Reading and Phonics

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Our Approach to Phonics

The school follows the government published programme ‘Letters and Sounds’ and the Jolly Phonics programme. Additional resources are also used from interactive programmes which support us in providing a multi-sensory approach to learning phonics.

Our aim in Nursery is to provide all children with opportunities to develop phonemic awareness as detailed in Phase One of the ‘Letters and Sounds’ programme through adult-led activities, which they can then go on to practise in their own play. Phase One teaching and activities include learning and playing with environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body percussion, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and oral blending and segmenting.

We provide daily speaking and listening activities that are well matched to children’s developing abilities and reflect their interests. The children are given a variety of opportunities to practice their speaking and listening skills through a range of both adult led and child initiated activities.

The teaching of Phonics in Reception is systematic. It is well established and successfully combines the use of the Jolly Phonic Programme and ‘Letters and Sounds’ guidance.

As in Nursery we provide daily speaking and listening activities that are well matched to children’s developing abilities and interests. The children are given a variety of opportunities to practice their knowledge of phonics as well as speaking and listening skills in a range of both adult led and child initiated activities.

In Year One Phonics is taught outside the Literacy session on a daily basis for twenty minutes. Planning is informed by ‘Letters and Sounds’ document and incorporates Jolly Phonics programme to ensure continuity from Reception to Year One.

In Year Two phonics is also taught outside the Literacy session four times a week, again the ‘Letters and Sounds’ document and also the support for spellings in Years Two and Three are used to support planning.

Across Reception and Key Stage One the Revisit and Review, Teach, Practise, Apply and Assess and Review sequence is used. Children are grouped according to the phonics phase they are working within and progress is assessed using the phonics tracking grid.


Our Approach to Reading

At Clarkson Infant and Nursery School, early reading is taught using synthetic phonics as the primary approach to reading. Pupils are systematically taught the phonemes and corresponding graphemes, and from the very beginning are taught to blend the sounds they know to read words. They are taught to use their phonic skills and knowledge as their first approach to reading, but are also taught high frequency words which do not follow the phonic rules.

We teach the children to read for meaning and as the children’s fluency develops, comprehension skills become more of a focus for teaching and learning.

We believe in developing a reading culture throughout the school by creating welcoming book areas in classrooms, a school library hosting a variety of books, and raising the profile of reading through a print rich environment, attractive book displays and by working closely with the local library.

We hold a Reception Reading Meeting at the beginning of each academic year to inform parent about the schools approach to phonics and reading. This meeting includes a PowerPoint presentation, helpful handouts and we also invite the county children’s librarian who emphasises the important role parent’s play in encouraging their child to develop a love of reading and the value of books.

Our reading books are colour banded. Each child’s development in reading is continually assessed and monitored to ensure that he/she is reading a book from within the colour band that matches his/her reading ability. Every colour band includes books from a range of reading schemes including Oxford Reading Tree, Rigby Stars and Words and Pictures, so that the children experience a range of stories, text types and illustrations. The majority of books within the early book bands can be decoded using phonics skills and knowledge.

Teachers read individually with children each week and during this reading session the children change their reading scheme books to take home. The children also choose a Library book to take home each week.

Parents are integral part in the children’s ‘reading journey’. We encourage children to read at home on a daily basis and communication between school and home is recorded in a ‘Reading Record’. We provide parents with reading prompts they can use to help when reading with their child at home. We also invite parents/ members of the community to come and read with children individually.


Throughout all key stages children have regular access to group guided reading sessions, where texts are explored with a particular focus i.e. use of vocabulary, structure of different text types.

In our Nursery, we encourage pupils to develop a love of reading before they start school by borrowing books from our school collection to enjoy with their families. Once they begin school, we continue to encourage families to share books with their child.

We encourage children and families to visit the local library and have links with the county children’s librarian. Our aim is for all children to enjoy learning to read and for it to be a positive experience for all involved. We are always happy to speak to parents who have concerns regarding their child’s progress or about how they can support their child’s reading development.

Top Tips for Reading with your Child- Reception and Key Stage 1

The book your child brings home should be easy for them to read.

They should be practising skills that they have learnt in school and reading for enjoyment!

Spend 5-10 minutes daily, sharing a book.

Listen and give them time to work out words on their own.

Link the events in the story to their own experience.

Show them how to read with fluency and expression.

Ask them questions to check if they understand what has happened.

Praise them for things they do well when they are reading.

If they find words difficult to read, encourage them to:

-use phonics

-use pictures and the meaning of the story

-chunk words into syllables

-think about whether the word makes sense in the sentence

-reread once they have worked it out to get the flow of the sentence

Useful websites:



Phonics Guide

Phonics is a method of teaching people to read by matching sounds with letters or groups letters. This guide is to help you with the terms we use.

Phoneme: the smallest unit of sound that you can hear within a word; the word phoneme refers to the sound, not the letter(s) which represent the sound in writing.

For example, in the word gate, there are three phonemes (g-long ay-t); in school there are four (s-c-long ooh-l).There are 44 phonemes in English, which can be split into two groups:


24 consonant phonemes: for example, ‘b’ (bang, bubble), ‘m’ (monkey, hammer), ‘ch’ (chat, match), ‘ng’ (bang). You can see in the examples that the sounds (the phonemes) can be written in different ways (different graphemes).


20 vowel phonemes: there needs to be at least one vowel sound in every word.

There are short vowel sounds (apple, egg, bread, kit, gym, octopus, wash, umbrella, won), long vowel sounds (such as in rain, tray, tree, me, light, kite) and other vowel sounds (such as book, could, fork, board, chair).

As before, the sounds can be written in different ways (different graphemes).


Top tip! When you talk about sounds to your child, use the phonemes (the letter sounds). The reason for this is that sounding out words is practically impossible if you use the letter names: cat doesn’t sound like ‘see-ay-tee’.


Top tip! When saying the sounds of b, d, g, j and w and other letters, you might notice the ‘uh’ sound which follows each (‘buh’, ‘duh’…). It’s hard to say the sound without it but do try to emphasise the main letter sound and avoid saying the ‘uh’ too much. In some letters,

avoid the ‘uh’ completely (say ‘mmm’ rather than ‘muh’ and ‘sss’, not ‘suh). This is to avoid your child spelling a word like cat and wanting to add the ‘uh’ sound (c-u-a-t).


Grapheme: a grapheme is a ‘symbol’ of a phoneme – it’s a letter or group of letters representing a sound and we use the letter names for this.

A one letter grapheme is the ‘c’ in cat where the hard ‘c’ sound is represented by the letter ‘c’; a two letter grapheme is in leaf where the long ‘ee’ sound is represented by the letters ‘ea’; a four letter grapheme is contained in through where the letters ‘ough’ make the long ‘oo’ sound.

To complicate matters even more, some sounds (phonemes) can be spelled with different graphemes (spellings). For example, the hard ‘c’ sound can be spelled with ‘c’, ‘k’ or ‘ck’ graphemes (as in ‘car’, ‘kite’ and ‘lock’); the long ‘ee’ sound can be spelled with lots of different graphemes, such as ‘ee’ (Leeds), ‘ea’ (beat), ‘ie’ (chief), ‘ei’ (ceiling), ‘e-e’ (theme).


Digraph: is a two letter grapheme, such as ‘ch’, ‘sh’, ‘oa’ (two letters making one sound).


Split digraph: the ‘e’ at the end of words works with another letter to make a sound. Think about the difference between hop and hope – both have three sounds (phonemes), but the split digraph in hope creates and ‘long o’ sound.


Trigraph: a three letter grapheme, where three letters represent one phoneme, as in ear, air, high, pear (three letters making one sound, even in a word like pear where the ‘r’ is not really said).


Top tip! When you talk about sounds to your child, use the phonemes (the letter sounds). Soon, though, it’s a good idea to distinguish this from the letter name; the hard sound ‘c’ can be made using a ‘c’ (a ‘see’) as in cat, a ‘k’ (a ‘kay’) as in kit, or a ‘ck’ (a ‘see-kay’).


Blending: the merging together of the separate soundsin a word. The separate sounds (phonemes) are spoken in order, all through the word, and are then merged together into the whole word – this is a vital skill for reading. For example, the three phonemes ch-a-t are blended to make chat, whilst th-r-ee blend to make three.


Decode: to read words.


Segmenting: breaking words down into phonemes to spell (so, the opposite process to blending). The whole word is spoken aloud and then broken up into its sounds (phonemes) in order, all through the word – this is a vital skill for spelling. For example, hearing that leads can be segmented into l-ea-d-s, with the ‘long e’ sound but also possibly represented by ‘ee’ (Leeds) and other possibilities (see the graphemes, above).

Encode: to spell words.



CVC: a word containing the sequence ‘consonant, vowel, consonant).

For example, cat and even chat because the ‘ch’ grapheme works together to make a single sound (phoneme) – you wouldn’t say c-h-a-t).



Tricky words: words like they and said which can’t be sounded out easily.



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