Phonics & Reading
Phonics at school
At St Mary’s Catholic Primary School phonics is taught daily to all children in Reception and Key Stage One. We use the Letters and Sounds programme to teach children the letters of the alphabet and their matching sounds. We also use many of the interactive games at activities on Phonics Play.
The children are taught to read words by blending, which means pushing all the sounds together to make a word. The children are taught to spell words by segmenting, which means sounding out words and writing down the sounds they can hear.
By the end of Reception children are expected to know all Phase Three sounds. By the end of Year One all children are expected to know all Phase Five sounds. When finishing Key Stage Two, most children are secure in Phase Six sounds. This phase moves away from learning sounds and focuses on spelling rules and patterns.
If you want to look at the sounds in each Phase we teach and play some phonics games, please visit
At the end of Year One all the children in the country take a test called a Phonics Screening. They have to read 40 real and nonsense words. We call the nonsense words ‘Alien words’ and the children practice reading them every day.
Reading at school
We want our children to become enthusiastic, engaged readers and to develop a life-long love of books. We introduce the children to a range of good quality fiction, non-fiction and poetry books through our whole-class, core-text approach to teaching reading, and during their weekly guided reading sessions in DEAR time.
In the early stages of reading, we teach children to decode words using phonic skills as their main approach, alongside which we teach sight vocabulary. Once grasped, the focus for developing reading is on understanding and comprehension. Your child will read with their class teacher once a week during their guided reading session, then independently supported by teacher set activities during the rest of the week.
Our reading books are banded and children can choose the books that they would like to read from a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts.
Reading at home
Developing readers will bring home banded books (according to their stage of development). Free readers may choose a book from the class or school library. Please encourage your child to change their book regularly so they can read each evening; speak to the class teacher if this is not happening.
Your child should be reading at home for 15 minutes or more each day. Your support is hugely important for developing their reading skills, confidence and understanding. Even if your child is a free reader, it is still important for you to read with them, listen to them and discuss the books they are reading.
How to support developing readers at home:
- Try to listen to and read with your child regularly, 10 minutes a day is better than a longer session once a week. It can help if a regular time is set aside so that it becomes part of a routine.
- Find a quiet place to share books where you can feel comfortable and relaxed – learning to read needs to be a positive experience - build their confidence by praising their efforts.
- Encourage your child to have a go at reading words, by using phonic skills to read any unfamiliar words, and by working on building up their sight vocabulary.
- Talk about the meanings of words to help to develop your child’s understanding and use of language.
- Encourage your child to read a range of texts such as stories, newspapers, comics, labels, poetry, non-fiction, tickets, signs, leaflets etc.
- Read books to your child as well; if they see you enjoying a book it will encourage and motivate them to want to learn to read.
- Ask them questions about the text to develop their understanding.
Questions to Develop Understanding:
Where/when does the story take place?
Who are the characters in the story?
What happens in this part of the story?
Tell me one/two things that the main character does in this part of the story?
Can you retell the story using your own words?
Tell me what this character was like?
Tell me the most interesting/ exciting/ funniest/ your favourite part of the story? Why?
What do you think the character feels about...? How can you tell?
What do you think would have happened if…?
What do you think is going to happen next?
Which part of this book did you like best/least? Why?
How has the author used words/phrases to make this character funny/ sad/ clever/ frightening/ excited etc?
Why is … a good title for this story/book/chapter/play?
Do you know any more stories like this? Tell me how they are alike.
Do you know another story with similar characters in? Tell me how they are similar.
What do you think this story is trying to tell us?
Has anything like this ever happened to you?
Non Fiction Questions
Tell me two things you found out that you didn’t know before.
What does this part of the text tell us about ….?
Which part of the text tells us about …?
Why are some words in bold?
How does this text/ layout help the reader?
How does (a diagram/picture/caption) help you to understand the information on this page?
If you have any questions or would like any further support please come and speak to me, Maria Pullen, English Subject Leader or to your child’s class teacher.
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