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Reading and Phonics

Phonics at Petham



At Petham Primary School, we aim to develop confident, fluent and passionate readers and writers from an early age. We believe that phonics provides the foundations upon which we can build our pupils ability to read easily, fluently and with good understanding, alongside developing a love of reading widely and often. 

We place a high value on reading as we know it underpins children's access to the curriculum and it clearly impacts on their achievement. There is considerable research to show that children who enjoy reading and choose to read benefit not only academically, but also socially and emotionally. To be able to read, children need to be taught an efficient strategy to decode words. That strategy is phonics. It is essential that children are actively taught and supported to use phonics as the only approach to decoding. Other strategies must be avoided. Phonic decoding skills must be practised until children become automatic and fluent reading is established.



At Petham we use Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised where our youngest children are taught the essential skills and knowledge needed for later reading and writing.


In EYFS children are introduced to Phase 2 and Phase 3 phonemes. Our children are taught to recognise the 44 sounds in the English language which we put together to form words. Some are represented by one letter, such as 't', and some by two or more, such as 'ck' in duck and 'igh' as in light. We refer to these as diagraphs and trigraphs. Once they have mastered the initial sounds the children are encouraged to match them to letters, then blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word. Finally, they use their knowledge of the sounds and blending skills to support their spelling. The children learn to read a list of age appropriate 'tricky' words, words which cannot be sounded out using their phonics e.g 'the'.

In Key Stage 1 the children revise the 44 sounds and learn alternative graphemes, for example 'ay' as in play and 'ou' as in cloud. Towards the end of Key Stage 1 and moving in to Key Stage 2, we teach the children important 'spelling rules'. This enables children to make the shift from writing phonetically to spelling words accurately.


Any child who needs additional practise are quickly identified and provided with daily-keep up support, taught by a fully trained member of staff. Keep up lessons are consistent with the structure of our everyday sessions but these sessions are broken down into smaller steps with plenty of repetition so that every child secures their understanding. We also support children in KS2 with rapid catch-up sessions where needed. These sessions are carefully matched to the children's ability to ensure they are accessing age appropriate learning but at a quicker pace in order to plug any gaps they may have. 


The national Phonics Screening Check was introduced in 2012 to all Year 1 pupils and it is administered during the summer term. It is a short, statutory, assessment to ensure that children are making sufficient progress in the phonics skills required to read words and that they are on track to become confident, fluent readers who have a love of reading. The check consists of a list of 40 words, half are real words and half are 'nonsense' words; the nonsense words will be shown to your child with a picture of an alien. This not only makes the check a bit more fun, but provides the children with a context for the nonsense words.



At Petham we use Little Wandle Letters and Sounds to support the children's word reading and comprehension skills. Each week the children in EYFS and Year 1, and any child on our rapid catch-up program, will read with a trained adult 3 times a week. The books our pupils read are carefully matched to their latest phonics assessment to ensure they are reading at the appropriate level.


The three reading sessions in school will cover:

1) Decoding - Introducing new vocabulary and practising segmenting and blending. 

2) Prosody - Reading with meaning and intonation. 

3) Comprehension - Understanding the text. 


Once the children has completed these reading sessions they should be 90% fluent with the text and have a good understanding of what they have read. This is when they bring their book home to celebrate how much they have achieved. 


On the days the children do not bring home a decodable book they can choose a book from our school library to bring home. We call these 'Sharing books'. In order to encourage your child to become a lifelong reader, it is important that they learn to read for pleasure. The sharing book is a book they have chosen independently to share with an adult at home. The children are not expected to read these independently but share them, discuss the pictures, enjoy the story, predict what might happen next, use different voices for the characters, explore the facts in a non-fiction book and most importantly; have fun!



At Petham Primary our systematic, consistent and repetitive teaching of Phonics, ensures our pupils are prepared for the next stage of their learning as they move from Reception into Key Stage 1 and beyond. 

Assessment is regularly used to monitor our children's progress and allows us to quickly identify children needing extra support. 


Assessment for learning is used daily through teacher observation to identify children needing daily keep-up support. We also assess weekly in our Review lessons to identify gaps and address them quickly to ensure our children are becoming secure and fluent readers and writers. 

We use Little Wandle assessments at the end of each term to assess progress and identify any gaps that need to be addressed. The Heat Maps we then receive give us a very clear understanding of our pupils strengths and areas where support is needed. Any child who is accessing Daily keep-up support is assessed every 3 weeks to ensure they are making rapid progress. Our children on the Rapid Catch Up Program are assessed at the end of each unit, usually every 4 weeks, to ensure the support they are receiving is impactful. 


Our pupils in Year 1 also sit the Phonics Screening Check and any child who does not pass the check will re-sit it in Year 2 and be placed on our Rapid Catch-Up program. 


Useful Documents


This link will take you to the progression document, so that you can see when your child would learn each grapheme:

Below you can find links to documents and videos which explain how to pronounce each phoneme:


Phase 2 Autumn 1 Pronunciation

Phase 2 Autumn 2 Pronunciation

Phase 3 Spring 1 Pronunciation


For additional information please visit the parents page on Little Wandle which can be found here



Reading at Petham Year 2-6


Guided Reading

Children take part in guided reading sessions 4 times a week learning reading skills.


Parental Involvement

At the start of the school year, your child’s class teacher will have informed you about classroom routines for each class with regards to reading books/reading homework activities.

We emphasise the need for parents to take an active role in their child’s education, supporting the developing reader and encouraging open lines of communication through reading diaries and planners.


Accelerated Reader


Following the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds revised program, children move on to Accelerated Reader (AR).  We ensure children are secure in the learning content of the Little Wandle program and that they are confident and fluent when applying the skills before moving them forward to AR.  AR does not help children learn to read - it consolidates their learning and promotes reading comprehension rather than decoding and word reading skills.

All children learn to read at different rates, so read with your child often to help them to develop a love of reading. This is equally as important as your child learning to read individual words.


What is Accelerated Reader (AR)?

AR is a computer program that helps teachers manage and monitor children’s independent reading practice. Your child picks a book at their own level and reads it at their own pace. When finished, your child takes a short quiz on the computer (passing the quiz is an indication that your child understood what was read). AR gives children and teachers feedback based on the quiz results, which the teacher then uses to help your child set goals and direct ongoing reading practice. Children using AR choose their own books to read, rather than having one assigned to them. This encourages reading to become an independent experience as the children can choose books they find interesting promoting a love of reading and reading for pleasure. Teachers support children to choose books at an appropriate readability level that are challenging without being frustrating, ensuring that your child can enjoy and understand the text and subsequently pass the quiz and experience success.

Children really enjoy taking the quizzes. Since they’re reading books at their reading and interest levels, they are likely to be successful. This is satisfying for most children. Best of all, they learn and grow at their own pace.


How much should my child read during the day?

According to research, children who read at least 35 minutes a day (at home and school) with a 90% comprehension rate (average percent correct) on AR quizzes see the greatest gains. Therefore, your child should have at least 35 minutes set aside for reading during each day.


How can I help my child become a better reader?

As with anything, performance improves with practice. Encourage your child to read at home. Create a culture of reading in your household by reading with your child, starting a home library, visiting your local library on a regular basis, letting your child see you reading, and discussing books that each of you has read. When reading with your child, stop and ask questions to be sure your child is understanding what is read. Reading with your child, no matter what the child’s age, is an important part of developing a good reader, building a lifelong love of reading and learning, and creating a close relationship between you and your child. Make learning a family affair!


What if my child doesn’t like reading?

Using Accelerated Reader, your child will choose the books they want to read. The teacher will make certain the book is at the right level so that after completing the book, your child should do well on the AR Reading Practice Quiz. Success on the quiz will encourage your child to read more. With guidance from the teacher, and success, even children who say they don’t like reading develop a love of reading.


How does the school determine my child’s reading level?

Teachers determine your child’s reading level using a STAR Reading™ test and using their best professional judgment based on their knowledge of your child. A STAR Reading test is a computerized reading assessment that uses computer-adaptive technology. Questions continually adjust to your child’s responses. If the child’s response is correct, the difficulty level is increased. If the child misses a question, the difficulty level is reduced. The test uses multiple-choice questions and takes approximately 15 minutes. As a result the teacher is provided with a Zone of Proximal Development for your child.


What is a Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)?

In independent literature-based reading, ZPD is the range of books that will challenge a child without causing frustration or loss of motivation. Your child will receive a ZPD range after taking a STAR Reading test. It’s important for children to read with a high degree of comprehension and within their ZPDs. ZPDs should be adjusted based on the needs of your child.

Reading Progression