At Dalton School, we value reading as a key life skill, and are dedicated to enabling our children to become lifelong readers and have a love of literature.
We recognise that mastery in phonics is fundamental to children being able to access a broad range of fiction and non-fiction texts, across the curriculum. We aim to achieve this by teaching phonics systematically with a relentless drive to address the needs of all learners.
Within our context, ensuring children have the cultural capital and experiences to become engrossed and immersed in reading is vital.
We use synthetic phonics and follow the ‘Letters and Sounds’ programme; this is a method of learning letter sounds and blending them together to read and write words. ‘Jolly Phonics’ materials are used alongside ‘Letters and Sounds’ to support visual, kinaesthetic and auditory learners. In addition to this, children are taught sight words linked to the National Curriculum.
As part of this, children have daily phonics sessions in small groups where they participate in speaking, listening and spelling activities that are matched to their starting points and developing needs. The teachers draw upon observations and continuous assessment to ensure children are stretched and challenged and to identify children who may need additional support. Children work through the different phases, learning and developing their phonics sounds and knowledge.
Children in Nursery begin with Phase 1, which provides a range of listening activities through play, to develop their listening skills and in the Summer Term are exposed to Phase 2’s ‘satpin’. Progress is tracked at the end of each term.
Children move into Reception they continue to build upon the listening activities and are introduced to Phase 2, which marks the start of systematic phonic work. Grapheme-phoneme correspondence is introduced. The process of segmenting whole words and selecting letters to represent those phonemes is taught, writing the letters to encode words. Phase 3 completes the teaching of the alphabet and then moves on to cover sounds represented by more than one letter, learning one representation for each of the 44 phonemes. At this stage just one grapheme (spelling) is given for each phoneme.
On entry into Reception, parents/carers are welcomed into school and supported through parent teacher workshop on phonics and early reading. Supplementary resources and guidance are provided and parent/carers are directed to the school’s website for further information, such as links to activities and recommended apps.
Children enter Year 1 with a solid foundation in Phase 3 enabling them to quickly progress in to Phase 4, where they start to read and spell words containing adjacent consonants. No new phonemes are introduced at this phase. Whilst in Year 1, children will complete Phase 5, broadening their knowledge of graphemes and phonemes for use in reading and spelling. They will learn alternative pronunciations and spellings for graphemes they already know.
It is expected that children entering Year 2 will recap Phase 5 and begin Phase 6, which develops a variety of spelling strategies including homophones (word specific spellings) e.g. see/ sea, spelling of words with prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters where necessary. Also the accurate spelling of words containing unusual grapheme-phoneme correspondences e.g. laughs, two. This is taught through ‘No Nonsense’ spellings and is enhanced by ‘Letters and Sounds.’
Many activities take place which promote pre-reading skills. Children become aware of print in their environment and match pictures and words. Language comprehension is developed by talking and reading to the children. Initially, as children learn to read, they are given a picture book with no words with the intention that they will share the book and take part in a conversation generated by the pictures. Gradually as the children's knowledge of letters and sounds develop they begin to phonetically decode words.
The first books given are books, which are fully phonetically decodable and linked to the phonics phase the child is on so their learning is practised and reinforced at home. Children are able to take an additional book home, which exposes them to phonics beyond their phase to share and read for pleasure. Our reading books are organised into coloured Book Bands.
The school spelling program complements the phonics learning from Reception through to the end of KS2. The spelling of high frequency and tricky words are taught continuously throughout the phases.
Ongoing formative assessment takes place within each phonics lesson. This includes: teacher observations, questioning and discussions. These outcomes are fed forward into timely teacher intervention and subsequent planning to ensure gaps in phonological knowledge are closed and progress is not limited.
Children’s progress is continually reviewed to allow for movement between ability groups, and children move phonics phases when it is felt necessary to meet their needs. Children are regularly moved onto the next Book Band when their fluency and understanding show that they are ready. Children move through the Book Bands until they reach the required standard to become a Free-Reader, choosing a book to read from our well-stocked school or class libraries.
The national Phonics Screening Check is performed in June of Year 1. The purpose of the screening check is to confirm that all children have learned phonic decoding to an age-appropriate standard. The children who did not meet the required standard for the check in year 1 enter again in year 2 with additional support. As children enter KS2, provision is made for those children still requiring daily phonics.
Pupil progress will also identify precise actions and objectives for targeted focus children, including the lowest 20% who are not likely to meet the required standard of the Phonics Screening Check.
We recognise that quality first teaching in phonics is the essential first step in improving outcomes for all children. With this in mind, we ensure that teachers and teaching assistants are kept up to date on the latest initiatives and news. This is through continuous professional development by outside providers and within school (such as local authority networks and TA training). In response to monitoring, evaluation and review outcomes, weaker areas in staff subject knowledge and pedagogy are developed through the school’s coaching/mentoring programme.