Early Reading and Phonics – Reception

This blog post shares information about Phonics teaching at Henleaze Infant School. You can scroll down to find FAQs and a glossary.

Reading is a high priority for all pupils who attend Henleaze Infant School. Reading is a gateway to future learning and parental partnership is essential to support your child’s learning. We teach the building blocks of reading through phonics lessons and reading sessions. At home is where children practise the skills they have learnt in school and continue to develop their reading for pleasure by listening to stories read by you.

Phonics lessons

At Henleaze Infant School, we follow a progressive phonics scheme called ‘Unlocking Letters and Sounds’. This scheme is new (introduced in 2021) to our school, therefore there are some changes that have been made and some elements will be different to previous years. We will be teaching 4 phonemes (sounds) and graphemes (letters) per week. We will start with ‘Phase 2’ and move onto ‘Phase 3’ and ‘Phase 4’. 

Phase 2 phonemes: s a t p i n m d g o c k ck e u r h b f ff l ll s ss

Phase 3 phonemes: j v w x y z zz qu ch sh th ng ai ee igh oa oo ar or ur ow oi ear air ure er

By the end of Phase 3 the children will know one way of reading and writing down each of the 44 phonemes (sounds). 

During a phonics lesson, the children will learn the letter sounds (phonemes) and the shapes that make them (graphemes) as well as the alphabet names. Alongside this, they will learn the action to match the phoneme. We also teach the children some common exception words (CEW). These are words which are used often but can’t always be segmented into sounds e.g. ‘go’. Every phonics lesson will follow the same format:

  • Revisit the phonemes and common exception words already learnt using flashcards
  • Teach the new phoneme and common exception word/words
  • Practise blending and segmenting using the phoneme learnt. Practise the formation of the new grapheme on whiteboards
  • Applying by using the new phoneme to write a word/caption/sentence
  • Revising/recapping what we learnt during the lesson

Please check the class blog to find out when the phonemes are being taught and find fun ways to reinforce this learning when you can. We will be continually assessing children to ensure they are making progress and retaining knowledge of phonemes. If your child has some knowledge gaps, we will inform you and start doing extra practice with them either 1:1 or in a small group.

Reading

Reading involves blending the phonemes in words together e.g. c-a-t blended together is cat. All our reading books are phonetically decodable and closely follow the progression of phonics teaching. Children read books that match their level of phonic knowledge and blending skills. Your child will read individually with their teacher or teaching assistant and also in small groups. Writing words involves segmenting words into phonemes e.g. to spell cat you segment it into c-a-t. 

Guided reading groups 

Children will read in a small group with children who are reading at a similar level. The books will be at a slightly higher level than their individual levelled reading books, which enables focused teaching of reading skills.

Home reading 

Reading at home with your child should be a celebration of the skills that the children are learning at school; an opportunity to reinforce, practise and refine. Children will read books at a level where they can blend the phonemes and read words independently. In order to develop confidence and mastery of these skills, your child will bring home one reading book a week  that is closely matched to their phonetic ability and they will know all of the phonemes the book contains. Please read this book with them every day to develop their blending, decoding and fluency skills. Reading the same book daily for several days helps to develop fluency and embed phonic knowledge and skills. We ask that you record this in their reading log book which will be sent home with them when they are allocated their first reading book. Please write a positive comment everyday about your child’s reading. When your child reads with their teacher, they will look at this to see how they are engaging with their reading at home and read comments made by parents/carers. We will occasionally write a comment in the log book too.

Things to do with your child’s weekly reading book:

  • Match spoken words with written words by encouraging your child to point to each word 1:1 as they read.
  • Reread it multiple times to build confidence.
  • Encourage children to find and use the phonemes they have been learning. 
  • Blend phonemes to read simple CVC words, and later more complex words.
  • Practise reading common exception words (CEW) and spot them in their reading book.
  • Ask questions to check comprehension.

Your child will bring home one ‘reading for pleasure’ book and one library book a week alongside their phonetically decodable book. They will continue to bring home one a week to foster their love of reading and this will support their reading for pleasure. You will need to read this book to them as it is likely that they will not have learnt the skills to read it independently. It is very important to keep reading other stories to your children!

All Reception children will change their reading for pleasure book and their phonetically decodable reading book on a Monday. We ask that you support your child to put the books you have at home in their bag on a Monday morning. Please keep checking your class blog to find out when children will start going to the library and bringing home library books.

FAQs

Below were some of the commonly asked questions that we answered. If you would like any more information or have any questions, please see your child’s teacher. 

As a school, we have invested in a high quality phonics program which has specific actions, corresponding pictures and resources. Please be aware that resources you can buy (including apps on tablets) may have different resources, representations and progression.  

Where can we find out what the children are learning in phonics weekly?

The class blogs are updated at the end of every week and there will be information about what we are learning in phonics, as well as other subjects. 

What day will the children change their book?

Every Monday your child will swap their phonetically decodable reading book for a new one. Alongside this, they will also swap their reading for pleasure book for a new reading for pleasure book. Each Reception class will visit the library on different days, so please keep and eye on your child’s class blog to find out when this will be.

Should my child be able to read their reading for pleasure book?

No. This book is for you to read to your child. You may ask them to spot some letters/common exception words they have learnt in school if you feel it is appropriate but the purpose of bringing this book home is for you to enjoy a range of high quality stories with your child. 

How do we know how to pronounce the sounds correctly?

Please click here to watch a video. It is really important that the phonemes are pronounced correctly. Some phonemes are softer than others and this is a common misconception for lots of children. 

Do I need to write in my child’s reading record?

We would like you to write in this every time you read with your child. Teachers will look at these comments to measure your child’s reading progress at home and will occasionally comment to support with hints and tips.

What can I do at home to support my child?

Please watch this video – click here.

Using your child’s reading book, you can:

  • Match spoken words with written words by encouraging your child to point to each word 1:1 as they read.
  • Reread it multiple times to build confidence.
  • Encourage children to find and use the phonemes they have been learning. 
  • Blend phonemes to read simple CVC words, and later more complex words.
  • Practise reading common exception words (CEW) and spot them in their reading book.
  • Ask questions to check comprehension.

Should I read with my child every day? How long should I read with my child each day?

Every child is different. Reading with your child little and often is the best way to support their phonics and reading skills. Therefore, we encourage you to read with them every day. We suggest that initially, you could read with your child for 10 minutes a day and you might read a couple of pages a night. As your child’s phonic knowledge and ability progresses, we ask that you read the whole book each night. This supports you child to develop their blending, decoding and fluency skills. Reading the same book daily for several days helps to develop fluency and embed phonic knowledge and skills. 

Does my child need to bring their book bag to school every day?

Yes!

What is blending?

Blending involves looking at a written word, looking at each grapheme (letter) and using knowledge to work out which phoneme (sound) each grapheme (letter) represents and then merging these phonemes together to make a word. This is the basis of reading. You can click here to see a video of blending

Glossary

Phoneme – The sound a letter makes. There are 44 phonemes in English. Phonemes can be put together to make words.

Grapheme – A way of writing down a phoneme. Graphemes can be made up from 1 letter e.g. p, 2 letters e.g. sh, 3 letters e.g. tch or 4 letters e.g ough.

Digraph – A grapheme containing two letters that makes just one sound (phoneme) e.g. sh, ch, ai.

Trigraph – A grapheme containing three letters that makes just one sound (phoneme) e.g. igh, ear, air.

Split digraph – A digraph that is split between a consonant (a-e in make). A split digraph usually changes the sound of the first vowel. For example, compare the pronunciation between man and made. 

Oral Blending – This involves hearing phonemes and being able to merge them together to make a word. 

GPCs – This is short for Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence. Knowing a GPC means being able to match a phoneme to a grapheme and vice versa.

Blending- This involves looking at a written word, looking at each grapheme and using knowledge of GPCs to work out which phoneme each grapheme represents and then merging these phonemes together to make a word. This is the basis of reading.

Oral Segmenting – This is the act of hearing a whole word and then splitting it up into the phonemes that make it. Children need to develop this skill before they will be able to segment words to spell them.

Segmenting – This involves hearing a word, splitting it up into the phonemes that make it, using knowledge of GPCs to work out which graphemes represent those phonemes and then writing those graphemes down in the right order. This is the basis of spelling.

CEW – This is short for common exception words. These are words that are commonly used in English, but they have spelling patterns that make them difficult to read and write using the introductory phonics knowledge e.g. the, said, was. 

Vowel – The letters a, e, i, o and u. 

Consonant – Letter of the alphabet (excluding a, e, i, o and u).

CVC- A word made up of the letter that are Consonant, Vowel Consonant e.g. cat

CVCC – A word made up of the letters that are Consonant, Vowel Consonant Consonant e.g. flag.

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