Phonics plays a crucial role in helping children read. It develops children’s awareness of sounds; by introducing and identifying sounds that they have heard around them from a young age and linking these to how they are written. Enabling children to hear, speak and read sounds as well as blending them together to successfully read words.
In school, phonics begins in the Foundation stage. We start by looking at the sounds in the environment, listening to different sounds around us in the games we play and the stories we read. We use a range of ideas and resources to introduce children to sounds and to allow them to discover new sounds. As well as this, when the children are ready, we also teach phonics in small groups in discrete sessions where individual sounds are identified and practised so that children can begin to read and use synthetic phonics to develop decoding skills.
At Pudsey Waterloo we use the Letters and Sounds scheme when teaching sounds. The sounds are split into phases and taught using a range of resources. The children use both ‘real’ and ‘alien’ words in these sessions. Alien words (made up words) are a great way of encouraging children to use their phonics skills and knowledge to segment and blend words. We also use a range of texts for children to see real words in context.
As in the Foundation stage, phonics is used elsewhere as well as within discrete phonic sessions. Classrooms in KS1 all have accessible phonic areas and phonics is used within the children's Literacy and Guided Reading to help children link their phonics to their reading and writing.
As the children develop their understanding of sounds when moving up through KS1 they will start to notice sound families such as ai, ay and a-e. As they continue they will be taught patterns and spellings which they are more likely to use in certain words as well as learning about spelling formations.
Alongside the phonic strategies we teach, we also introduce the children to ‘red words’ which are common words that do not follow phonic rules. As such, these words need to be familiarised and practised as children cannot sound these words out.