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What is Phonics?
A method of teaching beginners to read and pronounce words by learning to associate letters or letter groups with the sounds they represent. There are 44 main sounds in the English Language. Each sound is represented by a grapheme (the written representation of a sound).

Phoneme: the smallest single identifiable sound in a word. For example, in the word ‘cat’ there are three phonemes c/a/t.

Grapheme: the written representation of a sound.

Digraph: two letters making one sound. For example, /sh/ in the word ‘shop’.

Trigraph: three letters making one sound. For example, /igh/ in the word ‘night’.

Split digraph: two vowel letters split but are split by one or more consonants. For example, /a-e/ in the word ‘cake’.


What is ELS?
Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS) is our chosen phonics programme. It teaches children to read by identifying the phonemes (smallest unit of sound) and graphemes (written version of the sound) within words and using these to read words. Children experience the joy of books and language whilst rapidly acquiring the skills they need to become fluent independent readers and writers.


How do we teach phonics?

We use a simple, consistent approach to teaching phonics.

Your child will experience the same classroom routines within each lesson which reduces cognitive load and maximises the chances of success.

All children are supported within the lesson to use their new phonic knowledge independently.

In every single ELS lesson, your child will make the direct application to reading.

Daily Phonics sessions- these start from the beginning of Nursery.

Phonics throughout the day to review new sounds & graphemes taught.

Lots of opportunities for oral blending- c/oa/t.

Opportunities for writing- new grapheme, words and sentences.


Your children will work through the phonics phases as they progress through school.

In nursery they will start with Phase 1 before moving onto Phase 2 and Phase 3 in Reception. Phase 4 happens as a transition through from Reception to Year 1 with Phase 5 following this.

We teach phonics to a whole class as we are very passionate about children keeping up with age related expectations rather than catching up. If needed, children will also take part in daily intervention sessions.


Supporting your child with reading at home

Your child will bring home a phonics book which should be 90-95% decodable, they will also bring home a reading book that they home chosen for pleasure. Please share this book with your child.

We only use pure sounds when decoding words (no ‘uh’ after the sound)

We want them to practise reading their book 4 times across the week working on these skills: decode fluency expression.


Phonics Screening Check

At the end of Year 1, all children will take part in the statutory Phonics Screening Check. They will be asked to read 20 real words and 20 alien words. The child sound knowledge and the skill of segmenting and blending will be tested within this. In previous years the pass mark has been 32/40. If a child does not pass this check in Year 1 they will retake the check in Year 2.


Key Stage Two

Where needed, children take part in phonics intervention at the appropriate phase for their ability. This is offered as bespoke, high quality sessions twice a week ensuring that all children leave our academy as fluent readers. All children who are accessing phonics sessions take home a phonic decodable book which is precisely matched to their phonic ability. These books are changed on a weekly basis which allows parents and children to celebrate their reading success. 

As you will see (and hear) as you walk around our academy, reading is a huge priority at St. Cuthbert's and underpins everything we do, allowing children to access the full curriculum offer.

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