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Phonics and early reading

Phonics and early reading

At COLPAI we believe every child deserves success right from the start. We know that the sooner children learn to read, the greater their success at school. This is why we put reading at the heart of what we do. In EYFS and KS1 we focus on learning to read and in KS2 the emphasis shifts to reading to learn.

We use a high-quality phonics programme called Read Write Inc. As a general guide, some children will complete this phonics programme in Year 1 and others in Year 2. Children who need extra support may follow this programme into KS2. During this time, we group children by their reading progress for a phonic and reading session and re-assess children every half-term so we can place them in the group where they’ll make the most progress. We provide extra daily one-to-one sessions for children who need a bit of a boost to keep up.

How do we make phonics easy for children to learn?
Phonics depends upon children learning to read and write sounds effortlessly, so we make it simple and fun. We use creative, visual, active, and speaking and listening pathways into learning and practise our letters and sounds through games.

The phonic knowledge is split into two parts. First, we teach them one way to read and write the 40+ sounds in English. We use pictures to help, for example, we make ‘a’ into the shape of an apple, ‘f’ into the shape of a flower. These pictures help all children, especially slower-starters, to read the sounds easily. Children learn to read words by sound-blending using a frog called Fred. Fred says the sounds and children help him blend the sounds to read each word.

Then we teach children the different spellings of the same sounds, for example, they learn that the sound ‘ay’ is written ay, a-e and ai; the sound ‘ee’ is written ee, e and ea.
We use phrases to help them remember each sound for example, ay, may I play, a-e  – make a cake?

How do we ensure children can read every book?
The first thing we do is to give children books we know they can read using the phonics they have learnt so far. In this way they build fluency and confidence. (We read lots of other stories to them, but do not expect them to read these yet.) Before they read the story, they sound out the names of characters and new words, practise reading any of the ‘tricky red’ words, and tell them a thought-provoking introduction to get them excited about the story. Then, over three days, children read the story three times: first to focus on reading the words carefully; the second to help them read the story fluently; and on the third, we talk about the story together for example, how characters might be feeling and why. By the time your child reads the story to you at home, they will be able to read it confidently with expression.

How do we teach children to spell confidently?
We use two simple activities: Fred Fingers to spell regular words and Red Rhythms for tricky words.

Fred Fingers
We teach children to spell using ‘Fred Fingers’: we say a word and then children pinch the sounds onto their fingers and write the word, sound by sound. Red Rhythms We teach tricky words with Red Rhythms. We say the tricky letters in a puzzled or annoyed voice and build the letter names up into a rhythm, for example, s-ai-d. Children learn to spell new words and review past words every week, they practise spelling them with a partner and – when they’re ready – we give them a test to celebrate their spelling success.

How do we make writing simple for children to learn?
We teach handwriting, spelling and composition, providing regular opportunities for children to apply their skills across all 7 areas of learning, both inside and outside. We teach children to form letters with the correct pencil grip and in the correct sitting position from the very beginning. They practise handwriting every day so they learn to write quickly and easily.  We use pictures and a little saying to help them remember the letter. 
Once children can write simple words, we teach them to ‘hold’ a sentence in their heads and then write it with correct spelling and punctuation.Very soon children are able to write down their own ideas. We try out different sentences together, drawing on new vocabulary and sentence structures. They practise saying their sentences out loud first so they don’t forget their ideas while they’re writing.  They also learn to proofread their own writing.
Story and poetry time
Storytime is the highlight of every day. We have a core bank of picture books with props and puppets that children get to know really well, and others we read just for fun. We use Pie Corbet’s Talk 4 Writing approach (see Newsletter-2) to learn some of these stories by heart and they can act out the stories in the role-play area. Children learn poetry too. We’ve chosen wonderful, memorable poems so children can learn them by heart.

How can you help at home?
First of all, come to our regular meetings. We hold these every term to give you practical advice about how you can help.

We appreciate you’re busy but here are two things that will make the biggest difference to your child’s progress. Every night:

1. Read a bedtime story to your child.  
Your child will bring home lovely picture books from their class story corner. Read these stories to your child –  as this book is beyond their current reading stage. The children can browse these books and retell the story in their own words. High-quality picture books develop rich language and familiarity with the narrative arc of stories. 

2. Listen to your child read the storybook we send home. Your child will bring home a phonic storybook they have just finished reading in their group. They will be able to read this book confidently because they have already read it two or three times. The purpose of re-reading these stories again at home is to develop their fluency and to blend the sounds speedily and fluently. Importantly, we develop reading comprehension skills and response to texts alongside phonic work using both the Read Write Inc. books and through our high-quality core picture books.

Follow these links to DVD information for Parents:

What is Read Write Inc. Phonics?

Understanding Phonics