As a whole school, we are committed to using the Sounds-Write, a structured synthetic phonics programme to assist the children from Foundation Stage to Year 2 to learn to read, write and spell independently with accuracy, understanding and confidence. All teaching staff in EYFS and Key Stage 1 have completed extensive training in order to be able to deliver phonics effectively. Phonics is taught daily at St. Peter's Catholic Primary School in Year R, Year 1 and Year 2. We introduced Sounds-Write to the school in September 2022.
Sounds-Write is a multi-sensory approach to teaching reading and spelling. It requires:
The Sounds-Write approach ensures that:
The Sounds-Write (linguistic phonics) programme is based on extensive research which has isolated and examined the processes involved in learning to read and spell. Each component of the programme is carefully designed so that the developing reader/writer can be guided by explicit instruction at every critical point.
Through whole class instruction, extension activities, small group practice all children in our school will be equipped with the necessary concepts, skills and knowledge to become independent in reading, writing and spelling. As with all tasks some children will learn quicker and some will need extra practice and teaching.
Through the Sounds-Write programme children will understand that;
Concept 1: Letters represent sounds
NB: Letters do not ‘make’ sounds they represent them and, as teachers and learning support assistants, we should be careful that, when we are teaching children to read, we use appropriate phrases to reinforce this e.g. ‘what sound do you say for this?’ (Pointing to letter or letters) not ‘what sound does this letter make?’
Concept 2: A sound can be spelled with 1,2,3 or 4 letters.
The English language contains single letter spellings. For example, in the word ‘cat’ c-a-t. These are relatively simple to read and spell. However, many sounds are spelled with two or more letters e.g. oa in boat, ou in out and igh in high. These present more of a problem for a non-skilled reader and will need to be pointed out by the teacher and practised by the child.
It is important to understand that letters don’t make sounds, they represent or spell them.
Concept 3: In English the same sound is often written with different spellings (same sound, different spellings).
In English every sounds that we say can be represented by at least 2 different spellings. In many cases the number of different spellings of the same sound is much larger; maybe 8 or 9! T he sound ‘s’ for example is written in different ways in these words:
sat, city, voice, mess, house, listen, scent.
There are 44 speech sounds and around 175 different ways to spell those sounds, using a combination of the 26 alphabetic letters. New readers must learn that there are more ways than one to represent the same sound so that they learn to look very carefully in order to spell well.
Concept 4: In English, the same spelling can spell different sounds.
For example, <o> spells the sound /o/ in dog, /oe/ in go and /oo/ in do. Readers need to be able to swap sounds (phoneme manipulation) to read the word accurately if another possible sound for that spelling has been tried first.
Because words are composed of sounds, in order to read we need to be able to blend sounds together and at the end ‘hear’ a meaningful word. Daily practise in the Sounds-Write lessons will develop good blending.
For example: children read the sounds <m> <a> <t> individually then put them together to say the word mat.
Because the English written language is a sound, spelling code it is important that children are taught to segment the sounds in words so they can read and spell with ease. Through segmenting children have the opportunity to notice the ways in which the individual sounds are spelled.
For example: children look at the word talk and can break it up into its individual sounds by saying <t> <al> <k>.
3. Phoneme Manipulation
Skilled readers are able to add, change or omit sounds in words and understand how this manipulation of sounds makes new words. This skill of phoneme manipulation is essential so that a new reader can swap sounds around to deal with same spelling-different sound.
For example: children can say or write the word bell and, when asked to, can swap the <b> for a <s> to say or write the word sell.
For example: children say or write the word bell and, when asked to, can omit the<b> to say or write ell.
For skilled fluent reading it is vital that children have a thorough knowledge of the spelling code of the 44 sounds of English.
The code is taught through multi-sensory activities and lessons where the children are building whole words sound by sound, reading words and writing words.
Initially we work with words where the spellings are 1:1 (sound:letter). Later we move to 2 letter spellings and we teach the spelling alternatives for the sounds. In each school year, we extend the number of sounds taught and also the number of spellings covered. The order of teaching the sounds and spellings can be found below.
Children need to be taught explicitly and extensively how the sounds of English are written. This teaching and learning should be repeatedly revised and reinforced during daily reading and spelling activities. The code should not be allowed to remain a mystery to pupils.
Pupils who are at the early stages of their phonics development are given a decodable text so that they can practice what they have learnt. The decodable text will focus on recently and previously learnt sounds (not the current focus of learning for that week) so that the children be successful and develop their knowledge of the code more securely.
We have invested in Sounds-Write texts which align directly to their programme, as well as having Dandelion readers which also follow the Sounds-Write programme. We have also aligned Songbirds and Oxford Reading Tree books to the Sounds-Write programme – these texts have a sticker on them to indicate which unit (both initial or extended code) they are assigned to.
In line with the Sounds-Write texts, some of the decodable texts have a sticker on with a handful of words for the adult to read and explain to their child to ensure their decodable text is both appropriate and effective.
When children have become familiar with a considerable amount of the Sounds-Write code (approximately units 16-20), and display a good level of ability in segmenting, blending and phoneme manipulation then they will be given decodable texts that contain mostly words they can decode easily, but may also include some words beyond their ability. In these instances, these words are few and are there to provide the children with an opportunity to apply the skills they have learnt as they transition to independent readers.
It is crucial that when reading for progress, the children are able to feel successful and confident. This means that they should not be exposed to texts that are beyond their phonic knowledge. They should be mostly decodable, allowing them to feel like they can read.
For children who have a decodable text, to promote reading for pleasure and expose them to vocabulary and storytelling that can be lacking in decodable texts, they will also receive a book for pleasure. This would not be read by the child, but instead be read by adults at home to the child.
The children will be introduced to an average of two ‘new’ sounds per week always in the context of word building (i.e. sound to letter) and practised through reading, writing sound swopping, symbol search activities etc. By Christmas, pupils will understand that two letters can spell one sound (e.g. bell, boss, buzz) and be able to read and spell words containing sounds from Units 1-7. They will then continue to learn the Initial Code (Sounds-Write Units 8 – 11) where they will be able to read and spell words containing adjacent consonants (four and five sounds). By Easter (or shortly after), children will have completed Unit 11 (sh, ch, th, ck, wh, ng, q u). They will then begin to understand that the same sound can be spelled in different ways, as they prepare to move to Year 1.
The children will recap unit 11 of the initial code based on initial assessment (this is recommended by Sounds-Write) before progressing onto units 1-26 of the extended code.
They will continue to learn the concepts, skills and knowledge taking 1-2 weeks per phoneme unit whilst recapping previously learnt units too.
Children will understand that the same spelling in English can represent different sounds.
The term ‘first spellings’ refers to a limited number of the common ways to spell a sound.
By unit 4 in the Extended Code, children will also begin the work on reading and spelling words of more than one syllable (polysyllabic words). They will start with 2 syllable words and progress to 3 and even 4 syllable words for reading and writing.
After initially recapping previously learnt units in the extended code from Year 1, the children will continue to work through units 26-50 of the extended code. They will continue to teach and revise the sounds and spellings of the Extended Code progressing through the Sounds-Write Units. In many cases they will revisit a sound and cover ‘more spellings’ (complete list of spellings for a sound).
Children will continue to practise reading and spelling polysyllabic words.
National Phonics Screening
All pupils in Year 1 have a national phonics screening check which is carried out in June each year. Any pupil who does not attain the required standard repeat the screening in Year 2. This is to ensure that all pupils have a secure foundation upon which to build their reading skills in Key Stage 2.