At St Mary’s Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) is taught from Nursery to Year 2 every day (and further up the school as required). Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write. It helps children hear, identify and use different sounds that distinguish one word from another in the English language and it opens up the potential of reading and so much other learning, too. Children are at an advantage if they are taught phonics efficiently and as early as possible in their learning journey and that is why we begin phonics from the start of a child’s entrance into school.
At St Mary’s we use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised Programme to ensure that phonics is taught in a consistent way across the school. The programme also links to the matched, decodable books that children read in guided reading sessions and take home to practice with their parents.
In Nursery, children have a daily Phonics session that is pitched at an appropriate level for them. This involves learning a range of nursery and action rhymes, which allows the children to play with sounds and begin to make links to the patterns and rhymes in spoken language.
We also expose the children to activities that develop focused listening and attention through games such as What’s in the Box? This encourages the matching of sounds to different objects (e.g., the box may have a pair of socks, a toy snake and a star inside it, and the children then match the sounds at the beginning of each word.) We also share high quality stories and poems with the children daily which exposes them to a range of language, so increasing their vocabulary.
Our prime areas of learning include communication and language and we have a strong focus on developing these skills in nursery as they are fundamental to all areas of learning moving forward. The teaching helps to prepare nursery children for Phase 2 Phonics which they will begin when they start Reception.
Phonics is taught directly in frequent short bursts with a consistency of approach across the school. This ensures secure progression in phonics learning by giving the opportunity for repeated practice if required. The children are also given three reading practice sessions per week where they are able to apply the phonics that they have been taught to matched, decodable books. Those children who are at risk of falling behind the programme are swiftly identified and benefit from daily 5-minute catch up sessions to support their understanding and application.
All children from Reception to year 2 are taught all the phonemes in English words, alongside the correct pronunciation of these words. This supports their identification of all commonly occurring GPCs (grapheme-phoneme correspondences) and the correct formation of all graphemes. This in turn teaches them how to blend for reading, segment for writing and identify strategies to read and write tricky words. All of the above is taught at an age-appropriate level, every day following the Little Wandle programme.
When children start reception, they begin working their way through the Little Wandle Systematic Synthetic Phonics programme which starts with Phase 2 sounds. This is a daily programme which builds on children’s knowledge day by day, increasing their exposure to the different phonemes in the English language.
This in turn links to their reading books, allowing them to put into practice the sounds they have been taught. The children are taught to recognise phonemes and digraphs linked to a formation and catchphrase. These are then referred to in English lessons, allowing them to make the connections between written and spoken sounds (grapheme phoneme correspondence).
Please see examples below of the formation and catch phrases.
The Little Wandle programme continues working its way through the Phase 5 alternative sounds with thorough revision of the Phase 3 sounds which were previously taught in Reception. This prepares the children for the Phonics screening which takes place in June each year and crucially exposes them to the range of different graphemes in the English language. Expanding their understanding of this in turn allows them to apply this to an increasing range of matched decodable books, moving them towards fluent reading.
In Year 2 most children will move onto being taught the ‘No Nonsense Spelling’ programme. This has a strong emphasis on grammar, punctuation and spelling and allows the children to further develop their reading and writing skills and links to the rest of the school’s approach to spelling, punctuation and grammar. For those children who do not pass the Year 1 phonics screening, they will continue to be re-taught the Little Wandle programme to give them additional exposure to the letters and sounds across the different phases.
Please clink on the Little Wandle link to access more information and resources.