READING AND PHONICS at coombe road primary school
"Staff are experts in phonics and teach children to read well." ofsted, 2023
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The Twinkl phonics scheme
At Coombe Road Primary School, we use the ‘Twinkl’ phonics scheme because it has purposefully been designed and written as a whole-school phonics programme which provides everything needed to teach rigorous and progressive phonics. This systematic introduction of sounds and common exception words ensures challenging, yet supportive, learning outcomes that build upon prior knowledge. This leads to progression and continuity.
The Twinkl phonics approach includes engaging learning materials and we believe that children learn best when they are enjoying their learning with a mix of bright, fun lesson resources within a clear and systematic approach that builds children’s skills daily. During the lessons, children will repeat elements to ensure rapid and automatic recall. Each day, they will experience blending and segmenting activities to allow regular practise of these core skills.
Stories are used to provide a stimulus and context, and the content integrates games to practise the skills taught. This means that while children are solving mysteries in Ancient Egypt or journeying down the Mississippi River, they are practising and rehearsing their core phonics skills over and over in many different and engaging ways. Early in the scheme, stories last for one lesson but later on they develop over a week and, therefore, act as an additional hook into learning, often being left on a cliff hanger to be resolved in the next lesson. The lessons are also supported by decodable books, where children can apply the skills they have learnt in their phonics lessons. These are called ‘Rhino Readers’, which are a collection of engaging phonics-led books that take children from decoding to fluency.
A cohesive whole-school approach
Synthetic phonics builds continuously on prior learning, so we consider it vital that the same programme is used across the whole school to ensure maximum impact. By following one scheme, we are able to establish a progressive, consistent phonics curriculum where children progress and succeed. As part of this cohesive approach, we aim to use the same terminology and language when talking about phonics. Our reading books, ‘Rhino Readers’, also follow the same teaching progression as the phonics scheme so that children immediately apply their new knowledge in context.
What is synthetic phonics?
Synthetic phonics is a method of teaching reading and writing in which words are broken up into their smallest units of sound or ‘phonemes’. Children learn to associate a written letter or group of letters, known as ‘graphemes’, with each phoneme. Sounds are then built up or ‘blended’ together into words for reading or, conversely, whole words are broken down or ‘segmented’ into their constituent sounds for writing.
The benefits of this approach are:
- children learn in an order which is well thought-out and allows them to progress through stages as they are ready;
- teachers have a structure for planning and clear stages for assessing children, in order to ensure progression and coverage;
- children can attempt new words working from sound alone; and
- reading and writing become practices that are developed hand-in-hand.
Background of teaching synthetic phonics
Synthetic phonics has been the required method of teaching early reading and writing skills since the 2006 Rose Report, which examined the advantages of phonics through long term data. The benefits of a phonetic approach has been well evidenced and, as a result, the government produced its own non-statutory synthetic phonics guidance document called Letters and Sounds. In March 2021, the Department for Education decided it should not continue with its involvement in this work. While many practitioners are moving away from using this document to directly inform their teaching, it still has had a huge impact on how we teach phonics today. The Twinkl Phonics’ teaching sequence complements the progression laid out in Letters and Sounds.
The phonics screening check
The phonics screening check is a statutory part of the curriculum for children within year 1. During the summer term, all children in year 1 are tested in their ability to apply phonics knowledge to read a range of real and nonsense words. This is to check that they are able to apply the key phonics skills to all words, both known and unknown.
LEARNING TO READ
All reading books are banded across the school and children progress through the various stages as they become more confident readers. We have a very broad range of books for children to select from, including those from schemes.
Every child has a Reading Assessment Card (RAC) detailing current targets for their stage in the Curriculum. This enables all adults in school, parents and the child themselves to know what they have achieved so far and what their next steps in learning are.
We provide regular meetings for parents on how to best support their children in their reading development as well as various information to help support them when back at home.
There is a wealth of material online to support reading at home. You can access books and excellent information via the Oxford Owl website.
Being able to read is empowering and enjoyable. Learning to read is a considerable task but we can, as adults and readers, help our children begin to learn from a very early age. A daily experience with books is the ideal. This page is intended to give helpful hints and guidance.
Children learn by imitation. Let them see you read a variety of material for a variety of reasons, e.g. newspapers, novels, T.V. guides, recipes, letters, maps, instructions. Let them see it is useful and enjoyable for both sexes. They will soon learn that print carries meaning.
- Notice print in the environment: street signs, bus stops, shops, notice boards, etc. They will recognise Toys ‘R' Us and MacDonalds very quickly!
- Make trips to libraries and book shops fun and exciting. Let them choose their own books. Books make wonderful presents.
Sharing Books With Your Child
- From the time your child is a few months old they will be fascinated by the feel, sight, language and rhythm of books.
- There is a wonderful choice of books for babies. Made from board or fabric they are safe, easy to hold and durable. You can even buy waterproof books for the bath or paddling pool. Share them with your baby and let them handle them by themselves.
- Be cosy! Find a relaxing time when you can sit quietly and comfortably and share a book with your child sitting close to you.
- By sharing the book your child will begin to notice that in English we read from left to right and top to bottom. You may like to run your finger under the print as you read so they know that the story comes from those black squiggles on the page.
- Talk about the front cover and the back cover. When they are older show how the contents and index pages work. Let them help turn the pages so they understand that we read from front to back.
- Read with lots of expression!
- Be prepared for endless repetition of favourite books. They will begin to join in. They will notice if you skip a page and/or fall asleep.
- Chat about the book in a relaxed way (it is not an exam!
- Which bits did you like?
- What is happening in the pictures?
- What might happen next?
- How could it have ended differently?
- The characters (appearance, actions, motivation)
- Encourage inference and deduction, e.g. “Why do you think the cat was sad?” “Why did the girl do that?”
- Relate it to the child's own life “Our house is like that one”, “Do you remember when we did that?”
- Encourage the child to “read” to you using their own words to go with the pictures.
- Ask, “Can you spot any words or letters you know?”
- Don't forget to give your own views, it should be an easy dialogue.
- Make them laugh.
- From sharing books children learn:
- The mechanics of a book - how it works.
- Story language
- Book language: title, author, illustrator, chapter, contents, cover and index.
Hearing Your Child Read Aloud
Children need a variety of strategies to become fluent readers. They should be able to:
- Use experience of life and books to predict.
- Recognise whole words using visual memory.
- ‘Sound out' using letter sounds to work out unknown words
- Read on past an unknown word then use context to guess
- Use clues from the pictures.
- Word build. Looking for recognisable patterns and parts of words to help you guess.
- Self-correct for meaning.
- Self-correct for emphasis.
- Feel confident enough to guess.
- Re-read the sentence to put the unknown word in context. To help your child to become fluent, encourage them to draw on a variety of the above strategies to read an unknown word. They should not become over- reliant on one strategy.
Children need to use a combination of these ‘searchlights': the more they use the more light is shed on the text and the easier it is to read. Children who rely heavily on just one searchlight will struggle as developing readers and you will need to use all searchlights at different times but certainly more than one at any one time. For example, in the sentence ‘He lay down to sleep on his bed”, the word bed could be guessed by sounding it out (phonics) but can be worked out more quickly if they consider the context of the sentence as well. NB: Many common words are not phonetically regular, e.g. what, the
The Adult's Role
- Find a comfortable, quiet place (preferably without the television on). Sit closely looking at the book.
- Look and sound interested (this may require some acting talent!). Say things like, “This looks a good one”, “I like books about _____”.
- Discuss the cover. “I wonder what that boy's called”. “That's a funny dog”, etc.
- As the child reads be engaged too.
- Ask them to predict what might happen next.
- If they get stuck on a word encourage them to use the strategies on the previous page but it is important to keep the momentum and enjoyment going so tell them the word after a couple of attempts. (Do this gently!)
- Encourage expression
- Give LOTS of praise and encouragement.
- Remember we read for meaning. It is not always necessary to correct mistakes provided it still makes sense.
- Once a child prefers to read silently don't forget to keep introducing new books and “warm them up”, e.g. read the first chapter, show them a new format, help them with difficult words or discuss characters. Reluctant Readers
- Share the reading. Perhaps one page each.
- Do little and often.
- Make them laugh (there are lots of funny stories and poetry).
- Give lots of praise and reward.
- ‘Warm-up' the book to introduce difficult vocabulary, e.g. names, technical terms.
Fluent Independent Readers
Please do not fall into the trap of thinking that your child no longer needs your help with reading. They still need regular one-to-one time to ensure their reading progresses.
- Encourage them to go to the library. Build their own collection of books.
- Introduce them to a wide range of reading, including: fiction, non- fiction, controlled access to the internet, magazines, newspapers, etc.
- Be aware that children will develop their own preferences which is fine, but you may need to actively stimulate interest in other authors, subjects, materials.
- Encourage them to use reading to find out about what interests them. What to focus on:
- Fluent readers need to discuss books regularly with an adult to:
- Develop the ability to respond to and give opinions on what they have read and explain why.
- Check they can appreciate the hidden meanings and subtleties in the text by inference and deduction, e.g. “Why do you think that character was so angry?”
- Notice and discuss how a particular text has been written and how the author has created certain effects. This experience will help them in their writing. You will need to have read some of the text in order to discuss it! (Children who have limited reading experience will struggle as writers.)
Please see our letter to parents about reading with children at home:
Early Years Foundation Stage GUIDANCE
For our EYFS policies, including a guide to the Early Learning Goals, please click on this link to our policies page.
Reading at home and school at Coombe Road.
Here are a few tips to help you understand our school systems and to get the most out of reading at home with your child:
- Please make sure your child brings their book bag to school every day.
- Please make sure it contains their pink card and reading book.
- I will hear the children read in a guided reading session once a week.
- Their card will be stamped and comments made.
- An adult will hear them read individually at least once a week. Comments will be made and their book changed.
- In order to make good reading progress you must hear your child read their books daily (or at least three times a week).
- When you hear them read please make a comment however brief. We will then change their book.
- In the early stages children will memorise the story. That is fine. They will gradually learn to use picture cues, context, phonic knowledge and sight vocabulary.
- The most important thing at this stage is to enjoy sharing books together and to do so regularly.
- Children are still encouraged to borrow a book from our class library for you to read to them.
- When they are confident on Pink books they will progress to Red books and then Yellow books.
- I will date the targets they achieve on the front of the card. This needs to be done three times to achieve it.
- On the back of the card are the Phase Two tricky words. Please help your child to learn to read these. This is a target on the front of the card.
- I cannot emphasis enough how important it is that you help your child at home with reading. Please make time for this whenever you can.
If you have any questions do not hesitate to ask.