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Phonics and Early Reading

At Dorchester Primary School we strive to ensure that every child learns to read regardless of their background, need or abilities. We work to inspire pupils to become life-long readers who enjoy books and have a desire to read for pleasure. We believe that for all our children to become fluent readers and writers, phonics must be taught through a systematic and structured phonics programme.


The phonics scheme that we use is Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised. In phonics, we teach children that the letters of the alphabet represent a different sound, that these can be used in a variety of combinations and are put together to make words. The children learn to recognise all of the different sounds and combinations that they might see when they are reading or writing. Our phonics teaching starts in Nursery and follows a very specific sequence that allows our children to build on their previous phonic knowledge and master specific phonic strategies as they move through school. This should empower all of our children to tackle any unfamiliar words that they might discover.

How we teach phonics and Early Reading (Early Years and KS1)

In Nursery, children partake in daily phonics activities within Phase 1, following the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised ‘Foundations for Phonics’ guidance. Phase 1 is the first stage of phonics and lays the foundation for future phonics learning. The primary focus is on developing speaking and listening skills to enable children to become ready for developing oral blending and segmenting skills. The children will develop an awareness of phonemes within words and they will explore rhythm and rhyme in a variety of different contexts. The children also develop their ability to hear sounds by tuning into environmental and instrumental sounds.

In Reception and Year 1, children follow the progression within the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme. Phonics is taught daily and there is a review session on a Friday to enable children to review what they have learnt each week. Phonics teaching in Reception begins within children’s third week at school to ensure that all children make a strong start. All Phonics lessons follow the format of:

Recall and review - short, pacey review of prior learning;

Teach - introduction of new learning with strong teacher modelling;

Practise and apply - children practice and apply the learning;

Review of key learning - reinforcement of the key learning and addressing any misconceptions identified during the lesson;

Apply to reading - children then apply their phonic skills to reading fully decodable books matched to their reading ability.

By the end of Reception, children will have been taught up to the end of phase 4 and will be able to read and spell words using Phase 2 and 3 GPCs, and words with adjacent consonants with fluency and accuracy. By the end of Year 1, children will have been taught up to the end of phase 5. Children in Year 2 recap any gaps in their phonics knowledge in the autumn term.

Daily keep up lessons

To ensure that all children are making progress teachers observe children within each phonics lesson to ensure that they are grasping the new grapheme/phoneme correspondences and tricky words in the lesson. Children who are not confidently applying the new knowledge will partake in daily keep lessons. These sessions are taught by a fully trained adult. Keep up sessions match the structure of the class teaching and use the same procedures, resources and mantras, but in smaller steps with more repetition. This is so that every child is secure with their learning and enables them to keep up with the expected progress.

Application of Phonics to Reading

All of our reading books are aligned to Little Wandle Letters and Sounds and are fully decodable, following the progression in our phonic programme. When selecting a book for a child to read, we ensure that it is carefully matched to the letter-sound correspondences that each child has learnt, so they can confidently, and effectively, apply their phonic knowledge. Children continue to be taught phonics until they become fluent readers.

In Reception and Year 1 children partake in three reading practice sessions each week. Each reading practice session has a clear focus, following the model set out in Little Wandle Letters and Sounds revised scheme.

  • Session 1 focuses on decoding: teaching children to use their knowledge of GPCs  to decode the text in front them.
  • Session 2 focusses on prosody: teaching children to read with understanding and expression.
  • Session 3 focuses on comprehension: teaching children to understand the text.

Each reading practice session will begin with a pacey review of graphemes, tricky words and practice of fluent reading of words which will appear in the book. The children will read the same book in each of the three sessions. At the end of the week, they will then take home the book they have read at school to practise reading fluently. In Reception, children who are not yet blending, have daily additional blending practice in small groups, so that they quickly learn to blend and can begin to read books. These children will take home wordless books to develop their early reading skills.

How do we assess phonic knowledge?

In Reception and Year 1, the children are assessed at the end of every half term using the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessment tracker. These assessments help to identify any gaps in each child’s phonics awareness. At the end of Year 1 all children complete the statutory Phonics Screening Check in the summer term. Children who do not meet standard in the Phonics Screening Check in Year 1, will complete this in Year 2. Children in Year 2 or Key Stage 2 who have gaps in their phonics knowledge will have access to the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds ‘Rapid Catch Up’ programme. This programme mirrors the main phonics programme but has a faster pace. It provides urgent, targeted support to help children catch up quickly.