What is phonics and how do we teach it?
Phonics is the gateway to reading and writing, which are life-long skills that pave the way to success both at school and beyond. It is through phonics that our children learn to decode written letters and spoken sounds. At Elm Academy we teach phonics using a scheme called Read, Write Inc.
Read, Write Inc uses repetition, pictures and rhymes to make the sounds memorable and easy to learn. The sounds are learnt gradually, in three sets, and the children focus on using words which contain these sounds. The words that can be decoded using the known sounds are called ‘Green words’. The sounds that cannot be decoded at all or not until later during the scheme are called ‘Red Words’.
Here are some resources to let you know the sounds the children learn, how to say them accurately, the order in which they learn them and the rhymes that make them memorable.
- Picture Sound Mat
- Complex Speed Sound Chart
‘Green Words’ are phonetically decodable words that the children learn to read. By practicing these words frequently the children begin to read fluently and can then read by sight. They also help the children to read other similar words more easily.
- Set 1 Green Words
- Set 2 Green Words
- Set 3 Green Words
Red words are words that need to be sight read. The children learn to recognise these words without sounding them out. This can be for several reasons:
- It may have parts that cannot be decoded
- It may be because it contains sounds that the children haven’t learnt yet
- It may be pronounced differently across the country
The words can be learnt through games, playing snap, Kim’s game or timing how fast they can read a given amount.
- Red Words
As the children are learning new sounds and tricky words, they will be reading books that contain all of the sounds and words that they already know. This is to consolidate their learning. The books are levelled in different colours depending on the sounds and the red words they know. These will loosely correspond to the colour reading book they take home.
Red ditties (very short stories), Green, Purple, Pink, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Grey
Year 1 Phonics Test
The Year 1 Phonics test, or as we call it “The Super Phonics Challenge”, is a short, light-touch assessment done with the class teacher to confirm whether individual children have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard. It identifies the children who will need further support to improve their reading skills.
Non- words (made up words) are included because they will be new to all children, so there is not a bias towards those children with greater vocabulary or visual memory. Children who can read these words should have the phonetic capability to read almost any unfamiliar word.
The pass mark is usually 32 words out of 40 (80%) and is likely to be similar in future years.
All children need to be able to identify sounds associated with different letters and letter combinations, and then blend these sounds together to correctly say the word on the page. The same skill is needed whether the word is a real word or a non-word.
The words gradually get harder through the check as the combinations of letters become more complicated. As long as the child has said 32 out of the 40 words correctly, they will be considered to have met the standard.
Children should not realise that they are being formally assessed. The check should be seen as part of their everyday phonics activities and not as a test.
Here are the past papers from previous years. These are excellent resources for practicing reading both real words and non-words and will give you an idea of how your child’s reading is progressing.
Helping at home
It is important that phonics is fun and the children enjoy the challenge of decoding words. Here are some websites and games that can be played at home to help develop your children love of reading.
Please note: Some interactive games may use different phonics schemes. The same sounds will be learnt but usually in a different order. Use the sound guide at the top of this page to determine the sounds your child has learnt at school or ask the class teacher.
- https://www.pinterest.co.uk/ (search ‘phonics games’ for some great ideas for homemade phonics games)