It is well established that phonics knowledge is essential in teaching children how to read and that the skill of reading itself is vital in unlocking access to a wider challenging curriculum, not just in Key Stage 2 but through to secondary school and beyond in later life. At Ark Atwood we believe that every child must be taught how to read and are determined to make this happen through delivering a robust synthetic phonics programme. We want all children to make the crucial transition of moving from learning to read, to reading to learn so they can expand their knowledge independently and spark their own curiosity about the world. We use Ruth Miskin’s Read Write Inc (RWI) programme as a vehicle to deliver the highest quality phonics lessons from Reception to Year 2 and even start this earlier in Nursery too. All children learn to read, write and blend together the 44 sounds (including alternative graphemes) in the English language so that they have the toolkit to decode words successfully with understanding independently. This equips our children to being confident and proud readers.
What is our approach to Phonics?
In Nursery the children are introduced to phonics through teaching phonological awareness (identifying sounds in their environment and words) and begin to learn single letter sounds towards the end of the year.
We then build on this by consistently following the RWI programme through Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. The RWI programme maps out a series of steps through a range of sounds and corresponding storybooks as detailed below:
- YR learn single letter sounds (set 1) > oral blending > blend decodable words > begin to learn digraphs (set 1 and start of set 2)
- Y1 and Y2 learn digraph, trigraph, and split digraph sounds (set 2 and set 3) >blend decodable single syllable, multi-syllable and suffix words.
- Children learn how to read and spell with alternative graphemes of sounds using rhymes and pictures to support. (e.g. ay, a-e and ai)
- Common exception words (words that are not decodable with phonics) are taught with separate strategies looking at word patterns and rhythms so that children approach these words with creativity and resilience.
- Fluency is practised and comprehension developed as children progress through the different book bands and get more confident with their oral fluency (from red to grey).
Assessments take place on a half termly basis and include gap analysis checks. Children are placed into homogenous groups to best support progress so that each child is being appropriately challenged. Phonics rooms are fully equipped with RWI resources and 1:1 tutoring is prioritised for those who need more support.
What does our approach to Phonics look like in the classroom?
- Daily timetabled phonics lessons always include a speed sound and spelling session.
- Handwriting taught using memorable phrases and familiar pictures.
- Engaging, routines based, learning for children where they can see and be proud of their own progress and enthusiastic to learn more.
- Explicitly taught vocabulary to deepen understanding of stories and enrich language so
- Paired reading which develops throughout the week from a decode read to a fluency read. Paired reading trains our students to act both as a reader and as a teacher, and therefore becoming reflective learners and critical thinkers. We model and teach the children this process so that they become confident communicators and kind collaborators.
- Teachers model fluency (rate, expression, accuracy and phrasing) and explain their thought processes so that children can emulate this process independently and with resilience during paired reading.
- Evidence based and deeper thinking comprehension questions are set weekly to help our children think creatively about what they have read.
- A weekly phonics book is sent home for children to share and read with their parents (this is their focus book that they have been reading in school this week).
- An additional decodable book is sent home (that hasn’t been seen before) for an additional opportunity for children to read aloud at home.
- Children also receive a reading for pleasure book from the library weekly so they have access to a diverse range of texts that they can enjoy being read to them.
- Groups are fluid with composition changing based on ongoing observation and half termly assessments (based on sounds learnt and reading speed).
- Misconceptions are addressed through the marking policy and pinny times (regular review of sounds).
- Texts increase in difficulty as children move through the programme so that all children feel appropriately challenged.
- Children also listen to a range of storybooks, non-fiction texts and poetry in ‘class book time’ that connect to our literacy and humanities topics and draw on both our literacy heritage and diverse community.
How do we measure success in Phonics?
- Outcomes in the Phonics Screening Check are consistently well above the national average even with high SEN cohorts (2019).
- Children perform strongly in Y2 Reading assessments.
- Progress tracked for our less confident readers through our Read Write Inc. half term assessments.
- Children enthused about the texts they are studying and are keen to progress through the RWI programme.
Further information can be found here RWISessionForParents_1 (2).pdf