Our children's phonics journey starts in Reception.
Phonics provides vital foundations to become a fluent reader.
At St Berteline's, we use Twinkl Phonics as our Systematic, Synthetic Phonics Program (SSP). It is high quality and robust in its purpose. With a clear, structured progression through the programme, it allows all of our pupils to meet or exceed the expected standard.
What Is Synthetic Phonics?
Synthetic phonics is a method of teaching reading and writing in which words are broken up into their smallest units of sound or ‘phonemes’. Children learn to associate a written letter or group of letters, known as ‘graphemes’, with each phoneme. Sounds are then built up or ‘blended’ together into words for reading or, conversely, whole words are broken down or ‘segmented’ into their constituent sounds for writing.
The benefits of this approach are:
- children learn in an order which is well thought-out and allows them to progress through stages as they are ready;
- teachers have a structure for planning and clear stages for assessing children, in order to ensure progression and coverage;
- children can attempt new words working from sound alone;
- reading and writing become practices that are developed hand-in-hand.
A Cohesive Whole-School Approach
Synthetic phonics builds continuously on prior learning. It is therefore vital that the same programme is used across the whole school to ensure maximum impact.
By following one scheme as a whole school, we are able to establish a progressive, consistent phonics curriculum where children will progress and succeed. As part of this cohesive approach, it is also vital that all staff, children and parents use the same terminology and language when talking about phonics.
Reading books follow exactly the same progression as our phonics scheme so that, at any point, children only encounter texts which are fully decodable for their phonics knowledge. The Rhino Readers reading scheme perfectly aligns with the teaching progression within Twinkl Phonics.
The Twinkl Phonics approach combines rigorous progression with engaging learning materials. We believe that children learn best when they are enjoying their learning and that this comes from a mix of bright, fun lesson resources within a clear and systematic approach that builds children’s skills daily. Broadly speaking, the Twinkl Phonics progression is based on the Letters & Sounds framework, which helps us meet the needs of our service children who may have been using that approach in previous schools before joining us.
During the lessons, children will repeat the elements from the four cornerstones of phonics to ensure that they have rapid and automatic recall of GPCs and tricky/common exception words; each day, they will experience blending and segmenting activities to allow regular practise of these core skills.
Twinkl Phonics lessons are also supported by weekly decodable books, which are part of our Core Provision, where children can apply the skills they have learnt in their phonics lessons. As part of our wider SSP provision, there are also follow-up activities that the children can complete independently, in pairs or in groups which relate to the day’s learning.
In addition, we use actions to help the children remember phonemes; this kinaesthetic, visual and auditory approach helps the children to retain the phonemes and supports children with SEND. Decodable reading books are matched to the children’s phonic phases through the use of Rhino Readers. We use both individual and guided reading to teach reading alongside phonics. We also use a blend of e-books and physical books.
Why learning to read is so important
- Reading is essential for all subject areas and improves life chances.
- Positive attitudes to reading and choosing to read have academic, social and emotional benefits for children.
Rhino Readers is the Twinkl reading scheme that follows the adventures of the same two characters from Twinkl Phonics, Kit and Sam, in a series of fully decodable reading scheme books that are fully aligned with the Twinkl Phonics scheme. Using Rhino Readers, children can apply their phonics learning to guided or home reading, using only the sounds and words that they have been taught. In order to apply their decoding and comprehension reading skills, it is important that children have plenty of opportunities to read texts that are fully decodable at the phonics level they are working. Children should be reading take-home books at 90% fluency and should not be reading texts that are too easy or beyond their phonics level or understanding. Decodable texts should only contain the sounds and tricky (common exception) words that the children know, to allow them to read with fluency and confidence while applying their developing skills effectively.
How children learn to read
- Phonics is the only route to decoding.
- Learning to say the phonic sounds.
- By blending phonic sounds to read words.
- Increasing the child’s fluency in reading sounds, words and books.
Reading fully decodable books
- Children must read books consistent with their phonic knowledge.
- It is essential not to use other strategies to work out words (including guessing words, deducing meaning from pictures, grammar, context clues or whole word recognition).
- Books must be fully decodable and follow the Twinkl Rhino Readers scheme
- Children need to read books in a progressive sequence until they can decode unfamiliar words confidently.
The role of Parents’ and Carers’
- Have a positive impact on their child’s reading.
- Should model the importance of reading practice to develop fluency.
- Children take home books they have read at school to re-read at home to build fluency.
- There are two different types of books that pupils bring home: reading practice and books to share for pleasure.
- Reading at home encourages a love of books, along with developing vocabulary and discussion.
- Parents should use voices, expression, discuss unfamiliar vocabulary, talk about the pictures, and predict what might happen next.
- Give positive yet informative feedback in the home reading diary at least 3 times a week.
Children receive their Rhino Reader book on a Monday. This book is to be read for 5 days with a focus on increasing fluency.
- Monday read half the book decoding any unfamiliar words
- Tuesday read the other half of the book decoding any unfamiliar words
- Wednesday read the whole book
- Thursday read the whole book fluently
By the end of Year 2 children should be able to read fluently 100 words per minute
Supporting your child with reading
Although your child will be taught to read at school, you can have a huge impact on their reading journey by continuing their practice at home. There are two types of reading book that your child may bring home:
A reading practice book, this will be at the correct phonic stage for your child. If your child is reading it independently with little help, please don’t worry that it’s too easy – your child needs to develop fluency and confidence in reading.
A sharing book,
In order to encourage your child to become a lifelong reader, it is important that they learn to read for pleasure. The sharing book is a book they have chosen for you to enjoy together.
Please remember that you shouldn’t expect your child to read this alone. Read it to or with them. Discuss the pictures, enjoy the story, predict what might happen next, use different voices for the characters, explore the facts in a non-fiction book. The main thing is that you have fun!
Maximum learning is achieved when the child, teacher and parent are using the same phonics techniques and language in school and at home.