Reading and Phonics
Reading is a key priority at Thurcroft Junior Academy and is at the heart of everything that we do: our aim is to develop fluent readers who have a love of reading.
Thurcroft Junior Academy follows the ACET Phonics Scheme. If children are not yet fluent in reading upon joining our academy in year three, then they will complete systematic synthetic phonics lessons four times per week, alongside reading retrieval intervention.
What is phonics?
Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write. It helps children to hear, identify and use different sounds that distinguish one word from another in the English language. Written language can be compared to a code, so knowing the sounds of individual letters and how those letters sound when they’re combined will help children decode words as they read. Understanding phonics will also help children know which letters to use when they are writing words. Phonics involves matching the sounds of spoken English with individual letters or groups of letters. For example, the sound k can be spelled as c, k, ck or ch. Teaching children to blend the sounds of letters together helps them decode unfamiliar or unknown words by sounding them out. For example, when a child is taught the sounds for the letters t, p, a and s, they can start to build up the words: “tap”, “taps”, “pat”, “pats” and “sat”.
How is Phonics taught?
Phonics lessons take place four times per week. They are fast paced and repetitive so that children make lots of progress, quickly. The phonics groups are streamed, which means children are in a group that matches their ability based on regular assessments. Each of the small groups are taught by phonics experts, who tailor the lessons to ensure that children’s needs are met and that the ‘recap’ part of the session revisits the sounds that children need. All phonics lessons are structured and delivered in the same way, meaning all children receive the same high-quality learning experiences. The knowledge of sounds and ability to apply this knowledge to reading words is assessed each half term by class teachers and phonics experts.
When do pupils learn Phonics?
Phonics starts in Nursery. The focus isn’t on reading words just yet but on learning all the vitally important skills to help to move onto reading words. Listening skills are developed and pupils will practise making sounds with their bodies and their mouths. Children also develop their fine motor skills, ready for holding a pencil (all these skills are within Phase 1). When ready, letter sounds from Phase 2 are also taught.
We work in close partnership with Thurcroft Infant School and on transition to Year 3, information is shared in relation to each child’s phonics learning and reading progress. As in any ACET Junior Academy, all Year 3 pupils will complete a phonics baseline test at the start of the new academic year to ensure teachers have a thorough understanding of each child’s phonics acquisition.
In Year 3 onwards, some pupils may still have gaps in their phonics knowledge, extra catch-up sessions known as ‘grid time’, is used as an intervention to rapidly teach and overlearn any missing sounds.
If at any point the pupils find something tricky or they join mid-year and have missed parts of phonics, teachers are very quick to ensure they have extra support in order to catch up through interventions such as ‘grid time’.
In all the phases, pupils will be taught Tricky Words and High Frequency Words these words are expected to be sight read, there should not be any sounding out of these words.
Things to know about phonics
- Sounds are taught in a very specific order (the books match this order).
- Phonics is used as the main a way to read a word. E.G. When stuck, the strategy to use is ‘sound it out’ (e.g. sh – o – p), look for the sounds (e.g. noticing the ‘th’ in bath) split it up (e.g. f – ar – m = farm, y – ar – d = yard, farmyard).
- Pictures are NEVER used to help read a word.
- Some words are tricky words (see attached list) and these must be read by sight, with no sounding out.
Key Reading Skills
Children from Year Three to Year Six receive key reading skills lessons four times per week for 30 minutes. These lessons focus on developing children’s skills in being able to understand a text and answer questions about what they have read. Each week the children will read a text that is linked to their English learning and answer a range of different questions about the text that they have read. The table below details what is included in each key reading skill lesson.
Text type (per week)
Children read and independently answer questions using all of the skills (retrieval, inference, explain, summary, predict, vocabulary).
(Only taught if additional week in the half term).
Answering questions about film clips, pictures, song lyrics.
Thurcroft Junior Academy’s main focus is to improve reading by developing the children’s fluency (reading accurately without lots of sounding out), therefore pupils will only have their book changed once per week. This will allow them to become fluent and confident in what they are reading. It is an expectation that all children read at home at least four times per week: this will develop children’s fluency and understanding of the texts that they read.
Pupils accessing phonics lessons or phonics interventions will reinforce their reading at home through fully decodable phonics books, in line with what they are learning and accessing in their phonics sessions. This gives pupils the opportunity to practise what they have been learning in school. Pupils will read books that are from the phase before the phase of phonics that they are currently learning (for example, a child who is learning sounds from phase 5F phonics, will read a phase 5E book). If a pupil is reading a phonics books, then please be aware that they should be able to read 100% of the book using the phonics they have been taught. This may appear as ‘easy’ but this is to aid fluency and give them the chance to practise what they have been learning.
When you hear your child read at home, check the inside cover for any words they need to be taught before they begin.
The table below shows the different books pupils will take home:
Children learning phonics
Phase 1 – 2a
Children secure in phonics
Coloured Book Bands
Secure in all of phonics
We ask that parents sign planners when their child has read at home (we expect a minimum of at least four times per week). All children who read at least four times will have their name put into the raffle and one child per class will have the opportunity to win a brand new book as an incentive for home reading during Sparkle and Shine assembly on Fridays.
At Thurcroft Junior Academy, we are lucky enough to have a wonderful library filled with high quality texts that children are able to enjoy. Children visit the library with their class once per week and are able to choose a book that they can enjoy reading both at home and at school. We allow the children to have free choice when picking a library book, therefore, the books that children choose may not always reflect their reading ability. We would suggest that library books are to read and enjoy together.
Reading for pleasure
At our school we want our children to love reading, therefore our class teachers choose exciting and engaging texts for their learning that will excite the children.
Each classroom has an inviting reading corner, where children are able to spend time reading, choosing books and sharing the texts that they have enjoyed. The bookshelves in each classroom are filled with up-to-date, age-appropriate and engaging texts that cater to the children’s wide range of interests. Children have twenty minutes of dedicated reading time each day, where they can read texts alone, with their peers and with adults. Choice is vital to developing reading for pleasure, therefore, children can choose to read a book from their class bookshelf, their school banded reading book, or their library book during this time. As part of our dedicated reading time, children are encouraged to talk about what they have read with adults and make recommendations to their peers.
As previously mentioned, each class visits the library once per week for around 20 minutes, where they can browse for books and read in a space dedicated to reading. We also have our library open at lunchtimes for children who wish to use it.
We also have an after school reading club, where children read and share stories together.
We have been lucky enough to have the Rotherham School Library Service into school to complete small ‘book study’ groups with children across years three to six and have invited authors into our school (both in person and virtually), as well as, having an affordable book fair visit each year.