Pawlett Primary School Academy Gaunts Road, Pawlett, Bridgwater TA6 4SB
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Phonics and Early Reading

’Reading makes all other learning possible. We have to get books into our children’s hands early and often.’

Barack Obama 


Early Reading Strategy (Phase 1 – Reception and Year 1)

Our Intent for your child: At PPSA we are determined that all children will learn to read fluently as a result of making the very best start with their reading in Phase 1.

Rationale: All children learn to read through decoding (phonics).  Therefore in Phase 1 children will be taught daily phonics lessons to enable them to learn phonemes (sounds) and to blend these in order to decode words quickly and fluently. 


At Pawlett we combine high quality daily phonics teaching with an exposure to a range of quality texts and the promotion of reading for pleasure.

We follow Read, Write Inc (RWI) as our synthetic phonics program (SPP) to teach phonics. Phonics is taught daily in Heron Class (Phase 1) and lessons follow the same structure:

  • Revisit the phonemes (sounds) already learn
  • Teach new phonemes and graphemes
  • Practise new phonemes learned
  • Apply the new phonemes by reading and writing words
  • Assess the new knowledge

Fred the Frog puppet plays an important role in our Read Write Inc. lessons. Fred is only able to speak in sounds, not whole words. We call this Fred Talk.

For example, Fred would say m – a – t we would say mat. Fred talk helps children read unfamiliar words by pronouncing each sound in the word one at a time. Children can start blending sounds into words as soon as they know a small group of letters well. During lessons children are taught to hear sounds and blend them together in sequence to make a word. We start with blending oral sounds, then progress to reading the letters and blending them together to read the word.

The following video is an example of blending sounds with Fred:

Order of teaching sounds

In Read Write Inc phonics, the individual sounds are called ‘speed sounds’ – because we want your child to read them effortlessly.

Set 1 sounds are the initial letter sounds. They are taught in the following order:

m, a, s, d, t, i, n, p, g, o, c, k, u, b, f, e, l, h, sh, r, j, v, y, w, th, z, ch, qu, x, ng, nk

There are 12 Set 2 ‘speed sounds’ that are made up of two or three letters which represent just one sound, e.g. ‘ay’ as in play, ‘ee’ as in tree and ‘igh’ as in high.

When children learn their Set 2 sounds they will learn:

  • the letters that represent a speed sound e.g. ay
  • a simple picture prompt linked to the ‘speed sound’ and a short phrase to say e.g. may I play.

Every speed sound has a list of green words linked to it, so your child can ‘sound out’ and ‘sound blend’ words containing the new speed sound they have just learnt, for example s-p-r-ay = spray.

When learning their Set 3 speed sounds they will be taught that there are more ways in which the same sounds are written, e.g. ee as in tree and ea as in tea.

The table below shows the sound, the associated phrase and example green words.

Vowel sound Set 2 Speed Sound Rhyme Green words
ay ay: may I play day play say may tray today
ee ee: what can you see? seen need sleep feel three green
igh igh: fly high might light sight night fright
ow ow: blow the snow snow flow know show blow
oo oo: poo at the zoo mood fool pool stool moon spoon
oo oo: look at a book took shook cook foot
ar ar: start the car bar park smart sharp car spark
or or: shut the door sort short worn horse sport fork
air air: that’s not fair fair stair hair lair chair
ir ir: whirl and twirl girl third whirl twirl dirt
ou ou: shout it out mouth round found loud shout
oy oy: toy for a boy toy boy enjoy
Set 3 Speed Sound Rhyme
a-e a-e: make a cake shake name same save brave late
ea ea: cup of tea neat real clean please dream
i-e i-e: nice smile hide shine white nice wide like
o-e o-e: phone home hope home rose spoke note those
u-e eu-e: huge brute tune rude use June excuse
aw aw: yawn at dawn saw raw law straw dawn crawl
are are: care and share bare spare scare flare square
ur ur: nurse with a purse burn turn hurl burp slurp lurk
ow ow: brown cow howl down brown drown gown
oi oi: spoil the boy join coin voice choice noise
ai ai: snail in the rain paint train rain plain strain
e e: he me she we he me she we he
oa oa: goat in a boat toad road oak loaf throat toast
ew ew: chew the stew new knew flew blew crew newt
er er: better letter over never weather hamster after
ire ire: fire fire spire bonfire inspire conspire hire
ear ear: hear with your ear fear dear gear spear year
ure ure: sure it’s pure picture mixture adventure pure


Click the link below to hear how to pronounce the sounds correctly.

It is expected that by the time children are in Phase 2 they will have progressed through all the phonics phases. In order to support all pupils, daily phonics and speed sound sessions take place in Phase 2 and spelling rules are taught in line with the National Curriculum programme of study using the Spelling Shed programme and resources.

In June, all Year 1 children complete a phonics screening test which is a short assessment to assess children’s phonics ability in decoding unknown words (also known as alien words) to an appropriate standard. The test consists of 40 words using a variety of phonemes and graphemes that they have been taught. These words consist of real and nonsense words.  Pupils who do not reach the expected standard in Year 1 will be provided with additional phonics support and intervention in order to allow them to meet the expected standard in Year 2.

Teaching Reading

At Pawlett, children develop their reading skills in the following ways:

Whole class reading: children read a challenging text together and are taught new vocabulary during whole class reading lessons. The children develop their reading fluency and reading skills like retrieving information

Guided Reading: In addition to whole class reading, guided reading takes place in a small group, with a teacher or teaching assistant, and focuses on developing children’s ability to become independent readers, thinkers and learners. The children are grouped by need and read individual copies of the same text, which matches the reading level of the group to develop reading fluency. In Heron class it takes the form of Storybook Lessons which is the next stage of the Read Write Inc scheme aimed at children reading storybooks that are closely matched to their developing phonic knowledge. The storybooks consist of green words linked to the sounds they have been learning, red word (words that are not decodable) and challenge words to extend children’s vocabulary. After children have practiced these words individually they are prepared to see them in context in the story.

Activities such as comprehension questions, partner discussion and writing activities based on the book, follow. You may have heard your child talking about ‘hold, edit or build a sentence’. Hold a sentence is an activity that encourages children to remember a whole sentence while focusing on spelling and punctuation. Build a sentence is to give children the opportunity to create their own sentence to that shows the meaning of a word and edit a sentence allows the children to critique a sentence using their knowledge of spelling punctuation and grammar

Guided reading with KS1 uses a combination of phonics work (to promote children’s blending and decoding skills) and other guided reading schemes (to promote comprehension/understanding).

‘DEAR’ time (Drop everything and read) Children read any material that interests them, to assist them in fostering a genuine love of reading and help them to appreciate its value. Teaching read at the same time as the children to model and develop a love of reading.

Class stories: Texts that are age appropriate and of interest to the children are read aloud by the teacher. We believe that giving children the opportunity to hear and adult / teacher read to them, develops a child’s ability to comment on and respond to events and experiences within a text. These sessions also allow the teacher to check a child’s comprehension, by asking literal and inferential questions, which aid deeper understanding of the plot and themes of the story, also increasing their vocabulary.

Reading at home: In Phase 1 the children take home a RWI reading book, which is suitable for their reading ability, featuring only the sounds that they have been taught in school so they are easily decodable. This is in line with the requirement of the National Curriculum that beginner readers should read books that are consistent with their developing phonic knowledge. Some of these books are blending books and some are story books to read at home and in school during independent reading time. They will also bring home a good quality story or picture book selected from our class library for sharing with families.

RWI do not follow a traditional book band system but the books are colour coded progressively.

Reading Partners: All our staff are dedicated to the improvement of reading in the Early Years and KS1, but we also have 2 members of staff who work as reading partners. They work primarily with our pupil premium children and those children that we identify as not making the expected progress to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to excel in reading. Reading sessions typically last 10-15 minutes and involve 1:1 reading support and the RWI Tutoring programme.

Reading Café: One morning/afternoon every week for 15mins from when the school gates open at 8:30/3:00 parents and families are welcomed into school to read with the children. We have a rotation basis for these cafes throughout the week to make them as accessible as possible to all our families.

Reading with adults: We love welcoming parent helpers into our school to read with a range of children. This opportunity not only helps to develop the child’s fluency and understanding of a text, but also allows them to build on their interpersonal and social skills.

Reading buddies: Classes ‘buddy’ up with other classes to read together. Older children read with younger children to promote a love of reading across the school.


Children need to decode and read words at 95% accuracy in order to be secure with the phonemes they are reading.  We assess children’s reading of 100 words in a book and children who get 5 or less errors are secure.  Children will then move onto books with a different set of sounds.

Children will be formally assessed in phonics and reading at least once each half term to see if they have progressed and need to move onto books which support a new phase.

Reading for meaning

We teach reading for meaning (comprehension and understanding of the text) separately from phonics and decoding in Phase 1.  This is because when children are focussing on decoding texts, they do not have enough space left over in their brains to understand what is happening in the text.

We therefore teach this skill during our daily book time sessions.  Children are read aloud to daily and the teacher will model:

  • book talk – when children get a regular opportunity to talk about the book they are reading and listen to others’ opinions and thoughts about different books
  • retrieval – finding answers within the text, e.g. what was the girl’s  name? It says her name is Cinnamon
  • inference – answering questions by digging deeper, e.g. why was the girl sad? I think the girl is sad because she can’t talk and that would make me feel sad
  • vocabulary – identify new and challenging vocabulary in the text, explain what it means and how I know, for example, frustrated.  It says the girl was frustrated that she could not talk.  I think this means she felt cross that she couldn’t talk.  Model what this emotion would look like facially to support children to remember


The impact of our early reading strategy will ensure that children learn to recognise phonemes speedily and use these to decode words fluently.  This fluency will ensure that children are able to master the decoding skill and become confident fluent readers.