At St Margaret's CE Primary Primary School, we teach phonics using a linguistic phonics programme called Sounds-Write.
This programme is successful in teaching children to read and spell because it starts with what all children know from a very young age – speech sounds. Then, using a very systematic approach, it teaches them how these sounds are coded within our writing system.
The four key concepts children need to learn are:
- letters are symbols that represent sounds
- sounds can be spelled using 1, 2, 3 or 4 letters
- the same sound can be spelled in different ways
- the same spelling can represent different sounds
The three keys skills children need to master are:
- phoneme manipulation
Children in our Foundation Stage begin with the Initial Code where they practice all 3 key skills whilst learning the 1:1 sound-spelling correspondences and securing their understanding of key concept 1. This builds up trust in a truly reversible system, enabling them to decode and encode a wide range of words and sentences. At first, children learn to read and write simple one syllable words with a CVC structure. Complexity of word structure systematically builds up so that children apply their code knowledge to monosyllabic words with up to 6 sounds.
Once the Initial Code has been mastered, children continue to practice all 3 key skills whilst learning Extended Code which explores key concepts 2, 3 and 4. Learning of the Extended Code is a lifelong process – we all continue to develop our understanding of this code whenever we encounter new words! Whilst learning the Extended Code, children read and write monosyllabic and polysyllabic words at an age-appropriate level.
Based on much educational and cognitive research, the Sounds-Write programme uses a multisensory approach using an apprenticeship model.
Children in Foundation Stage and KS1 have a 30 minute phonics lesson every day, in addition to their reading and writing lessons. Each week children will take home phonics books exactly matched to the unit in the Sounds-Write programme. This repetition at home aids recall and then builds automaticity and fluency, allowing them to read and understand increasingly challenging texts.