Reading and Phonics
At Cuerden Church School we use a phonics reading scheme to enable children to read words more proficiently. We have amalgamated a range of schemes to make a unique phonic based scheme that meets the needs of the children in our school. Within the scheme we have resources from; Oxford Reading Tree, Rigby Star, Phonic Bugs, Read Write Inc., Alphablocks, Project X and Jolly Phonics.
What are Synthetic phonics reading schemes?
Basically children learn to read phonics books by blending together sounds which are made up of single letters or groups of letters. You might now be thinking – What’s new? – Are children not trying to sound out words in all reading books? Yes – but in other reading schemes they are encouraged to use other clues to predict the text as well such as following a repetitive pattern, looking at the pictures or thinking about what word would just make sense.
‘Letters and Sounds’
You might have heard of ‘Letters and Sounds.’ It is the scheme created by the Government’s National Literacy Strategy in 2007. It encourages schools to teach children to read using a synthetic phonics programme. ‘Letters and Sounds’ is based on evidence which shows that children learn to read quicker if they are taught letter sounds first and blend them together to form words.
In short, synthetic phonics teaches children the 44 phonemes (sounds) in the English language, linking letters or groups of letters with sounds.
It is important that when you help your child to sound out words, you focus on the phoneme rather than the individual letters which might only be part of a phoneme (sound). For example, when reading the word, boat – it has 3 phonemes (sounds) – b – oa – t. It would not make any sense at all to split up the ‘oa’ sound in the middle to be ‘o’ and ‘a’. Children can then use these letters and their corresponding sounds to read and spell words.
As your child progresses they learn that one phoneme (sound) can be represented by different letters, such as the sound in the middle of rain, which is represented as ‘ai’ can also be represented as ‘ay’ (play) and ‘a-e’ (tale).
Synthetic phonics Books
Each book in a synthetic phonics reading scheme contains words that the children can read using their knowledge of sounds (phonemes) and letters so that they should make steady progress. So, once children have learned the letter or group of letters that make the sounds in words, they should be able to read all of the words without making guesses or predictions based on other clues in the story such as the pictures or the pattern.
You might not notice the difference between synthetic phonics books and other reading books. All reading books use a phonics element, but books which are not in synthetic phonics schemes may also include some other ‘tricky words’ which cannot easily be sounded out. Children are taught to make sensible ‘guesses’ based on other clues such as the pattern of the story or the pictures.
Opinions about the best way to teach children to read are constantly changing. Individual children learn to read in different ways.
What on earth?
Some of the language used to describe what happens in synthetic phonic teaching is really tricky.
Amazingly your child may well know and understand these terms…
- Blend (blending) this is when your child draws individual sounds together to pronounce a word, e.g. h-e-l-p, blended together, reads help
- Phoneme: the smallest single identifiable sound, e.g. the letters ‘sh’ represent just one sound, but ‘fl’ represents two (/f/ and /l/), There are 44 phonemes in the English language. http://www.pearsonschoolsandfecolleges.co.uk/demos/aaPrimary/Literacy/phonemes/Alphabet.html- You can use this link to hear how the sounds should be pronounced.
- Grapheme: a letter or a group of letters representing one sound, e.g. sh, th, igh, ious.
- Digraph: is when two letters make one sound, e.g. sh, ch, th, ph.
- Vowel digraphs are two vowels which, together, make one sound, e.g. ie, oo, ai, ee
In KS1, every child will have a daily phonics lesson and wherever possible, teachers will aim to link their English lessons, reading workshops and home readers to the sounds covered that week.
Some children in KS2 will still need these phonics sessions but most children, as they become more fluent readers, will have spelling and grammar lessons. All KS2 children have a daily reading workshop and a home reading book.
In Key Stage 2 the children are allocated age appropriate books; either from the Year 3/Year 4 or Year 5/Year 6 selection. The selection of books consist of a wide range of Fiction, Non Fiction and Information Texts. There is also a range of specialist books for dyslexic children which have proven to be extremely beneficial in gaining confidence in the reluctant readers.
To further encourage a joy of reading, and to help the children explore their own interests, they are given the option to change their allocated reading book if they so wish. Although the children are encouraged to express an interest in the books they choose to read, they are asked to explore the full range of texts on offer.
Guided Reading sessions take place three times a week; here the children work in small groups and once a week their group is supported by an adult. During the facilitated session the children are asked to read aloud to the adult and are supported in their decoding and understanding any words they do not understand. They are also helped with working on skills such as using expression when reading aloud and also how to decipher and infer meaning from texts. In addition to this, a range of comprehension questions are asked within the group and themes that arise from the text are also discussed.
For the children that are not reading at an age appropriate level, the Read Write Inc. and Quest books are used to support children still mastering phonic application.
It is our aim for all our children to love reading and we ask parents to support us from the very early stages by reading a few pages each night at home.