We teach early reading through a scheme called Read Write Inc. Phonics. This scheme is in use in over 8000 schools across the country and provides children with a rigorous, consistent and high quality synthetic phonics knowledge. All children in Reception and Key Stage 1 receive daily Read Write Inc phonics sessions.
Read Write Inc starts in Reception, where pupils are taught all of the sounds in Set 1. These are the pure sounds that match the letters of the alphabet. Children are taught in their classes and learn a sound each day. They learn to match each sound to the letter and then to blend sounds together to make words.
As children become more confident with these letter sounds, they will start to learn sounds in Set 2 and Set 3. These are known as ‘Special Friends’ and are a combination of two of three letters representing one sound, e.g. ck, ay, igh, oa. At this point, children are moved into phonics groups which will focus on the specific sounds that they still need to learn. Read Write Inc sessions are fun and involve lots of repetition and embedding of reading and writing skills.
What does that mean?
When children start Read Write Inc, they learn different phrases and names that help them to embed their phonics knowledge. These include the following:
Special Friends are a combination of two or three letters representing one sound, e.g. ck, ay, igh, oa.
Fred the Frog helps children to read and spell. He can say the sounds in words but he can’t say the whole word, so the children have to help him. To help the children read, Fred (the teacher) says the sounds and then the children have to say the word. For example, Fred might say ‘c – a – t’ and the children say ‘cat’. Teachers use Fred Talk throughout the day to help the children to learn to blend sounds.
Fred in your head
Once children can sound out a word out loud, we teach them to say the sounds silently in their heads. Firstly, the children are asked to whisper the sounds before saying the whole word. Secondly, the children move onto mouthing the sounds silently before saying the word. Finally the children are asked to ‘Fred in your head’ and then say the whole word.
Red Words are also known as common exception or tricky words. They are words we use regularly but that have unusual letter combinations so cannot be sounded out. ‘Said’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘the’ are good examples. Children are taught not to use Fred Talk to read Red Words but instead to ‘stop and think’.
Helping at Home
Parents and carers also have an important role to play in embedding their children’s phonics knowledge.
Each child has a storybook, matched to the sounds and words they know – a decodable book – which they bring home with them to read. These are changed weekly. Children love reading the same book again and again as their reading becomes speedier and they understand what they are reading.
Top Tips for reading at home include:
Encouraging children to read words using ‘Fred in your head’ and identifying Red Words
Showing children how to read the story in a storyteller voice
Sharing your enjoyment of the story when they read it again and again
One of the most important things you can do as a parent at home is read to your child. Loving stories is important because children who love stories want to read storoes for themselves. Children who read a lot, become better readers.
Here are some top tips for story time:
Make it a treat – introduce each new book with excitement
Make it a special quiet time – cuddle up!
Show curiosity in what you’re going to read
Read the story once without stopping so they can enjoy the whole story. If you think your child might not understand something, say something like ‘Oh I think what’s happening here is that…”
Chat about the story e.g. I wonder why he did that? Oh no, I hope she’s not going to…
Avoid asking questions to check what they remember
Link to other stories and experiences you have shared e.g. this reminds me of…
Read favourite stories over and over again – encourage your child to join with the bits they know. Avoid saying ‘not that story again!’
Use different voices – be enthusiastic!
Love the book – read with enjoyment
Storytime is most effective when it is done in person but, if it not possible to read a story on some days, try CBeebies Bedtime Stories – these are fabulous and available for free on iPlayer.