Phonics at MCPA
Here at MCPA we follow the Read Write Inc. phonics programme.
The Government has issued guidance that schools should follow a systematic synthetic phonic programme.
Synthetic phonics is way of teaching reading that focuses on phoneme (sound) recognition along with grapheme (letter) recognition. Children are taught to recognise the phonemes and graphemes and use these to build up more complex words. Some phonemes such as sh or ch are made up of more than one grapheme.
For example cat is made up of the phonemes c-a-t. The children know what letters make the c sound, the a sound and the t sound. They learn to blend the letters to make the word cat. Ship is made up of three phonemes sh-i-p but four letters, etc.
This may seem very obvious but in the past many schools used a reading programme that put more emphasis on children recognising whole words by sight. This is still a very important skill (especially in this country as many words cannot be worked out using phonic recognition i.e. school is not pronounced s-ch-oo-l, and try and work out the word cough!). The original Oxford Reading Tree used to focus more on sight words with children learning words such as wanted, pushed, pulled, etc. but has now adopted a more phonic based approach.
It must be admitted that there is some debate still in the education community about which is the more effective primary approach but the government has made it clear which one they expect schools to follow and have introduced a phonic test in Y1 to see how the phonic skills are being taught.
All the teachers and support staff at the school have been given specific training in phonic progression, etc.
Children in Key Stage 1 are taught phonics in daily lessons. These lessons focus on reading and writing. The children are grouped into four groups according to their phonic knowledge. A typical lesson may spend about 5 minutes looking at individual phonemes and graphemes. They will look at how to write each letter correctly – they then spend time on blending phonemes to make words. This often involves “Fred talk” where the teacher reads out the phonemes and the children have to put them together to make words. The teacher may then teach the children two or three words that do not follow phonetic patterns, e.g. “she” and “he” are not sh-e and h-e etc. The children then look at books designed to focus on specific blends and do some writing of their own using the skills they have been learning.
Every 7 or 8 weeks the children are re-assessed and re-assigned to new groups. Pupils that seem to be standing still are given additional 1:1 sessions to re-enforce the skills they have been learning.
We introduced the programme in September 2013 and there is no doubt that it is having a very positive impact on the children’s reading and spelling and the children are very enthusiastic about their lessons.
If you want to see the programme in action there are some clips on You Tube of Read Write Inc lessons being taught in other schools.
Beyond Phonics “Phonics is a prerequisite for children to become effective readers, but it is not an end in itself. Children should always be taught phonics as part of a language rich curriculum, so that they develop their wider reading skills at the same time.” DFE