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Phonics and Early Reading

Phonics and Reading at Farsley Springbank Primary School



At Farsley Springbank, we strive to teach children to read accurately and quickly using the highly successful Read Write Inc. Phonics programme (RWI). Learning to read is the most important thing your child will learn at our school. Everything else depends on it, so we put as much energy as we possibly can into making sure that every single child learns to read as quickly as possible. Our ultimate aim is to instil a love of reading in all our children as it is the key that unlocks the door to lifelong learning.


The Read Write Inc. programme is a structured and systematic approach to teaching reading, used by over a quarter of the UK’s primary schools. It is a comprehensive literacy programme, weaving decoding, comprehension, writing and spelling together seamlessly. We believe in a consistent, whole-school approach and through rigorous assessment, tracking and one-to-one tutoring, we aim to guarantee progress for every child.


What do the children learn in RWI lesssons?



The children:

  • learn 44 sounds (phonemes) and the corresponding letters/letter groups (graphemes) using simple picture prompts – see below
  • learn to read words using Fred talk and sound blending (m-a-t = mat)
  • read a range of storybooks and non-fiction books matched to their phonic knowledge
  • develop comprehension skills by answering 'Find It' and 'Prove It' discussion questions



The children:

  • learn to write and form the letters/letter groups (graphemes) which represent the 44 sounds with the help of fun and memorable phrases
  • learn to write words by using Fred Talk
  • learn to build sentences by orally rehearsing sentences out loud before they write



The children work in pairs so that they:

  • answer every question
  • practise every activity with their partner
  • take turns in talking and reading to each other
  • develop ambitious vocabulary



As soon as the children join reception, we ensure that their listening skills are well-developed by playing lots of listening games, singing songs and nursery rhymes and listening to a range of stories. We introduce the children to sound blending by playing 'Fred Games'. Fred the Frog can only speak in sounds so he tells the child to touch their 'n-oa-z' and the children orally blend the sounds they hear and say 'nose'. In the autumn term, the Reception children take part in daily phonics lessons which last 30 minutes. In the spring and summer term, phonics lessons last 1 hour and include reading, spelling and writing. By the end of Reception, we expect children to be secure in reading and writing all Set 1 and 2 sounds.


Key Stage 1

In Year 1, the children follow the same format as Reception but will work on complex sounds and continue to read books, which match their reading level. Daily sessions of RWI phonics last for one hour. By the end of Year 1, we expect children to be secure in reading and writing all Set 1, Set 2 and Set 3 sounds. In Year 2, daily RWI lessons continue until the children become fluent and confident readers at which point they move from the RWI program onto whole-class reading and writing lessons.


Tricky Words (Red words)

Some common words contain tricky and uncommon spelling patterns. These are called red words. For example, in ‘said’, the tricky letters are ‘ai’ (the sensible letter would be ‘e’), in ‘son’, the tricky letter is ‘o’ (the sensible letter would be ‘u’) and in ‘your’, the tricky letters are ‘our’ (the sensible letters would be ‘or’) We need the children to read Red Words speedily, so they don’t have to stop and think about them for long. We teach these words by first pointing out the tricky letter/s for the children and then we teach the children to read red words by sight recognition.


Home reading

When children first join Reception, they begin to learn the first group of Set 1 sounds and learn how to blend these sounds into words. They will bring home wordless picture books, speed sound cards and sound sheets to practise reading and writing these newly taught sounds. Once the children can blend confidently and know most of the Set 1 single letter sounds, they will bring home Ditty sheets or a red Ditty book.


We assess the children every half-term to identify which RWI reading level best suits your child. Your child will be sent home with a RWI book bag book which is fully decodable. They will have read the book three times in class so they should be able to read it with fluency and expression. They should have a good comprehension of what the book is about and should be able to answer the find it/prove it questions at the back. We may also send home a ‘previously read’ RWI book bag book which your child should also be able to read with confidence.


Year 1 Phonics Check

The Year 1 phonics screening check is a statutory assessment to confirm whether children have learnt phonic decoding to the expected standard. It is carried out in on a one to one basis with a teacher your child feels comfortable with and only lasts about 10 minutes.


The check allows teachers to identify which children need further support with their phonic decoding skills. Any child who does not meet the required standard will receive this targeted support in Year 2 and then re-take the screening check in the summer. If children do not meet the required standard in Year 2, they will continue to receive targeted support with the RWI program or an alternative scheme until they are able to decode and read fluently.


The Phonics Screening Check has 20 real words and 20 alien (nonsense) words, which children must decode and read. Here is an example.


What if my child struggles with phonics?

Please do not worry if your child struggles with phonics at first as all children learn at a different rate. We ensure that we quickly identify children who are not progressing at the expected rate so we can give these children extra daily tuition. With extra phonics practice reading speedy sounds and blending words, we aim to ensure children keep up with the learning, so they don’t have to catch up later on.


Chloe Wood is our reading leader, so if you have questions or concerns about your child’s reading, please contact the school office who can forward these on. 

Useful videos


What is RWI Phonics?


How to say the sounds


Help your child learn to read words by sound-blending (Fred talk) eg. c-a-t = cat, sh-o-p = shop. Help your child to say the pure sounds ('m' not 'muh', 's' not 'suh' etc.) as quickly as they can, and then blend the sounds together to say the whole word. Please do not use the alphabet letter names with your child at this stage.


Here is a link to our reception parent meeting which was held over zoom in October 2020.