Phonics and Reading Schemes
From entry into Reception at St Monica’s, pupils are taught to say the sounds for all 26 letters of the alphabet and attribute graphemes (one or more letters) to the sounds they hear when forming their writing.
From this early point in their education, our pupils are then taught that letters are combined into groups of two (digraphs) and three (trigraphs) letters to make sounds.
We use Little Wandle Big Cat Letters and Sounds to support the progression and teaching of Phonics and Reading in EYFS and Key Stage One. Segmenting spoken words into individual sounds helps children to spell as they write and blending these sounds together enables children to read.
We look for our early readers to develop fluency, prosody and to comprehend what they read. Their reading books expose them to systematic synthetic phonics.
While most of our pupils acquire these skills directly from focused teaching and rehearse through their independent reading experiences across the curriculum, a significant minority, including children with dyslexia, do not acquire reading skills through Phonics alone. They will be supported by their class teacher to learn using a range of approaches, alongside synthetic phonics.
St Monica’s Phonics and Reading FAQs
How often is my child taught Phonics?
In Reception and Year One, Phonics is taught for half an hour daily. In the early weeks of Reception, this may build from 15 minute sessions twice daily to an hour of Phonics a day by the end of the year. Additionally, class teachers will build in activities or tasks which embed their daily learning and allow revisiting and application. This may be in a writing task, a reading activity or through continuous provision learning in Reception.
How does my child’s reading book align with Phonics teaching?
The Little Wandle books work in-line with phonics teaching. In fact, they deliberately lag behind the teaching delivered daily, in order to ensure that children have speedy sight recognition/recall to link the grapheme (letter or letters that make a sound) to the sound in their head.
By the time a pupil’s reading book comes home, it has been read three times in class. This means that, while reading aloud, children are not labouriously sounding out each and every word.
In addition to using phonic knowledge to read, children are required to store an ever-growing number of words in their memory which are deemed to be 'Tricky Words', so named because they have a letter or letters within them which do not segment and blend to sound out a word. 'Was' is a perfect example. These words appear in reading books and are taught and rehearsed in phonics lessons.
Why isn’t my child reading an Engage Literacy scheme book anymore?
The DFE initiated a change, driving the teaching of phonics, and consequently reading, to be taught by direct instruction. Children, they said, should be reading 'decodable' books which means that they are not encountering phonics that they have not already learned when they read. This means that their strategies (segmenting sounds they know and blending them to form a word) can always work.
Engage Literacy does not operate like this. Though it does incrementally expose children to the phonics they are taught, it largely relies on repetition of high frequency words and encourages children to use other cues and strategies (such as looking at the picture for a clue) to ascertain meaning or sense.
My child’s class teacher has provided us with a second book but it’s not a Little Wandle Big Cat book. Why do we have this?
This is a sharing book. Your child will not be able to read this book on their own. This book is for you both to read and enjoy together. Your child’s teacher will have provided this when your child is reading their phonically matched book in a fluent way, is able to intonate while reading and can discuss the text during and after reading.
The second book may well be an Engage Literacy text. This has been made possible through a forensic(!) comparison between the Little Wandle Phonics teaching cycle and the High Frequency Words (HFW) that appear in Engage Literacy books. Class teachers can make a selection from the Engage Literacy scheme which exposes children to HFW which they have been taught in the Little Wandle sequence of Phonics lessons.
What can I do at home to support my child’s learning?
Watching the videos embedded below will be a useful support to you at home. They model the correct or ‘pure’ pronunciation of letter sounds that your child is taught to use at school and that would be fantastic to model at home. This sometimes makes us feel like we are speaking unnaturally or without our own accents but it is hugely helpful to our children. These pure sounds blend perfectly to form words.
Additionally, the spellings that are sent home will be written rehearsal of the sounds your child is taught. Practice these at home to support your child to spot digraphs or trigraphs or commit tricky words to memory.
Allowing time for your child to read aloud to you at home is the best support you can give. Follow guidance from their reading record or inside their reading book to shape your role in their reading process. Raise queries or questions about your child’s reading with their class teacher. There are always ideas and strategies that we can offer to help your child on their reading journey.
Resources for Parents
Please find below a set of links, videos and resources to help at home:
- Videos of children modelling pure sounds