What is Phonics?
Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skilfully. They are taught how to:
• recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes
• identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make - such as ‘sh’ or ‘oo’
• blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word.
Children can then use this knowledge to ‘de-code’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read. Why phonics?
Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5 to 7. 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.
Every word is made up of sounds e.g. cat, ship, light.
• 26 letters in the English alphabet
• 44 sounds in the English language
• 150 ways of recording these sounds.
We teach children how to read by learning about the sounds and the ways to write them through our daily Read Write Inc. Phonics lessons.
In what order do children learn their sounds?
Every child begins to learn phonics by learning the sounds of single letters. We call these Set 1 Speed Sounds: m a s d t i n p g o c k u b f e l h r j v y w z x
Then we teach sounds written with two letters (your child will call these ‘special friends’): sh, th, ch, qu, ng, nk, ck.
Once the children know some of these sounds they will then learn to read words containing these sounds, by sound-blending,
e.g. m–a–t mat, c–a–t cat, g–o–t got, f–i–sh ﬁsh,
s–p–o–t spot, b–e–s–t best, s–p–l–a–sh splash
Once children can blend and read words an appropriate number of Set 1 Sounds they will then read stories with these words and sounds in.
Children then move on to learning Set 2 Speed Sounds: ay, ee, igh, ow, oo, oo, ar, or, air, ir, ou, oy and learning to read words containing these sounds followed by Set 3 Speed Sounds: ea, oi, a-,e i-e, o-e, u-e, aw, are, ur, er, ow, ai, oa, ew, ire, ear, ure and words containing these sounds. When will my child receive a storybook to read at home?
Once your child is able to blend a suitable number of sounds, they will receive a RWI Phonics storybook and an Oxford Reading Tree book to practise at home. These books will relate specifically to the sounds, high frequency words and common exception words a child is currently learning.
The Read Write Inc. Phonics storybooks your child takes home is a copy of the colour version he or she will have read at school. Your child will have read this story three times with their reading teacher, so should be able to read the story conﬁdently. Within these books you will find sets of common exception words, high frequency words and story words to practice as well as comprehension questions to discuss with your child. A brief explanation of how to follow the activities is included in the books.
The Oxford Reading Tree book your child also takes home will be a story your child has not read before but does match with the sounds your child is learning. These books will provide your child with opportunities to read a variety of genres including storybook, non-fiction books and poetry. Your child will read these books with their class teacher too.Please note that the RWI Phonic storybooks and Oxford Reading Tree book scheme both use a colour banding system but these do not correlate between each other.
We expect children to read at least 5 times a week as we know that reading is key to a child’s success. We celebrate this using our Star Reader system. As well as reading their school book, we encourage them to read anything; comics, newspapers, non-fiction, fiction and poetry are all important. We want them to love reading so it must be made an enjoyable experience.What is the Phonics Screening Check?
The phonics screening check is a quick and easy check of your child’s phonics knowledge. It helps your school confirm whether your child has made the expected progress. All Year 1 children in England sit the Phonics Screening Check during the second week of June. Year 2 children who did not pass their Year 1 Phonics Screening Check will also have an opportunity to re-sit the check.
Your child will sit with a teacher he or she knows and be asked to read 40 words aloud. Your child may have read some of the words before, while others will be completely new. The check normally takes just a few minutes to complete and there is no time limit. If your child is struggling, the teacher will stop the check. The check is carefully designed not to be stressful for your child.
The check will contain a mix of real words and ‘non-words’ (or ‘nonsense words’). Your child will be told before the check that there will be non-words that he or she will not have seen before. Many children will be familiar with this because many schools already use ‘non-words’ when they teach phonics. Non-words are important to include because words such as ‘vap’ or ‘jound’ are new to all children. Children cannot read the non-words by using their memory or vocabulary; they have to use their decoding skills. This is a fair way to assess their ability to decode.
All children are individuals and develop at different rates. The screening check ensures that teachers understand which children need extra help with phonic decoding. Your child’s Phonics Screening Check result will be provided in your child’s annual school report. How can I help my child learn phonics?
Before you get going, visit www.ruthmiskin.com/parents to practise saying the sounds clearly. The more clearly you say the sounds, the more quickly your child will learn them. Important: we say ‘mmmm’ not ‘muh’ and ‘lllll’ not ‘luh’ when teaching the sounds. This really helps children when they learn to blend sounds together to read words.
When sharing a RWI Phonics storybook or Oxford Reading Tree book:
• Do not read the book aloud before your child reads it to you.
• Ask your child to read the sounds and words before he or she reads the story.
• When your child reads the story, ask him or her to sound out the words that he or she cannot read automatically. Do not allow your child to struggle too much. Praise your child when he or
• Read back each sentence or page to keep the plot moving - your child’s energy is going into reading the words not the story.
• Discuss the story with your child and ask them questions about what they have read.
• Do not ask your child to guess the word by using the pictures.
• Do it all with patience and love!
There is also a great range of websites and Apps where your child can enjoy playing phonics games. One of our particular favourites is Phonics Play. https://www.phonicsplay.co.uk/ Glossary
Fred Talk – sounding out the word before reading (blending)
sound-blending – putting sounds together to make a word e.g. c–a–t cat
special friends – sounds written with more than one letter e.g sh, ng, qu, ch
Speed Sounds – the individual sounds that make up words.