Harpur Hill Primary School & Nursery

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Phonics and Early Reading 

At Harpur Hill Primary School and Nursery, we believe that for all our children to become fluent readers and writers, phonics must be taught through a systematic and structured phonics programme.

We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised to plan and provide daily engaging phonics lessons. In phonics, we teach children that the letters of the alphabet represent a different sound, that these can be used in a variety of combinations and are put together to make words. The children learn to recognise all of the different sounds and combinations that they might see when they are reading or writing.

Our phonics teaching starts in Nursery and follows a very specific sequence that allows our children to build on their previous phonic knowledge and master specific phonic strategies as they move through school. As a result, all our children are able to tackle any unfamiliar words that they might discover. At Harpur Hill we also model these strategies in shared reading and writing both inside and outside of the phonics lesson and across the curriculum. We have a strong focus on the development of language skills for our children because we know that speaking and listening are crucial skills for reading and writing in all subjects.

What Are Phonics Phases?

‘Phonic Phases’ refers to the order and year groups in which the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Programme is broken down. It is recognised that not all words can be broken down easily using phonics. These non-decodable words are known as 'tricky words' and these are taught through each of the phonic phases from Phase 2 upwards.

Phase 1 (Nursery)

Activities are divided into seven aspects, including environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body sounds, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and finally oral blending and segmenting.

Phase 2 (Reception)

Learning 19 letters of the alphabet and one sound for each. Blending sounds together to make words. Segmenting words into their separate sounds. Beginning to read simple captions.

Phase 3 (Reception)

The remaining 7 letters of the alphabet, one sound for each. Graphemes such as ch, oo, th representing the remaining phonemes not covered by single letters. Reading captions, sentences and questions. On completion of this phase, children will have learnt the "simple code", i.e. one grapheme for each phoneme in the English language.

Phase 4 (Reception)

No new grapheme-phoneme correspondences are taught in this phase. Children learn to blend and segment longer words with adjacent consonants, e.g. swim, clap, jump.

Phase 5 (Throughout Year 1)

Now we move on to the "complex code". Children learn more graphemes for the phonemes which they already know, plus different ways of pronouncing the graphemes they already know.

Phase 6 (Throughout Year 2 and beyond)

Working on spelling, including prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters etc.

At Harpur, we recognise that some children may need to continue their phonic learning journey into Year 3. We therefore continue to use Little Wandle to plan, do, assess and review the children’s learning each term to ensure they are making progress.  

You can find out more about our ‘Little Wandle Letters and Sounds’ scheme by clicking on this link and going to the parent section:

littlewandle lettersandsounds parents information

In the Autumn term, when children start in Reception, we hold a Little Wandle parent session to support you with how we teach phonics and ways in which you can support at home.

What are 'Tricky words'?

It is recognised that not all words can be broken down easily using phonics. These non-decodable words are known as 'tricky words' and these are taught through each of the phonic phases from Phase 2 upwards. These words need to be learnt ‘by sight’ and they do not always have a spelling pattern.

In order to read simple sentences, it is necessary for children to know some words that have unusual spellings. It should be noted that, when teaching these words, it is important to always start with sounds already known in the word, then focus on the 'tricky' part. Further advice on how to teach and support with ‘tricky words’ is given on the Little Wandle website under the parent section.

What are High Frequency words?

High frequency (common) words recur frequently in much of the written material young children read and that they need when they write.

The first 100 can be found by clicking the link below:

   First 100 high frequency words

Y1 Phonics Screening Check

At the end of Year 1, your child's phonic knowledge will be assessed as part of the DFE national phonics screening check. This government screening check ensures consistent teaching; standards and approaches are used across all schools. 

If a child does not pass the phonic screening check in Year 1, they will be required to re-take this national check in Year 2. As always at the end of Year 1, we will keep you informed if your child is likely to need additional support in order to re-take this check in Year 2.


Supporting your child with reading

Research shows that reading regularly at home as well as at school is the key to academic success. In Reception and Year 1, your child will bring home their phonic sounds for you to read/revise with them. They will also bring home a book they have chosen. This is to foster a love of reading. This is a book that should be enjoyed together and there is no expectation that your child will be able to read this book, it is for you to read to them. This book could be shared at bedtime, snuggled on the sofa, read by an older sibling. The book is to encourage children to talk about the book – what they like/didn’t like, what they saw, who was in the book, what they can remember about the book.

Once a week, children will bring home a ‘reading practice session’ book, this is a book they will have already read in school in a small group. This book is matched to their phonic knowledge and when they bring it home to you, they will be reading it with increased fluency. Again, talk about what they like about the book and who the characters are, what happens etc.

We also encourage you to join the library to engage children with a wide variety of texts. Encourage them to share books from the home which they love too, re-reading books they love fosters a real love of reading and lets the children know how much fun reading can be.

Please help your child to practise reading and encourage them. As children progress through Year 1 and move beyond the Little Wandle phonic books, they will be able to choose a scheme book from our colour-banded system. 

You can help by sharing a book or hearing your child read at home daily (Reception to Year 2).  As your child becomes more independent, we would advise you to encourage them to read a wide range of books and other reading material. As a parent, you can ask questions about the story that your child is reading and this will help to develop their comprehension skills. 

Thank you for all your help with reading!