At St Michael with St John, reading is at the heart of our curriculum as it is the key to success in most subject areas, not just English. Therefore, emphasis is placed on reading from the very moment the children enter our school in the Nursery. Children are immersed in a language rich environment, which places great value on listening to stories and rhymes from the very beginning. They also develop key phonological awareness skills that enable them to develop the listening and attention skills required to distinguish between discrete units of spoken sound.
Section 1 of our Synthetic Phonics Programme explores Phonological Awareness. It is taught within the Early Years Foundation Stage in Nursery. It largely falls within the Communication and Language and the Literacy areas of learning. However, good quality planning of provision will offer lots of opportunities to link Phonics within all other areas of learning. Phonological Awareness lessons are taught on a daily basis in Nursery, with particular emphasis being placed on alliteration and oral blending/segmenting in the Summer Term. It is vital that all children can distinguish between environmental and spoken sounds, regardless of any additional need. This ensures pupils are ready to begin to learn about the alphabetic system as soon as they enter the Reception Year.
As the pupils progress through each half term, they will focus on a new aspect of Phonological Awareness. They will be encouraged to reflect on prior learning continually in order to consolidate new listening skills. This will require the pupils to firstly make auditory discriminations by tuning into sounds. They will also develop their auditory memory and sequencing through the encouragement of listening and remembering sounds. Crucially, pupils will also develop their vocabulary and language comprehension by talking frequently about sounds.
Pupils will begin to learn to listen through gaining an insight into phonological awareness. This process begins by pupils making simple sound discriminations between everyday environmental sounds such as the ringing of the telephone, the tweeting of a bird, the sounding of a fire-engine siren. Pupils are encouraged to explore both the indoor and outdoor learning environment as part of their listening walks. They learn to discriminate between loud and quite sounds whilst immersing themselves in the natural world around them.
Once pupils have gained an awareness of the environmental sounds around them, they progress onto discriminating between different Instrumental Sounds. This aspect aims to develop children's awareness of sounds made by various instruments and noise makers. Activities include comparing and matching sound makers, playing instruments alongside a story and making loud and quiet sounds.
Pupils progress onto general sound discrimination during this aspect. This includes pupils using a range of body parts in order to compose their own sound sequences known as body percussion. The aim of this aspect is to develop children's awareness of sounds and rhythms. Activities include singing songs and action rhymes, listening to music and developing a sounds vocabulary.
During the second part of the Spring term pupils will have become competent listeners and have already been taught to tune into a range of different sounds. Therefore, a shift towards speech sound discrimination will allow pupils to explore the rhythm and rhyme embedded in language patterns. Activities include rhyming stories, rhyming bingo, clapping out the syllables in words, playing odd one out word games and composing their own rhythms using rhythm squares.
Progression within the speech sound section will allow pupils to explore the concept of alliteration and voice sounds. They will begin by focusing on the initial sounds in words, with activities including I-Spy type games and matching objects which begin with the same sound. Following this, they will distinguish between different vocal sounds and to begin oral blending and segmenting. Activities include robot talk using characters and puppets, where pupils feed pictures of objects into a puppets mouth and the teacher sounds out the name of the object in a robot voice - /c/-/u/-/p/ cup, with the children joining in.
Once pupils have gained a sound understanding of all of the aspects of phonological awareness, they will finally be introduced to skills require for both reading and writing. This is known as oral blending and segmenting. To practise oral blending, the teacher will say some sounds, such as /c/-/u/-/p/ and pupils will pick out a cup from a group of objects. An example of segmenting practise, would be the teacher holding up an object such as a sock and asking the children which sounds they can hear in the word sock.
The activities introduced in this section are intended to continue throughout the rest of the school’s Systematic Synthetic Phonics Programme, as lots of practice is required for pupils to become confident in their phonic knowledge and skills.