Phonics at St. Cuthbert’s
Our Phonics curriculum has been designed to ensure that children receive their curricular entitlement in a way which is meaningful to their: context, stage of learning, capabilities, interests and prior experiences.
It is crucial for children to develop a life-long love of reading. Reading consists of two dimensions: language comprehension and word reading, which includes phonics and decoding. Language comprehension (necessary for both reading and writing) starts from birth. It only develops when adults talk with children about the world around them and the books (stories and non-fiction) they read with them, and enjoy rhymes, poems and songs together. Skilled word reading involves both the speedy working out of the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) and the speedy recognition of familiar printed words. We know if a child is able to read fluently and reads widely, a wealth of opportunities are provided for them. As well as aiming to teach children to read fluently with understanding, we hope to instil a love for reading in all children.
Phonics is the key skill that supports the development of early reading and writing. We combine high quality phonic teaching with exposure to a range of texts and the promotion of reading for pleasure to provide our pupils with the skills they need to have a successful start to their lives as readers.
We aim to improve literacy levels by ensuring high-quality phonics teaching [using a systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) teaching programme]- At St. Cuthbert’s we use the ‘Sounds Write’ SSP
Sounds Write will:
· give all children a solid base upon which to build as they progress through school
· help children to develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information
Each class in Reception and KS1 will teach phonics as a discrete lesson every day for 30 minutes [phonics sessions might be only ten minutes long at the beginning of Reception Class but will gradually build to 30 minutes] and will include phonics as part of teaching and learning throughout other curriculum lessons on a daily basis. Each member of staff that leads a group is trained in delivering high quality phonics sessions using the Sounds~Write programme.
Children in Reception class and KS1 will read and experience books frequently from both the Sounds~Write or Dandelion schemes. These books are closely matched to the child’s phonic ability.
Nursery children will be exposed to early phonics during group times and play activities. Phonics falls largely within the Communication, Language Literacy areas of learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage. Some phonic activities will be adult led with the intention of teaching young children important basic elements such as listening to sounds, differentiating between sounds, rhyme and rhythm, alliteration, oral blending and segmenting. High quality play activities, which typify good provision, also offer many opportunities to enrich children’s language across the seven areas of learning: Communication and Language; Physical Development; Personal, Social and Emotional Development; Literacy ; Mathematics; Understanding the World; Expressive Arts and Design
A language-rich and varied environment supports children’s speaking, listening, attention and understanding skills. Practitioners and teachers are alert to the opportunities afforded for language development through children’s play. Practitioners and teachers provide daily speaking and listening activities that are well matched to children’s developing abilities and interests, drawing upon observations and assessments to plan for progression and to identify children who need additional support, for example to discriminate and produce the sounds of speech. Early referrals to SALT are made for those children who may need additional support.
Through the teaching of systematic phonics, our aim is for children to become fluent readers by the end of Key Stage 1. Children can then focus on developing fluency and comprehension throughout the school.
Our pupils will:
§ Be confident in their phonic knowledge
§ Be able to blend words confidently to read an increasing number of words on sight
§ Be able to segment words confidently to write an increasing number of words
§ Successfully pass the Phonics Screening Check
§ Develop a love of reading through fun but challenging phonic activities
§ Be part of a culture where a secure phonic knowledge enables reading for pleasure as part of our reading curriculum
We believe that reading is the key to all learning and so the impact of our reading curriculum goes beyond the results of the statutory assessments. We give all children the opportunity to enter the magical worlds that books open up to them. We promote reading for pleasure as part of our reading curriculum. Children are encouraged to develop their own love of genres and authors and to review their books objectively. This enhances a deep love of literature across a range of genres, cultures and styles.
Year 1 Phonics Screening Process
The Year 1 phonics screening check is a way for teachers to ensure that children are making sufficient progress in the phonics skills to read words and are on track to become fluent readers who can enjoy reading for pleasure and for learning.
What is the Year 1 phonics screening check?
The phonics screening check is a quick and easy check of your child’s phonics knowledge. It helps to confirm whether your child has made the expected progress.
The phonics screening check will be taken individually by all children in Year 1 in England. It is designed to give teachers and parents information on how your child is progressing in phonics. It will help to identify whether your child needs additional support at this stage so that they do not fall behind in this vital early reading skill.
What is in the phonics screening check?
There will be two sections in this 40-word check and it will assess phonics skills and knowledge learned through Reception and Year 1. Your child may have read some of the words before, while others will be completely new.
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 sort of check is it and is it compulsory?
It is a school-based check to make sure that your child receives any additional support promptly, should they need it. It is not a stressful situation as Miss McGill will be preparing your children and understand your child’s level of skills.
There will be a few practice words first to make sure your child understands the activity.
What will it check?
It will check that your child can:
- Sound out and blend graphemes in order to read simple words. (graphemes – a written letter or group of letters that represent a sound e.g. the sound s can be represented by the graphemes s in sun, ce in dance, ss in dress, st in whistle, cy in cycle and so on.)
- Read phonically decodable one-syllable and two-syllable words, e.g. cat, sand, windmill. (decodable – to read a word by saying the sounds then joining, or blending, those sounds together to form the word.)
- 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 an alien and they will be asked to tell Miss McGill what sort of alien 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.
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 Key Stage 1 staff 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.
What happens to the results?
You will be informed of your child’s progress in phonics and how he or she has done in the screening check in the last half-term of Year 1. If your child has found the check difficult, Year 1 staff will also tell you what support they have put in place to help him or her improve. You might like to ask how you can support your child to take the next step in reading.
All children are individuals and develop at different rates. The screening check ensures that teachers understand which children need extra help with phonic decoding.
Do all schools and children have to participate?
All schools and academies in England must take part in the phonics screening check unless they are an independent school. There is a process in place for reviewing children with special educational needs, so if your child’s teacher thinks there are very special reasons related to your child and their needs that make them think the phonics screening check may not be appropriate, they will decide on appropriate action and discuss this with you.
What can I do to help my child?
If there are any particular areas that you should focus on at home Year 1 staff will discuss this with you so that you are working together to support your child. Phonics works best when children are given plenty of encouragement and learn to enjoy reading and books. You play a very important part in helping with this.
Some simple steps to help your child learn to read through phonics:
- Speak to Miss McGill about the school’s approach to phonics, and how you can reinforce this at home. You’ve probably noticed that our Year 1 homework has changed. This is to specifically support our phonics work and should also inform you of the focus each week.
- You can then highlight these sounds when you read with your child. Teaching how sounds match with letters is likely to start with individual letters such as ‘s’, ‘a’ and ‘t’ and then will move on to two-letter sounds such as ‘ee’, ‘ch’ and ‘ck’.
- With all books, encourage your child to ‘sound out’ unfamiliar words and then blend the sounds together from left to right rather than looking at the pictures to guess. Once your child has read an unfamiliar word you can talk about what it means and help him or her to follow the story.
- Miss McGill will also be able to suggest books with the right level of phonics for your child. These books are often called ‘decodable readers’ because the story is written with words made up of the letters your child has learnt. Your child will be able to work out new words from their letters and sounds, rather than just guessing. You may also find the following website useful www.oxfordowl.co.uk.
- Try to make time to read with your child every day. Grandparents and older brothers or sisters can help, too. Encourage your child to blend the sounds all the way through a word.
- Word games like ‘I-spy’ can also be an enjoyable way of teaching children about sounds and letters. You can also encourage your child to read words from your shopping list or road signs to practise phonics.
Here at St. Cuthbert’s we use ‘book bags’ and a reading record, which is a great way for teachers and parents to communicate about what children have read. The reading record can tell you whether your child has enjoyed a particular book and shows problems or successes he or she has had, either at home or at school.
What should I do if my child is struggling to decode a word?
- Say each sound in the word from left to right.
- Blend the sounds by pointing to each letter, i.e. /b/ in bat, or letter group, i.e. /igh/ in sigh, as you say the sound, then run your finger under the whole word as you say it.
- Talk about the meaning if your child does not understand the word they have read.
- Work at your child’s pace.
- Always be positive and give lots of praise and encouragement.
We hope this information is useful. If you would like to see examples of the Phonics Screening Check or you would like any more information please speak to Miss McGill. You may also find the following link useful. It contains video materials showing children undertaking the check.
Reading at St. Cuthbert’s
At St. Cuthbert’s Catholic Primary School we recognise that reading is a key life skill, and therefore ensuring we teach our children to both read and write with fluency is at the forefront of our curriculum. Via the use of our systematic synthetic phonics programme, the promotion of talk based activities, storytelling, poetry and rhyme we build up a love of reading from the moment a child first begins their journey with us. This does not stop in EYFS, throughout Key Stage 1 and 2, we aim to encourage our children to become active storytellers and provide them with the ability to read fluently, read for understanding and read for pleasure. We hope that by doing this we instil a love of reading which will continue in to their adult lives.
Reading consists of two dimensions: language comprehension and word reading. Our reading curriculum is structured in a manner which teaches decoding [segmenting and blending] words at the same time as promoting a love of books; Reading frequently to children, and engaging them actively in stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems, and then providing them with extensive opportunities to use and embed new words in a range of contexts, gives children the opportunity to thrive. This continues until children are fluent readers, ensures progression, addresses gaps in skills and knowledge using formative assessment skills and provides children with reading of an age-appropriate level. For those needing additional support in reading, we provide 1:1 and small interventions in order to address this and ensure that reading across the school filters into every subject, via new vocabulary, reading and understanding.
Our school follows a programme of study based on a scheme produced by Together for Children working with local Sunderland primary schools. The programme is clearly broken down into termly expectations with additional objectives identified for those children on track for greater depth. This allows teachers to have clear expectations regarding children’s attainment.
Daily phonics plans are in place in EYFS and KS1 to teach children the mechanics of reading, this is also available to KS2 children, who have been identified as needing additional support. Teachers use the Letters and Sounds programme, soon to be Phonics Sound Write (Nov 2021). Each phoneme or digraph from phase 2-5 has its own sound, and various rhymes and action are currently used to accompany the teaching of these sounds. Children are regularly assessed and interventions are put in place for those children who require additional support to move through each phase.
Teachers in Key Stage 1 and 2 complete guided reading sessions which are designed to give children the opportunity to develop the skills required for reading. Teachers use whole class guided reading to ensure that all children have a reading lesson at least three times per week. Principles of reciprocal reading are incorporated to focus on making predictions, clarifying new vocabulary, questioning what they have read and making summaries of a text. This is done using VIPERS , where classes focus on learning how to answers questions using a single strand of either vocabulary, inference, prediction, explanation, retrieval or summaries. This enhance their understanding as they have a clear focus. In addition once per week a comprehension covering all strands is completed.
Staff see the value in children’s use of spoken language to deepen their comprehension of reading and encourage this through discussions, paired activities and class reading. Our policy works on teaching children comprehension skills, not simply testing them with comprehension questions.
Those children who have additional needs or require additional help are supported through additional reading sessions, targeted teacher or adult support during lessons. In addition we also use the Reading Eggs and Reading Plus programme which can be accessed at home with or without parental support.
Pupils will have had experience of a range of different text types and authors; they will be able to communicate their favourite styles of book. Parents will have a good understanding of how to support their children with their early reading to ensure that good progress continues to be made. Classes have an interesting and inviting book corner which will expose children to a range of different text types. In EYFS, KS1 and LKS2, effective phonics lessons are delivered daily. Reading is highly valued throughout the school through display work, to instil a sense of pride in the children and value its importance to their learning. Books are appropriately linked to the phonics stage or Lexile level children are at. Children are able to use their love of books to inspire their writing and become creative story tellers.
Writing at St. Cuthbert’s
At St Cuthbert’s Catholic Primary School, we understand that writing is a life-long skill which is required throughout both education and employment. We aim to teach children to write for a variety of purposes and to vary their vocabulary and grammar appropriately to suit. Whilst we value writing for a clear purpose, we also want to encourage the children to write for enjoyment too and become effective story tellers.
Writing involves transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech, before writing). Our writing curriculum is structured so that children are taught two to three genres in depth each half term so that they can understand them fully in terms of a reader and a writer. Our curriculum is progressive to enable children to build upon prior knowledge from earlier year groups and previous terms.
Our school follows a programme of study based on a scheme produced by Together for Children working with local Sunderland primary schools. The programme is clearly broken down into termly expectations with additional objectives identified for those children on track for greater depth. Teachers plan to use the genres laid out in the document and incorporate the relevant grammatical skills within their daily lesson plans. The objectives which are covered over the term are set out in teacher’s medium-term plans and literacy overview document. The same objectives are then used to assess the children’s learning. This enables gaps to be identified quickly, and interventions put in place to address them.
In EYFS the Development Matters Curriculum Guidance is followed. Writing involves transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech, before writing). Children are encouraged to engage in extended conversations about stories. Storytelling is encouraged through role play and imaginative play. Fine motor control and precision helps with hand-eye co-ordination which is linked to early literacy. Formation of letters is taught alongside this so that by the end of Reception class children are able to write short phrases, captions and sentences.
Teachers have autonomy in their teaching of daily lessons, but the standard structure of a teaching sequence would look consistent across a school; This includes a cold piece of writing, creation of a toolkit, tenses day, warm tasks throughout which grammatical features are taught, followed by a hot piece which is assessed against the Bishop Chadwick moderation document. Those children who are on track for greater depth will also use this time to redraft their writing for an entirely different audience, or purpose.
Staff are confident in the knowledge that they are following a clear and consistent approach to the teaching of writing across the school which increases fluidity. They use their professional judgement to adapt planning to the needs of their children and provide writing opportunities, developing the interests of children where possible.
All children in KS1 and KS2 are assessed using the Bishop Chadwick assessment document, to assess ability and determine expected levels after each piece of work and at the end of each term. An objective is highlighted when children have shown that they can consistently embed each strategy within their independent writing. Teachers must be confident that children can independently show each of the expected skills before they are deemed ‘Expected Standard’. These can be assessed across the curriculum and are not solely dependent of English lessons. Instead of standalone interventions, staff utilise instant interventions where possible. This enables misconceptions to be addressed as close to the point of the lesson as possible and results in the biggest gains to the child.
Pupils enjoy writing and view it as relevant, purposeful and enjoyable. They are able to use it as a vehicle to communicate their ideas effectively and creatively across a range of subjects. They enjoy talking about their writing and reflecting on the writing of peers. They are keen to develop as writers and improve the effect of their writing on their reading audience and are able to adapt their writing based upon audience and context. Children share their writing with peers and other adults across the school. High value is given to writing, which is celebrated at St Cuthbert’s Catholic Primary School, with weekly Writing Awards for each class, celebrating achievements and displaying writing across the school. This gives the children a sense of pride and shows how we value writing skills. Handwriting is also celebrated weekly in assemblies.