Teaching Reading at Hardwicke

Reading is at the front and centre of all that we do at Hardwicke. The importance of reading for children cannot be underestimated. Being able to read enables children to acquire the knowledge they need in order to succeed in life. This means building strong foundations from the very first day of school that will make a real difference to a child’s future.

The ability to read opens doors and gives children access to a wealth of knowledge. At Hardwicke, teaching children to read is the key priority. Unless children can read, they can’t learn to the full.

What is Phonics?

A method of teaching beginners to read and pronounce words by learning to associate letters or letter groups with the sounds they represent. There are 44 main sounds in the English Language. Each sound is represented by a grapheme (the written representation of a sound)

Phoneme: the smallest single identifiable sound in a word. For example, in the word 'cat' there are three phonemes c/a/t.

Grapheme: the written representation of a sound.

Digraph: two letters making one sound. For example, /sh/ in the word 'shop'.

Trigraph: three letters making one sound. For example, /igh/ in the word 'night'.

Split digraph: two vowel letters split but are split by one or more consonants. For example, /a-e/ in the word 'cake'.

What is ELS?

Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS) is our chosen phonics programme. It teaches children to read by identify the phonemes (smallest unit of sound) and graphemes (written version of the sound) within words and using these to read words. Children experience the joy of books and language whilst rapidly acquiring the skills they need to become fluent independent readers and writers.

How do we teach phonics?

• We use a simple, consistent approach to teaching phonics.

• Your child will experience the same classroom routines within each lesson which reduces cognitive load and maximises the chances of success.

• All children are supported within the lesson to use their new phonic knowledge independently.

• In every single ELS lesson, your child will make the direct application to reading.

Daily Phonics sessions- these start from the beginning of Reception

• Phonics throughout the day to review new sounds & graphemes taught

• Lots of opportunities for oral blending- c/oa/t

• Main focus is on word recognition. However, new vocabulary is also given and explained in every lesson.

• Opportunities for writing- new grapheme, words and sentences.

 Harder to read and spell words

Children are taught to read words that are not phonetically regular are called 'harder to read and spell words.' Children need to be taught to read these  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 these 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.