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Reading and Phonics


At Ruardean Primary School we believe that reading opens the door to all learning. Therefore, we are passionate about all children learning to read with fluency and confidence. Our school teaches reading through the highly successful Department of Education endorsed Read Write Inc Phonics programme.


Read Write Inc enables children to become confident, fluent readers. The English language consists of 44 sounds. Learning these sounds are the first steps in learning to read. Once children have learnt to recognise and say the sounds, they will blend them together to read whole words.


Who Teaches RWI Phonics?

We have a dedicated team of teachers and teaching assistants who are passionate about achieving success. The scheme is overseen by the RWI leader, who will monitor RWI sessions and ensure that all teaching is of a high quality and that children are focused and engaged.


How does RWI ensure success?

Each child is carefully assessed and placed into a RWI group based their phonics sound knowledge and reading skills. This ensures that all children are working at the right level for their ability which is the best way to ensure progress and confidence in their reading. Assessments are carried out every half term and groups will change to either accelerate progress or provide further consolidation. Any children who are not making expected progress will be given targeted Fast Track intervention or additional 1:1 support. This compilation of carefully assessed groupings and targeted support help to ensure our children are confident readers by the time they leave Year 2.


How will my child learn to read?

Children begin by being taught the sounds in Set 1. This covers the alphabet letters and a few ‘special friends’ which are two letters which make one sound such as ‘sh’. They will learn to spot and recognise them quickly using phrases to help them. The sounds are taught using ‘pure sounds’ which can be heard by selecting the parent video link below. This is a vital stage in learning to blend sounds together so it is important that any support is given in the correct way.


Using these simple sounds, children will learn to ‘blend’ words together so c-a-t becomes cat. To help the children do this, we have a lovely green frog called Fred. He can only talk in sounds, we call this ‘Fred Talk’. When children see a new word they can use ‘Fred Talk’ to break down the word into sounds. As they progress, children are encouraged to use 'Fred in your head' to move on to reading more quickly and fluently.


Words which can be decoded are called ‘Green Words’ as they can be read using their phonic knowledge. Unfortunately, there are lots of words in the English language that do not follow these rules … they are called ‘Red Words' and need to be learned by sight. 


To further consolidate the learning of sounds we use ‘Alien or Nonsense Words’ which are not real words. These words test to see if the children have good sound knowledge and can spot any 'special friends'. This technique is also used in the National Year 1 Phonics Check.


When they are confident with blending and know all of their Set 1 sounds, the children will move onto Set 2 and 3 sounds, which introduce alternative spellings for sounds they know and more special friends.


Read Write Inc Storybooks

Storybooks are read as part of the daily phonics lesson which consolidate the sounds already taught, so that children develop speed and confidence in their reading ability. As part of the RWI sessions they will read their storybooks, learn new Green and Red Words, investigate vocabulary and build expression known as their ‘storyteller voice’. They will also complete comprehension activities to ensure they know word meanings and can find and retrieve information as well as give opinions about the story.


How can I support my child with reading?

The scheme provides a strict routine and is very fast paced. Children will learn or consolidate a new sound each day so full attendance is vital. Whilst all children are inevitably off with illness sometimes, if your child misses a week of school because of a holiday, they would miss 5 new sounds and therefore have knowledge gaps which may prevent them from moving forward. 


Children learn at different paces so we aim to support pupils through 1:1 or group interventions if they are not making expected progress, so may ask that further work is completed at home. 


Your child may bring home a sound booklet or other booklets containing words. Once your child is confident in blending, they will begin to receive two RWI books. One is a black and white copy of the book they have read at school. They will have read this book daily in their RWI group so should be confident and familiar with the story. This is done to build self-esteem and enjoyment in reading as well as to allow them to show off their reading skills to you. The second book is a Book Bag Book. This will be unfamiliar to your child so read the opening instructions on the front page carefully before reading. These books allow children to apply their reading skills and are matched to the sounds and story they have been taught so far. They will be given new books each Friday, as long as they have returned their current books.


These books should be read at home three times. Please sign the home school diary to show when this has happened and make any comment if you would like to. In the first read of the Book Bag Book your child will be focussing on reading each word individually and it may seem a little robotic. In this phase very little comprehension of the story is likely. In the second read, their word recognition will become quicker allowing a faster pace and better understanding of the story. In the third read, the speed should be much quicker and more focus can be given to the 'storyteller voice'. This is the point when the story becomes meaningful and pleasurable and they can answer questions based on the content. There are questions at the end of the book to check understanding and promote discussion of the story. Please take the time to complete these activities as they are such an important part of learning to read.


It is recommended that all reading should take place in a calm and quiet environment, a story before bed time or snuggled on the sofa without distractions of the TV etc so the focus can purely be on the reading enjoyment. It should be relaxed and enjoyable and lots of praise should be given when children are successful. Please try not to get frustrated if your child is finding it challenging as this is likely to put them off trying. Instead encourage them to sound out words using Fred Talk and help them to blend. 


Some children may want to avoid reading after a day at school but please be persistent in completing home reading as this is vital towards their success. Research shows that pupils who do not read at home will be less able readers by the end of Year 2. This has a growing negative impact as children progress through their learning journeys in many areas of their education.


It is also important for them to regularly hear someone else read to them in order to learn expression. This helps to improve their vocabulary levels as the books they listen to can be for any age. Our children have the opportunity to bring home a 100 Book Challenge book of their choice so make sure to include this in the weekly routine if you can. Audio books are also helpful and can be a good technique for settling and relaxing children before bed or as part of longer car journeys.


Thank you for all the support you give to your child. Together we can nurture successful and enthusiastic readers!

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