Phonics is an important strategy for developing early reading and writing. We embrace the use of phonics alongside developing the crucial love of reading through experiencing stories, pictures and narrative. We follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised scheme of systematic and synthetic phonics. This programme, based on the latest research, focuses on the use of mnemonics and catch phrases to help children remember letter sounds without cognitive overload. The children will be assessed every 6 weeks to ensure they have consolidated new letter sounds. For those who are assessed as not on track, there are ‘keep up’ sessions available to ensure progress is made.
At Rathfern, Phonics is taught explicitly from Nursery to Year 2 (with the national assessment taking place in the summer term of Year 1). The children begin on their phonics journey by exploring sounds in the world around them, such as distinguishing different animal sounds or vehicles. They move on to developing an understanding of rhythm and rhyme, which is a vital tool in language progression. When the children can confidently hear the rhythmic patterns within spoken language, they will begin to break down sentences to word level to begin to attempt orally segmenting words for spelling. As the children advance, they will be introduced to individual letter sounds, which we refer to as phonemes, and the written form of the letters, that we refer to as graphemes. In order to apply their phonics for reading and writing, we use a lot of repetition at this stage to embed the grapheme phoneme correspondence (GPC) to visual memory so that they recognise the graphemes in books they read and can recall the letter shapes to attempt writing.
By Year 1, it is vital that the children have a good understanding of the combinations of letters in the English language which can be grouped together to make new sounds such as sh, th, ch and igh. We refer to these as digraphs and trigraphs. By committing these and many more digraphs and trigraphs to memory, the children are able to access many more words in written form, meaning they are opened up to a vast range of texts and able to express themselves through writing as they use their phonic awareness to sound out for spelling. In Year 2, the emphasis changes to word groups and spelling patterns. Now that the children have a strong foundation in applying their phonics for reading and spelling, they can explore how words change in different tenses or based on the content and structure of the sentence, for example children learn how to use suffixes, prefixes and plurals correctly.