Little Wandle- our Systematic Synthetic Phonics programme
The foundations for reading and writing at St Mary's Priory are taught daily in phonics lessons but planned opportunities throughout the curriculum extend phonics teaching and learning beyond ‘dedicated time’. Consequently, learning is applied, reinforced and relevant connections are identified for the children.
What is phonics?
‘Phonics is making connections between the sounds of our spoken words and the letters that are used to write them down’.
Phonics is designed to help teach children to read and spell by teaching the skills of segmenting and blending, the alphabetic code and an understanding of how this is used in reading and spelling.
Simply put, it is sounding out a word and blending the sounds back together to read the whole word. When writing, it is hearing the sounds in a word and writing them down to spell it correctly.
Spoken English uses about 42 sounds (phonemes). These phonemes are represented by letters (graphemes). The alphabet contains only 26 letters, but we use it to make all the graphemes that represent the phonemes of English. In other words, a sound can be represented by a letter (e.g. ‘s’) or a group of letters (e.g. ‘th’ or ‘igh’).
Once children begin learning letters, they are used as quickly as possible in reading and spelling words. Children can then see the purpose of learning letters. For this reason, the first six letters taught are ‘s’, ‘a’, ‘t’, ‘p’, ‘i’, ‘n’. These can immediately be used to make a number of words such as ‘sat’, ‘pin’, ‘pat’, ‘tap’, ‘nap’. Following this, children continue learning sounds and the letters that represent them in a particular order.
From November 2022, we are teaching phonics in Reception and Year 1 using the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme. This is a systematic synthetic phonics programme, validated by the Department for Education.
How can I help my child?
As a parent, your involvement in supporting your child’s learning will be a vital factor in determining their success in learning to read.
Here are some useful links to websites that support phonics learning:
- www.phonicsplay.co.uk/ (some games on this website are free and do not require a subscription)
How do I know if my child is saying the sounds correctly?
It is most important that children pronounce the sounds clearly. To help you support your child with this, use the videos at the bottom of this page.
How is Phonics assessed?
Phonics is assessed continuously during phonics lessons, when your child reads and through a half-termly assessment. This helps teachers to identify and plan for the children’s next steps to ensure they progress.
What is the Phonics Screening Check?
There is a National Phonics Screening Check in Year 1 (in June) where the children have to read 20 real words and 20 ‘alien’ words containing sounds from Phase Two to Five. This is conducted in a very child-friendly way by the class teachers.
At the end of Year 1, you will be informed if your child has met the threshold score for the check. If they have not met the threshold, they will be given additional support in Year 2 to enable them to meet it.
Terminology: here are the definitions of some words that your child is using in their phonics lessons:
Phoneme - The smallest unit of sound that can be identified in words. We sometimes simply call this a ‘sound’, although it is helpful for children to use the term ‘phoneme’ from the beginning of our programme. (Note: We do not usually notice discrete sounds in words. We deliberately separate them out so that children can learn how our writing–reading system works. Children are first helped to identify the separate sounds in words through oral blending and segmenting, and this is reinforced as they begin to work through our systematic synthetic phonics programme.)
Grapheme - A letter or group of letters used to represent a particular phoneme when writing. With children, we sometimes call this ‘a sound written down’, although, as with ‘phoneme’, it is helpful for children to learn to use the correct term from the beginning. The way graphemes are used to represent phonemes in our written language is known as the ‘alphabetic code’.
Digraph - A grapheme using two letters to represent one phoneme. With children, we frequently reinforce it with the mantra ‘two letters, one sound’. At the appropriate stage, it is useful for children to learn to use the term and to understand what it means.
Trigraph - A grapheme using three letters to represent one phoneme. With children, we frequently reinforce it with the mantra ‘three letters, one sound’. At the appropriate stage, it is useful for children to learn to use the term and to understand what it means.
Split vowel digraph - A digraph representing a vowel sound where its two letters are split by an intervening consonant (for example, ‘a_e’ in ‘take’). Despite having a consonant in between them, the two letters involved (here ‘a’ and ‘e’) still count as one digraph, making one sound. The vowel sound is pronounced at the position of the first of the two letters of the digraph (that is, in the middle of ‘take’). At early learning stages, a split digraph is often highlighted with a short line joining the two halves of the digraph above the intervening consonant, as shown below
Blend - To combine individual phonemes into a whole word, working all the way through from left to right. Once the GPCs involved have been learned, blending is the key process involved in reading words effectively. It is a skill that needs extensive practice. Practice in oral blending is very helpful, both before and during the process of learning to read. It is important to understand that blending sounds into a word is not simply a matter of saying them more quickly, nor of mixing them together like paint. Phonemes need to be joined into one continuous stream of sound to make a spoken word. Extensive practice, following teacher modelling, is the key.
Segment - To identify each of the individual phonemes in a word, working all the way through from left to right. This is an important first stage of writing (spelling) a word but needs to be practised orally first. Counting the phonemes is often helpful in reinforcing this process.
How we teach blending
How we teach tricky words
Reading books with your child at home
Reading practice sessions
Children need to be given regular opportunities to apply the phonics they have learned
to reading fully decodable books. The phonic progression in these books must match the
progression of Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised.
At St Mary's reading practice sessions take place three times a week. Each
reading practice session has a clear focus, so that the demands of the session do
not overload the children’s working memory.
The reading practice sessions have been designed to focus on three key reading skills:
- prosody – reading with meaning, stress and intonation
- comprehension – understanding the text.
Phase 2 sounds taught in Reception Autumn 1
Phase 2 sounds taught in Reception Autumn 2
Phase 3 sounds taught in Reception Spring 1
Phase 5 sounds taught in Year 1