At Hilton Spencer Academy we know that for all our children to become fluent readers and writers, phonics must be taught through a systematic and structured phonics programme. For many years we have followed the Letters and Sounds programme originally developed by the Department for Education.
To reflect the most up to date thinking on the effectiveness of phonics teaching, we will be transitioning to a new phonic scheme at Hilton Spencer Academy during the 2021/22 academic year.
We’ll be implementing the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised scheme to plan and provide daily engaging phonics lessons.
In phonics, we teach children that the letters of the alphabet each 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 Early Years and follows a specific sequence that allows our children to build on their previous phonics knowledge and master specific phonics strategies as they move through school.
The Importance of Pronunciation
An important part of phonics teaching to be aware of when supporting your child at home, is the precise pronunciation of the sounds taught. It’s vital that only pure sounds are used and that ‘uh’ is not added to sounds, for example, pronouncing the ‘m’ sound as ‘muh’. Please see the videos below to hear how each sound pronounced correctly.
Phase 2 sounds taught in Reception Autumn 1
Phase 2 sounds taught in Reception Autumn 2
Phase 3 sounds taught in Reception Spring 1
How We Teach Blending
As mentioned earlier we teach children that the letters of the alphabet each represent a different sound, that these can be used in a variety of combinations and are put together to make words. The children are taught to blend these sounds to read words. The video below demonstrates how the children are taught the skill of blending.
How We Teach Tricky Words
The children are also taught to read tricky words in phonics lessons. The tricky words we will teach as we move to the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised scheme are very similar to those currently taught under the original Letters and Sounds programme.
Tricky words are words that cannot be sounded out easily. They are common words that have complex spellings in them. The video below demonstrates how the children are taught to read tricky words.
Phonics Screening Check
In Year 1 children take part in a phonics screening check to assess their understanding of the different sounds taught and their ability to apply this to blending and reading words. Please note that due to COVID-19 it has taken place in Year 2 for the last two academic years.
The check, which lasts 5-10 minutes and is administered 1:1 by each child’s teacher, requires pupils to read aloud forty words. To pass, they must correctly read aloud 32/40 of the words. Some of the words in the check are harder than others, and some aren’t actual words with any meaning, but made-up (alien) words. These made up words are used to see if children can apply their ability to decode sounds to correctly read them. This will ensure they can apply the same principles to learning new words as their vocabulary grows.
Whilst the Little Wandle sequence of learning is very similar to that of Letters and Sounds, there are differences in how the scheme is delivered and particularly in how it links to reading books.
If you have older children who have attended Hilton you will find a key difference in the approach to reading books. Under Little Wandle children will read a practice book each week in school, with three different aspects of reading teaching being applied to that book. The book will be at the correct phonic stage for your child and as such will be ‘fully decodable’ using the sounds they have become secure in during phonics teaching in the previous half term. Your child will then bring this same book home.
If your child is reading the practice book with little help, please don’t worry that it’s too easy – your child needs to develop fluency and confidence in reading. Listen to them read the book. Remembering to give them lots of praise – celebrate their success! If they can’t read a word, read it to them. After they have finished, talk about the book together.
Reading for Pleasure
The children will also bring a library book home each week to enjoy sharing with you, for example, as a bedtime story. Your child will not be able to read this on their own. This book is for you both to read and enjoy together. Read it to or with them. Discuss the pictures, enjoy the story, predict what might happen next, use different voices for the characters, explore the facts in a non-fiction book. The main thing is that you both have fun!
As always, we encourage you to also share a wide selection of books at home with your child. The impact of bedtime stories and sharing books at home on both literacy progress and children’s wellbeing is well documented.