Reading / Phonics Statement of Intent
Our Phonics & Early Reading Intent Statement
At St Michael with St John Primary School the vast majority of our pupils have English as an Additional Language. Therefore, it is essential that they are equipped with the crucial skills that enable them to understand the complexities of the English Alphabet System. This in turn ensures that children’s Acquisition of Language is given priority. Through a highly structured and systematic synthetic approach to teaching Phonics, we strive to give our pupils with very best oracy, reading and writing experiences from a very young age. This whole-language approach allows pupils to be taught the phonological awareness skills, which in turn aids them in becoming competent language users right from the start of their education.
Our Jolly Phonics Synthetic Phonics programme has been tailored to meet the individual needs of all of our pupils from diverse heritage groups. Pupils receive the very best start in Phonics teaching. Careful consideration is given to ensuring pupils are confident with all aspects of Phonological Awareness, before progressing onto the first phoneme/grapheme correspondences in the English Alphabetic System.
Our mission statement underpins our reading curriculum. It is firmly based upon our belief that, ‘with God all things are possible’. It is encapsulated in our motto: Nurture, Inspire, Achieve.
Nurture: We care for, support and protect our children whilst they are growing and learning with us and encourage them to do the same for each other and the wider community. We recognise that the ability to read independently and effectively for meaning is one of the most important skills that we can teach our children from the very earliest age.
Inspire: We inspire each child to become a confident, inquiring citizen with an enthusiasm and desire to learn and explore. We value and promote reading so that children understand that it is a vital skill which enables them to access and be successful in other areas of the curriculum.
Achieve: We develop each child to be capable of achieving in life, to develop academically and socially, and to succeed in school and beyond. In order to achieve in life, we place the systematic teaching of reading at the very heart of our curriculum.
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.
Through a systematic synthetic phonics approach, which is critical in teaching the alphabetic code, the children acquire the knowledge that is essential not only for reading but for spelling. Good phonics teaching also supports the development of early writing skills too. Opportunities for the direct teaching of phonics and early reading and writing skills takes place on a daily basis throughout the Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1, with additional opportunities provided for children to consolidate their growing knowledge.
We believe that children develop a love of reading through the satisfaction they gain from decoding words successfully, which results from having a sound phonic knowledge. This enables them to develop a level of fluency needed to comprehend and become immersed in stories. To allow this to happen, children are exposed to high quality books covering a range of different genres and interests. The texts available to children for both school and home reading purposes are updated regularly, and their phonetically decodable content ensures they are matched closely to individual levels of ability. It also promotes success in reading from the very beginning due to children reaching a level of fluency at a rapid pace.
Good phonics teaching is dependent on sound teacher knowledge, and a consistent approach to the teaching methods used throughout school. Through careful planning, observation and teacher assessment, our phonics programme is delivered at a fast pace with all learners achieving success. We ensure all parts of the phonic lesson are fully interactive for all children. The sessions are multi-sensory with seeing, hearing, doing activities involved throughout. Opportunities to practise skills like segmenting and blending outside of the phonics sessions are also provided. It is crucial that phonic strategies continue to be modelled in other lessons, especially English via modelled writing, guided reading, cross curricular etc.
In Nursery, developing phonological awareness largely falls within the Communication and Language and the Literacy areas of learning. However, good quality planning of provision ensures opportunities are provided to link phonics within all other areas of learning. Phonics is taught on a daily basis in Nursery, with particular emphasis being placed on alliteration, oral blending and segmenting. All children have access to daily phonological awareness activities, regardless of any additional need throughout the year. This allows pupils to discriminate between different speech sounds orally before entering the Reception year.
We follow the Jolly Phonics scheme, which has been carefully tailored to ensure it meets the needs of all learners at our school from the very beginning of Reception to the end of Key Stage 1. Jolly Phonics is a comprehensive programme, based on the proven, fun and multi-sensory synthetic phonics method that gets children motivated to read and write from an early age. This means that greater emphasis is placed on letter-sound correspondences as opposed to the alphabet names. These 42 letter phonemic sounds are phonic building blocks that children, with the right tools, use to decode the English language. When reading a word, they recognise the letters and blend together the respective sounds; when writing a word they identify the sounds and write down the corresponding letters. These skills are called blending and segmenting. These are two of the five skills that children need to master phonics:
- Learning the letter sounds: Children are taught 42 letter sounds, which is a mix of alphabet sounds (1 sound – 1 letter) and digraphs (1 sound – 2 letters) such as sh, th, ai and ue. Using a multi-sensory approach each letter sound is introduced with fun actions, stories and songs.
We teach the letter sounds in 7 groups of 6 letters at a pace of 4 sounds a week. Children can start reading after the first group of letters have been taught and should have been introduced to all the 42 letter sounds after 16 weeks at school.
- Learning letter formation: This is taught alongside the introduction of each letter sound. Typically, children will learn how to form and write the letters letter down during the course of the lesson.
- Blending: Once the first few letter sounds are learnt, children begin blending the sounds together to help them read and write new words.
- Segmenting: When children start reading words, they also need to start identifying the phonic components that make the word sound the way it does. By teaching blending and segmenting at the same time children become familiar with assembling and breaking down the sounds within words.
- Tricky words: These are words with irregular parts, such as ‘who’ and ‘I’. Children learn these as exceptions to the rules of phonics. Introducing the common tricky words early in the year increases reading fluency (as they frequently occur in those first simple sentences you might expect them to read).
Alongside these skills, as the children progress through the phonic programme, they are also introduced to the main alternative spelling of vowels. These five skills form the foundation that children build on with each year of grammar teaching.
Every classroom throughout the Early Years and Key Stage 1 has a Phonics Working Wall that reflects the learning that has, and is taking place for all children in the class. We also value the importance of displaying the digraphs/trigraphs that the children have learnt in their previous class. This is to ensure that children are able to draw on their prior phonic knowledge and continue to learn and apply new skills, not just within the phonics session, but throughout all other subject areas when reading and writing.
Teachers refer to the phonic working wall, using this as a point of reference during all modelled, shared, guided and independent reading and writing situations.
Assessment and Tracking
Ongoing teacher assessment takes place on a daily basis during every phonics lesson. However, children are also assessed by the class teacher on a 1:1 basis during Assessment Week at the end of each term. This is to ensure that the class teacher is aware of any misconceptions and plan for the next steps in learning effectively.
Our approach to the teaching of phonics is fully inclusive and values every learner. If a child is experiencing difficulty securing a particular skill, they will not be left to fall behind. Instead, extra intervention activities will be provided outside of the phonics lesson to ensure that the child receives the same teaching, but with that particular skill broken down into clear steps. This process helps to maintain a secure understanding and continued progress. Emphasis is placed on those children who may be at risk of falling behind to ensure they are able to successfully access year group expectations. They will continue to be supported by the same Jolly Phonics programme, but learning will be broken down into achievable steps via same day interventions.