Intent of our Phonics Provision
At Whitehouse Community Primary School reading is at the heart of our curriculum. It is therefore our aim to foster and develop a love of reading across the school and we understand that getting children’s early reading experience right is crucial in achieving this.
According to the Department of Education (2013):
‘Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment.’
With this in mind, we have chosen to follow the Song of Sounds synthetic phonics scheme at Whitehouse Community Primary School. We feel that teaching our children Phonics skills with the help of a song and actions makes their learning more engaging and stimulating, while also giving the children a positive early reading experience. This visual, auditory and kinaesthetic approach has been chosen in order to be fully inclusive for the wide range of needs of our children, particularly for the high number of EAL and SEN children in our school.
Implementation of our Phonics Provision
Our song of sounds scheme forms the basis of our phonics provision and is implemented with fidelity. This scheme uses a spiral approach, revisiting and deepening understanding as children progress from EYFS to year 2. In addition to the scheme sequence, teachers regularly assess the needs of each pupil and where necessary implement additional support including interventions across key stage 2.
In Reception and KS1, phonics is taught every day for 30 minutes. This session consists of the children singing a song with actions and then learning the individual sounds that make up words. Each week the children have a 'Tricky word' day, where they learn to read, spell and use words that cannot be sounded out phonetically. These are called tricky words, but are also known as red words as we encourage the children to 'STOP and think!' when reading these words. The other four phonics lessons consist of the children learning new sounds. The scheme only teaches one GPC (Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence) per day to allow children to engage fully with that sound and avoid cognitive overload.
When children are taught to read through Phonics they are taught that each word is made up of sounds. These sounds are called:
Phonemes- one letter that makes one sound eg. ‘a’ ‘b’ ‘c’
Digraphs- two letters that make one sound eg. ‘sh’ ‘th’ ‘ch’
Trigraphs- three or more letters that make one sound eg. ‘ear’ ‘air’ ‘igh’
This vocabulary is introduced progressively and by the end of key stage 1, children can confidently use and apply this language. Once children have learnt the initial sounds of words, we then encourage them to ‘blend’ the sounds together to make a word e.g. c - a - t. Children therefore 'decode' words by breaking them down into their sounds rather than having to memorise thousands of words individually.
At Whitehouse Community Primary School, we understand that Phonics is far from a standalone subject and recognise the great importance of creating links between our Phonics sessions and the rest of the curriculum. We endeavour to embed our children’s Phonics skills at every opportunity. When you walk around our school, you will often see children reading in small groups with adults, exciting Phonics displays and hear teachers decoding unfamiliar words for the children while they are teaching – linking directly to our whole school vocabulary initiative. We also take pride in our inclusive approach to learning and ensure that the children who continue to require Phonics support higher up in the school receive the intervention they need.
Based on the song of sounds scheme, the sounds children need to learn are structured into progressive groups of sounds used to scaffold the teaching of reading. These groups of sounds link directly to our chosen decodable reading books published by Big Cat Collins which include the specific sounds taught. Our libraries have a wide range of decodable books to match the children’s abilities.
Children are regularly assessed using the song of sounds end of unit assessment sheets which provide teachers with the knowledge of which sounds the children can confidently recognise and which need to be revisited. This analysis gives teachers the information needed to identify to correct fully decodable book. Chidlren cannot progress onto the next book until all the required sounds are secure.
Children in EYFS and Key Stage 1 have an opportunity to read with an adult 1:1 every week to apply their decoding skills. All staff implement the same approach and strategies when supporting reading. Children are also encouraged to read 5 times per week at home from their decodable book. The values of Whitehouse Way are echoed through our phonics approach by encouraging responsibility for home learning and perseverance to move their learning on. Parental engagement is a high priority in the teaching of phonics and parent s are invited to come into school on various occasions to gain information in order to help their children at home.
Impact of our Phonics Provision
Phonics has a tremendous impact on the progress of the children in our school.