Phonics is making connections between the sounds of our spoken words and the letters that are used to write them down.
Phonics (Reading and Spelling)
At St Nicholas, we believe that all our children can become fluent readers and writers. This is why we have chosen to teach reading through Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised, which is a systematic and synthetic phonics programme.
We start teaching phonics in Reception and follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Progression, which ensures that children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering phonics to read and spell as they move through school. As a result, our children are able to tackle any unfamiliar words as they read.
At St Nicholas, we also model the application of the alphabetic code through phonics in shared reading and writing, both inside and outside of the phonics lesson and across the curriculum. We have a strong focus on language development for our children because we know that speaking and listening are crucial skills for reading and writing in all subjects.
We value reading as a crucial life skill. By the time children leave us, they read confidently for meaning and regularly enjoy reading for pleasure. Our readers are equipped with the tools to tackle unfamiliar vocabulary. We encourage our children to see themselves as readers for both pleasure and purpose.
Because we believe teaching every child to read is so important, we have a member of staff who leads Phonics and another lead for Reading. They both drive the early reading programme in our school. These leads are highly skilled at teaching phonics and reading, and they monitor and support our reading team, so everyone teaches with fidelity to the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme.
Daily Phonics Lessons in Reception and Year 1
- We teach phonics for 30 minutes every day. In Reception, we build up from 10-minute sessions, with additional daily oral blending games, to the full-length lesson as quickly as possible. Each Friday, we review the week’s teaching to help children become fluent readers.
- Children make a strong start in Reception: teaching begins in Week 2 of the Autumn term.
- We follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised expectations of progress:
- Children in Reception are taught to read and spell words using Phase 2 and 3 GPCs (written letters to match spoken sounds), and words with adjacent consonants (Phase 4) with fluency and accuracy.
- Children in Year 1 review Phase 3 and 4 and are taught to read and spell words using Phase 5 GPCs with fluency and accuracy.
Daily Keep-Up Lessons
- Any child who needs additional practice has Keep-Up support at least 4 times a week, taught by a fully trained adult. Keep-up lessons match the structure of class teaching, and use the same procedures, resources and mantras, but in smaller steps with more repetition, so that every child secures their learning.
- We timetable phonics sessions 4 times a week for any child in Year 2 or 3 who is not fully fluent at reading or has not passed the Phonics Screening Check. These children urgently need to catch up, so the gap between themselves and their peers does not widen. We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessments to identify the gaps in their phonic knowledge and teach to these using the Keep-Up resources – at pace.
- If any child in Year 4 to 6 has gaps in their phonic knowledge when reading or writing, we plan phonics ‘catch-up’ lessons to address specific reading/writing gaps. These short, sharp lessons last 10 minutes and take place at least three times a week.
Teaching Reading: Reading Practice Sessions
- We teach children to read through reading practice sessions three times a week. These:
- are taught by a fully trained adult to small groups of approximately six children
- use books matched to the children’s secure phonic knowledge using the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessments and book matching grids. This means the children should know all the sounds and tricky words in the book, read many of the words by silent blending (automatic reading) and only need to stop and sound out about 5% of the words by the time they bring the book home.
- are monitored by the class teacher, who rotates and works with each group on a regular basis.
- Each reading practice session has a clear focus, so that the demands of the session do not overload the children’s working memory. The reading practice sessions have been designed to focus on three key reading skills:
- prosody: teaching children to read with understanding and expression
- comprehension: teaching children to understand the text.
- In Reception these sessions start in Week 4. Children who are not yet decoding have daily additional blending practice in small groups, so that they quickly learn to blend and can begin to read books.
- In Year 2 and 3, we continue to teach reading in this way for any children who still need to practise reading with decodable books. These children have a book matched to their secure phonics knowledge and read these at least 3 times a week in school on a 1:1 basis.
- The decodable reading practice book is taken home to ensure success is shared with the family and for additional rehearsal.
- Reading for pleasure books, known as sharing books, also go home for parents to share and read to children. The children are not expected to be able to read this book. This book is to be shared together. Parents can make the story exciting by using different voices, discussing new vocabulary and encouraging the children to talk about the book and things they see.
- We use the parent resources on the Little Wandle website to support and engage our families. Resources are also uploaded on to our school website as they become available.
Ensuring Consistency and Pace of Progress
- Every teacher and teaching assistant in our school has been trained to teach phonics/reading through Little Wandle, so we have the same expectations of progress. We all use the same language, routines and resources to teach children to read so that we lower children’s cognitive load.
- Weekly content grids map each element of new learning to each day, week and term for the duration of the programme.
- Lesson templates, prompt cards and ‘how to’ videos ensure that we all have a consistent approach and structure for each lesson.
- The Phonics Lead, Reading Lead and Senior Leaders use the audit and prompt cards to regularly monitor and observe teaching; they use the summative data to identify children who need additional support and gaps in learning.
Assessment is used to monitor progress and to identify any child needing additional support as soon as they need it.
- Assessment for Learning is used:
- daily within class to identify children needing Keep-Up support
- weekly in the Review lesson to assess gaps, address these immediately and secure fluency of GPCs, words and spellings.
- Summative Assessment is used:
- every six weeks to assess progress, to identify gaps in learning that need to be addressed, to identify any children needing additional support and to plan the Keep-Up support that they need.
- Children in Year 1 undertake the Phonics Screening Check. Any child not passing the check re-sits it in Year 2. (2020 and 2021 Year 2 had the Phonics Screening Check in November 2021 in line with Government guidance).
Ongoing Assessment for Catch-Up
- Children in Year 2 to 6 are assessed through their teacher’s ongoing formative assessment as well as through the half-termly Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised summative assessments.
Little Wandle Website Parent Support Resources and Videos