How we teach Phonics at RFPS
At Rugby Free Primary, phonics is a high priority as we see it as the key building block for early reading. Regular phonics sessions are taught four days a week where the children have the opportunity to focus on a key sound. The key sound is then implemented into blending activities for reading and segmenting for spelling. The children are taught to recognise letters, understand the sound they make and then blend them together to create words.
At RFPS, we follow the Read Write Inc (RWI) programme. This is a method of learning early reading and writing which is centred around letter sounds and phonics. First, they learn one way to read the 40+ sounds and blend these sounds into words, then learn to read the same sounds with alternative graphemes.
Alongside our RWI scheme, our children also use a phonics based reading scheme to compliment this through home reading. They will read phonics books which are closely matched to their increasing knowledge of phonics and ‘tricky’ words. Some words, which cannot be phonetically sounded out, are taught at each phase. These are ‘tricky words’ and are taught through sight recognition. Through reading and re-reading these books, the children’s accuracy and fluency increases. Children are then taught to develop Early Writing skills and encouraged to combine their phonics skills and sight vocabulary skills within this.
In 2012 a statutory Phonics Screening check was introduced in Year 1. The check assesses phonics knowledge learnt in Reception and in Year 1. It was developed to help identify the children who need extra help with decoding and blending before they begin Year 2. RFPS Year 1 children will take this check in the summer term and their results will be reported to parents. The check is made up of a series of real and alien words, which assess the children’s knowledge of known phonemes and blending.
Throughout the academic year, our children will be assessed and grouped half termly for phonics, on their progress. This frequent and detailed ongoing assessment, identifies any pupils who may need targeted support with the programme. This support can be put in immediately through targeted and specific intervention.
Read Write Inc. lessons
Children enjoy their RWI lessons immensely, rapidly learning a very complex alphabetic code which they apply to both reading and writing. RWI teaching begins formally in Reception, with the aim that most children complete the programme by the Autumn term of Year 2.
Partner practice is embedded in every stage of the teaching cycle, ensuring children are given lots of opportunities to formulate and discuss their ideas, develop their comprehension and make links to their own experiences. Fostering a love of reading is one of our core purposes and we use a range of high quality storybooks to make explicit links to the children’s phonics learning.
From the very beginning of the programme, children’s writing skills are developed through phonetic knowledge. In Reception, children begin by practising forming written sounds (graphemes) and short, phonetically regular (green) words. Children soon move onto writing short, coherent sentences and later, descriptive, imaginative compositional pieces of writing. Lots of concrete experiences are provided during the teaching cycle to further support children’s writing, and the use of Read Write Inc. teaching strategies throughout the day reinforces children’s confidence in and enjoyment of literacy across the curriculum.
When using phonics for writing, the children are encouraged to rehearse out loud what they want to say, before then spelling the words using their knowledge of sounds and ‘tricky’ words. Handwriting is also practised every day. The children practise sitting at the table with the correct posture and learn the correct letter formation.
Phonics at Home
There are many great websites and apps to help support phonics learning at home. Some of our favourites can be found on our website. Click on the Children tab, under English Zone. Within school, children will also use the Forest Phonics App and this can be purchased at home also if you wish. We would also recommend the RWI phonics flashcards. These are a very effective way to practice the sounds with your children. These can be bought very cheaply on the internet. As you practice with your child, it is crucial however that the sounds are pronounced in the same way as in RWI scheme. The video below shows how each to pronounce the different sounds.
Phoneme – The smallest unit of sound. There are approximately 44 phonemes in English (it depends on different accents). Phonemes can be put together to make words.
Grapheme – A way of writing down a phoneme. Graphemes can be made up from 1 letter e.g. p, 2 letters e.g. sh, 3 letters e.g. tch or 4 letters e.g ough.
GPC – This is short for Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence. Knowing a GPC means being able to match a phoneme to a grapheme and vice versa.
Digraph – A grapheme containing two letters that makes just one sound (phoneme).
Trigraph – A grapheme containing three letters that makes just one sound (phoneme).
Blending – This involves looking at a written word, looking at each grapheme and using knowledge of GPCs to work out which phoneme each grapheme represents and then merging these phonemes together to make a word.
Segmenting – This involves hearing a word, splitting it up into the phonemes (sound talk/sounding out) that make it, using knowledge of GPCs to work out which graphemes represent those phonemes and then writing those graphemes down in the right order.
Alien words – These are ‘made up’ words which test children’s knowledge of known phonemes.