorb. Pseudo words are included in the check specifically to assess whether your child can decode a word using phonics skills and not their memory.

The pseudo words will be shown to your child with a picture of a monster and they will be asked to tell their teacher what sort of monster it is by reading the word. This not only makes the check a bit more fun, but provides the children with a context for the nonsense word which is independent from any existing vocabulary they may have. Crucially, it does not provide any clues, so your child just has to be able to decode it. Children generally find nonsense amusing so they will probably enjoy reading these words.

How will my child be scored? Is there a pass mark?

The check is not about passing or failing but checking appropriate progress is being made. If children do not reach the required standard, then the teacher will be in touch to discuss plans and offer additional, tailored support to ensure that your child can catch up. Children progress at different speeds so not reaching the threshold score does not necessarily mean there is a serious problem. Your child will re-sit the check the following summer term.

For the last few years, the threshold mark (or pass standard) set by the government has been 32 correct answers out of 40.

What happens to the results?

The school will report your child’s results to you by the end of the summer term as well as to the local authority, but the results will not be published in a league table as with SATs. If you have any concerns, do talk to your teacher about this in a parents’ meeting or after school.

Below are some examples of previous screening checks:

Phonics glossary

There are many technical terms which are used in phonics. Here is an explanation of the most commonly used phonics words.

 Term Meaning 
Adjacent consonants Two or three consonants next to each other that represent different sounds. For example, bl in black. Notice here that bl makes the two different sounds b and l, whereas ck makes the single sound ck
Blending Blending involves merging the sounds in a word together in order to pronounce it. This is important for reading. For example, j-a-m blended together reads the word jam
Consonant The letters of the alphabet (apart from the vowels aeio and u). 
Consonant digraph A digraph that is made up of two consonants (sh in shop).
CVC words A consonant-vowel-consonant word, such as catpin or top.
CCVC words Consonant-consonant-vowel-consonant words such as clap and from.
CVCC words Consonant-vowel-consonant-consonant words such as mask and belt.
Digraph A grapheme made up of two letters that makes one sound (sh in shop).
Grapheme Graphemes are the written representation of sounds. A grapheme may be one letter (f), two letters (ir), three letters (igh) or four letters in length (ough).
Grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) Knowing your GPCs means being able to hear a phoneme and knowing what grapheme to use to represent it. This is helpful for spelling.
It also means seeing a grapheme and knowing the phoneme that relates to it, which is important for reading. 
Phoneme Phonemes are the smallest unit of speech-sounds which make up a word. If you change a phoneme in a word, you would change its meaning. For example, there are three phonemes in the word sit /s/-/i/-/t/. If you change the phoneme /s/ for /f/, you have a new word, fit. If you change the phoneme /t/ in fit for a /sh/, you have a new word, fish – /f/-/i/-/sh/. There are around 44 phonemes in English and they are represented by graphemes in writing.
Segmenting Segmenting involves breaking up a word that you hear into its sounds. This helps with spelling because if you know what graphemes represent the sounds in the word, you can write it! For example, the word jam is segmented into the sounds j-a-m
Split digraph A digraph that is split between a consonant (a-e in make). A split digraph usually changes the sound of the first vowel. For example, compare the pronunciation between man and made.
Tricky words Words that are commonly used in English, but they have spelling patterns which make them difficult to read and write using introductory phonic knowledge. For example, saidof and was
Trigraph A grapheme made up of three letters that makes one sound (igh in high).
Vowel The letters aeio and u

Phonic Parent Workshop 1: Introduction to phonics - Phase 1, 2 and 3