Teaching Early Reading and Phonics
Phonics is an approach to teaching reading, and some aspects of writing and spelling, by developing learners’ phonemic awareness. A phoneme is the smallest unit of speech that can be used to make one word different from another word. Phonics involves the skills of hearing, identifying and using sound patterns or phonemes in English. The aim is to teach learners the relationship between these sounds(phonemes) and the written spelling patterns, or graphemes (letters) which represent them. Children are taught to say the sound as purely as possible. Children are encouraged to segment (break down) a word they hear into its’ individual sounds, starting from the first sound and working systematically through the word. Phonics emphasises the skills of decoding new words by sounding them out and combining or ‘blending’ the sound-spelling patterns. Blending and segmenting are reversible processes and are taught explicitly.
Systematic, synthetic phonics
Phonics teaching is a key priority at Hardwicke. Phonics is taught daily in EYFS and Key Stage 1, discretely, explicitly and in an agreed and orderly sequence at a brisk pace that is well matched to the children’s developing abilities(see progression document). Phonics refers to the process of blending (synthesising) the individual sounds in a word together, working from left to right, to read them. Learning to read and write in English is particularly difficult because written English uses a complex alphabetic code, which is why it needs to be taught by a systematic approach which goes from the simple to the more complex.
The Rose Report
In line with the Rose Report 2006, beginner readers are taught:
• grapheme–phoneme correspondences in a clearly defined, incremental sequence
• to apply the highly important skill of blending (synthesising) phonemes in the order in which they occur, all through a word to read it
• to apply the skills of segmenting words into their constituent phonemes to spell
• that blending and segmenting are reversible processes
There are 26 letters in the alphabet and it is generally accepted that English has 44 sounds. The structure of phonics learning is based on the Letters and Sounds Framework which divides these 44 sounds into six distinct phases. At Hardwicke Primary Academy, children in EYFS are introduced to new phonic sounds during daily phonics sessions and this is embedded through a variety of creative activities.
Our children are introduced to the 44 sounds, a sound is taught and associated with a specific action and rhyme or song.
Children are taught to read words that are not phonetically regular, often called ‘tricky’ words. Children need to be taught to read these tricky words by sight, so that they do not have to spend time ‘sounding them out.’ At Hardwicke, teachers regularly help the children to practise their speedy recall of tricky words, often with something as simple as flashcards and key rings.
High-quality phonic teaching, will reduce the number of children who fall below age-related expectations. Therefore, at Hardwicke, we use robust and continuous assessment of children’s phonic progress which is used to identify those with additional needs, including those with specific learning difficulties. These children will require immediate and sustained additional support to close the gap with their peers. Where this is the case, parents/carers will be informed.
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