At St Edmundsbury CEVA Primary school, we teach children to learn to read, write and spell through a synthetic phonics approach using the Letters and Sounds publication in Early Years and Years 1 – 6.
A synthetic phonics approach teaches children to decode words by sounds, rather than recognising whole words; we start by teaching children to break words up into the smallest units of sound (phonemes).
Children are taught the letters (graphemes) that represent these phonemes and also learn to blend them into words. So, at its most basic, children are taught to read the letters in a word like c-a-t, and then merge them to pronounce the word cat.
A phoneme can be represented by one, two, three or four letters (such as “ough” in “dough”).
Children are systematically taught the sounds and the combination of letters used to represent each sound through a daily phonics session. At St Edmundsbury, we group the children according to stage of learning rather than age; this way we make sure that all children receive the level of learning they need at the time they need it.
Most sounds, however, have more than one way to spell them. For example, “e” in “egg” can also be spelt “ea” as in “head” or “ai” as in “said”.
Graphemes are grouped together and children progress from one group to the other, building their vocabulary along the way, as their vocabulary builds and their ability to blend sounds together, the children become readers. Early readers follow a structured ‘banding’ approach, accessing reading books containing the vocabulary and sounds that they are becoming familiar with.
At St Edmundsbury, we follow the Songbird’s reading scheme, ensuring the children are provided with opportunities to use the phonics they have been taught during their phonics sessions in their reading. As the children become more fluent readers, they move onto ‘free readers’ where they access a greater variety of more complex texts.
Since 2012, children have been tested at the end of Year 1 using a national phonics assessment; these results are published using national and local statistics.