Children in Early Years and Key Stage 1 follow the synthetic phonics approach, using the ‘Letters and Sounds’ programme. It’s an approach to teaching phonics in which individual letters or letter sounds are blended to form groups of letters or sounds, and those groups are then blended to form complete words – we’ve produced a guide to help you with some of the terms and concepts. Children also use ‘Jolly Phonics’ actions to go with the sounds.
We use a combination of reading schemes. These include Oxford Reading Tree, Floppy’s Phonics, Ginn and Rigby Star. These give a variety of fiction and non–fiction books to develop children’s reading range. Children learn to read at different rates. Once they finish the reading scheme, we encourage them to become ‘free readers’ and choose their own books.
Our daily phonics sessions are fun, involving lots of speaking, listening and games. The emphasis is on children’s active participation. They learn to use their phonic knowledge for reading and writing activities and in their independent play.
At St James’ CE Primary, we use a synthetic phonics programme called Letters and Sounds alongside the actions of Jolly Phonics.
Letters and Sounds is divided into six phases, with each phase building on the skills and knowledge of previous learning. There are no big leaps in learning. Children have time to practise and rapidly expand their ability to read and spell words. They are also taught to read and spell ‘tricky words’ – words with spellings that are unusual or that children have not yet been taught. These include the words ‘to’, ‘was’, ‘said’ and ‘the’ – you can’t really break the sounds down for such words so it’s better to just ‘recognise’ them.
Phase one will have begun in Nursery. This phase paves the way for the systematic learning of phonics. During this phase especially, we plan activities that will help children to listen attentively to sounds around them, such as the sounds of their toys and to sounds in spoken language. We teach a wide range of nursery rhymes and songs and read good books to and with the children. This helps to increase the number of words they know – their vocabulary – and helps them talk confidently about books. The children learn to identify rhyme and alliteration.
Ways you can support your Foundation 1 (Nursery) child at home
- Go on a listening walk: what can you hear as you walk to school or visit a park?
- Identify sounds: identify toy animals that make a ‘mooo’ sound, a ‘baaa’ sound etc (or identify musical instruments, or household sounds like a microwave, mobile phone ring).
- Sing lots of nursery rhymes with your child.
Ways you can support your Foundation 2 (Reception) child at home
- Play ‘What do we have in here?’ Put some toys or objects in a bag and pull one out at a time. Emphasise the first sound of the name of the toy or object by repeating it, for example, ‘c c c c – car’, ‘b b b b – box’, ‘ch ch ch ch – chip’.
- Say: ‘A tall tin of tomatoes!’ ‘Tommy, the ticklish teddy!’ ‘A lovely little lemon!’ This is called alliteration. Use names, for example, ‘Gurpreet gets the giggles’, ‘Milo makes music’, ‘Naheema’s nose’.
- Teach them ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers’.