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Abbotswood Primary School

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Phonics at Abbotswood

Who can I speak to about phonics?

If you have any questions about phonics/early reading - please speak to your child's class teacher. You can also speak to the school's reading leads: Mr Jelf and Mrs Winstone.

What is Phonics? (Intent)

Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write. It helps children hear, identify and use different sounds that distinguish one word from another in the English language.

Written language can be compared to a code, so knowing the sounds (phonemes) and what they look like (graphemes) of individual letters, or groups of letters, and how those letters sound when they are combined will help children decode words as they read. Understanding phonics will also help children know which letters to use when they are writing words.


Children are exposed to phonics every day, either through phonics lessons, bespoke interventions or through writing provision. We want our children at Abbotswood to make a strong start with early reading and writing.

The 5 Principles

At Abbotswood, we have 5 core principles to teaching and learning in phonics lessons:


1. Know the PURPOSE of every activity and share it with the children so that children know what they are focussing on.


2. Be PASSIONATE about teaching to enthuse and engage learners.


3. Teach at an effective PACE and devote every moment to teaching and learning.


4. Ensure that every child PARTICIPATES throughout the lesson and ensure partner work is used where possible.


5. PRAISE effort and progress – not ability.

How is phonics taught at Abbotswood? (Implementation)

Whilst the English alphabet has 26 letters and 44 sounds (phonemes), there are approximately 250 different ways to represent these sounds (graphemes). In short, English is a tricky language to learn!


We teach phonics in Sets 1, 2 and 3. Set 1 focuses on the single sounds heard through the alphabet and a few ‘special friends’ or digraphs (two letters which make one sound e.g. ‘sh’). Set 2 focuses on more ‘special friends’ that are commonly used in reading and writing and Set 3 moves on to look at trigraphs (three letters which make one sound e.g. ‘igh’) and split digraphs (e.g.  ‘a-e’ in ‘cake’).


All children begin each phonics lesson with Speed Sounds. This is where children are exposed to hearing the sound, saying the sound, reading the sound and then reviewing previously taught sounds. The lesson then moves onto Word Time where children are exposed to segmenting (breaking words up into the sounds e.g ‘c-a-t’) and then blending (the process of putting the sounds back together again to read/write a word).

How are your children assessed? (Impact)

As in all lessons, your children are being assessed all the time. These informal assessments provide teachers with the information needed to plan interventions to maximise progress for your child. For example, if it were noticed that a child was struggling with recognising the difference between saying ‘m’ and ‘n’, then an intervention would be put in place to plug the gap.


Your children are also assessed more formally at intervals throughout the year. The data from these assessments allow us to group children effectively based on the level of support required. The assessment involves children reading the sounds that have been previously taught, as well as segmenting and blending the sounds to read words.

How do we know which book your child should be reading?

The data from the phonics assessments tell us which colour band your child should be reading. Initially, it may be that your child’s experience of reading at home will consist of practising the sounds before they move onto the Sound Blending books. Your child may also appear to be on a stage for a long time – do not panic – we do not want the children to move on a stage before they are ready as this leads to further issues with assessment later on.


If you have any questions about assessment, please speak to your child’s class teacher, or find Mr Jelf or Mrs Winstone (the school’s reading leads).

What can I do at home?

In short, read with your children at home. Whether this is practising recognising, reading and writing the sounds that are sent home in the first few weeks of Reception, reading the books that are sent home with the children, reading a bedtime story to your children. These are the single best things you can do for your child’s future!

It is hard to overstate the importance of early literacy. Reading is the gateway to every other subject and to children developing their own unique interests. Children with poor literacy do worse at school. Young adults with poor literacy struggle to get jobs. Nearly half of the people who end up in prison have the literacy skills no better than the average 11 year old.


This is the challenge we are facing, but we will tackle it together!


If you have any questions regarding supporting your child’s reading at home, please speak to your child’s class teacher or the school reading leads.


We will do anything we can to support you in the most important aspect of the most important years of your child’s life.


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