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Phonics and Learning to Read

Phonics and Learning to Read


At Sharlston we recognise that learning to read is a vital skill. Reading allows children to explore the world around them, make connections with their own lives and escape to magical worlds through fiction texts. Learning to read at an early age leads to improved academic success further along children’s educational journey and we aim to instil a love of reading from the very first day at our school.


Why learning to read is so important

  • Reading is essential for all subject areas and improves life chances.
  • Positive attitudes to reading and choosing to read have academic, social and emotional benefits for children.

A child’s reading journey at Sharlston starts with a structured phonic approach to decode words, along with lots of engagement with stories and books to promote a love of reading!


What is phonics? 

Phonics is designed to help teach children to read and spell by teaching the skills of segmenting and blending, the alphabetic code and an understanding of how this is used in reading and spelling. Simply put, it is sounding out a word and blending the sounds back together to read the whole word. When writing, it is hearing the sounds in a word and writing them down to spell it correctly. We teach phonics in Reception and Year 1 using the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised (2021) programme. This is a systematic synthetic phonics programme, validated by the Department for Education.

Spoken English uses about 42 sounds (phonemes). These phonemes are represented by letters (graphemes). The alphabet contains only 26 letters, but we use it to make all the graphemes that represent the phonemes of English. In other words, a sound can be represented by a letter (e.g. ‘s’) or a group of letters (e.g. ‘th’ or ‘igh’). The link to the video below will show you how the correct way to say these sounds. Once children begin learning letters, they are used as quickly as possible in reading and spelling words. Children can then see the purpose of learning letters. For this reason, the first six letters taught are ‘s’, ‘a’, ‘t’, ‘p’, ‘i’, ‘n’. These can immediately be used to make a number of words such as ‘sat’, ‘pin’, ‘pat’, ‘tap’, ‘nap’. Following this, children continue learning sounds and the letters that represent them in a particular order. Our Phonic Reader books are organised into the same order, so the children can practise reading the sounds and words they are learning in lessons.



How can I help my child?

As a parent, your involvement in supporting your child’s learning will be a vital factor in determining their success in learning to read. You can help your child by practising the sounds they are learning at school, and sharing books at home.  Magnetic letters are a fun multi-sensory way to learn letters and develop reading and spelling skills. Games such as I-Spy (using the letter sound) are also effective.

Once they have a grasp of phonics, children will access books with words that they should able to read independently – these are phonetically decodable books. They will read the book several times at school and then bring the book home. It is important that children read their book as many times as they can to develop confidence and automaticity (reading words on sight and not always having to ‘sound out’). We ask parents to hear their child read at home five times a week and log the reading on our digital reading record, Go Read, using this link –  Go Apps – Parent Portal


Below, are useful links to the Little Wandle website to support understanding of how we teach phonics to our children.


How we teach blending

How we teach tricky words


How do I know if my child is saying the sounds correctly?

It is most important that children pronounce the sounds clearly. To help you support your child with this, watch this How to say the sounds video.


How is Phonics assessed?

Phonics is assessed continuously during phonics lessons, when your child reads and through a half-termly assessment. This helps teachers to identify and plan for the children’s next steps to ensure they progress.


What is the Phonics Screening Check?

There is a National Phonics Screening Check in Year 1 (in June) where the children have to read 20 real words and 20 ‘alien’ words (described below) containing sounds from Phase Two to Five. This is conducted in a very child-friendly way by the class teachers. At the end of Year 1, you will be informed if your child has met the threshold score for the check. If they have not met the threshold, they will be given additional support in Year 2 to enable them to meet it, and phonics teaching is continued into KS2 for those children that would benefit from this approach. More information for parents, and frequently asked questions about the screening, can be found here: phonics screening check


Further Information on how we teach phonics

For further guidance regarding phonics at Sharlston Community School, please see the link Information for parents on the Little Wandle website.

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