The Phonics Curriculum at St Thomas'
At St Thomas’ reading is at the heart of everything we do - we value reading as a key life skill and are dedicated to enabling our pupils to become lifelong readers. We believe reading is key for academic success.
In keeping with the broader aims of our Lighthouse curriculum, we carefully plan and deliver a robust and progressive phonics programme to ensure that all children are given the opportunity to become fluent readers. Our aim is to ensure that our pupils are confident and competent readers who choose to read independently for pleasure.
From Reception and into Key Stage 1, we follow the Read Write Inc programme to teach phonics and reading.
In Read Write Inc, Fred Frog plays an important role. Fred can only speak in sounds, not whole words. We call this Fred Talk. During lessons, children will hear Fred talking in sounds, for example, h-o-p and the children are motivated to blend the sounds together and understand what Fred is saying. First, we blend oral sounds together with Fred and then we progress to reading the written letters and blending them together to read a word.
The Order of Teaching Sounds
Set 1 Speed Sounds
Set 1 sounds are the initial letter sounds. They are taught in the following order:
m, a, s, d, t ,I, n, p, g, o, c, k, u, b, f, e, l, h, sh, r, j, v, y, w, th, z, ch, qu, x, ng, nk
Set 2 Speed Sounds
There are 12 Set 2 ‘speed sounds’ that are made up of two or three letters, which represent just one sound, e.g. ay as in play and igh as in high.
Set 3 Speed Sounds
When learning their set 3 speed sounds, children are taught that there are more ways in which the same sounds are written e.g. ee as in tree and ea as in tea.
Nonsense Words/Alien Words
We want children to be able to apply their knowledge of sounds and decoding skills to read any unfamiliar word, whether it is real or nonsense. During phonics lessons, children will have the opportunity to read real and nonsense words. This shows us that children are using their decoding skills to read words and not relying on existing knowledge of real words. This is an important skill as it forms part of the Year 1 Phonics Screening check, which all Year 1 pupils take in the summer term.
Once the children have learned a few initial sounds, they can begin to learn to blend these sounds together to read simple words. During word time, children have the opportunity to blend familiar sounds together to read words. Initially, children do this through the use of Fred Talk then progress to Fred in your head whereby they blend the sounds silently in their heads rather than out loud (as in Fred Talk). Word time sessions also provide an opportunity for children to practise spelling and writing. Children are given a whole word and asked to identify the sounds they need to write the words. Children will use their Fred Fingers to help them to identify, count and write the sounds they will need.
Story Book Lessons
Once children are reading whole sentences, the next stage for them in the Read Write Inc. scheme is to read the storybooks. Storybooks are closely matched to phonic ability. All storybooks contain green words linked to the sounds the children have been learning. Red words (words that are not decodable) and also challenge words which support the children’s developing vocabulary. Children read these storybooks in school with the teacher and in pairs before bringing them home for further practise and consolidation.
All children are assessed at the end of every half term to monitor progress and identify any gaps. Children may change groups following assessment checks if it is deemed that their needs will be better met in another phonics group. Those children not meeting the expected standard are identified and targeted for daily RWI intervention to ensure that no child falls behind.
Key Stage 1 Phonics Results
In 2021, 100% of Y2 children passed the Phonics Screening Check in our school which is above the national average.