The new framework for reading (DFE) states that the teaching of phonics should be quick and rigorous ensuring that no time is wasted. They state that if reading and writing is not practised enough then children will fail to make sufficient progress. With this in mind, we use the Sounds-Write programme for the systematic and rigorous teaching of phonics. It is a quality first phonics programme and is acknowledged by the DfE as meeting all its criteria for an effective phonics teaching programme as it teaches our children to read, spell and write. Sounds-Write is effective in teaching pupils to read, spell and write because it starts from what all children know from a very early age – the sounds of their own language. From there, it takes them in carefully sequenced, incremental steps and teaches them how each of the 44 or so sounds in the English language can be spelt.
The words used in the teaching process and the conceptual knowledge of how the alphabet code works are introduced from simple to complex, in accordance with the fundamental principles of psychological learning theory. For example, at the start, simple, mutually implied (one sound, one spelling) CVC words (consonant, vowel, consonant) only are introduced.
Pupils quickly learn to read and spell words such as 'mum', 'dog', 'jam' and 'sit'. When all the single-letter sound-spelling correspondences have been introduced and established, Sounds-Write initiates the concept that the sounds '', '', '' and '' can be spelt with the two letter-spellings '', '', '' and '', respectively.
As the programme progresses, the complexity of one-syllable words is carefully increased through a variety of VCC, CVCC, CCVC, CCVCC and CCCVC words, such as, for example, 'elf', 'hand', 'swim', 'trust' and 'scrub'.
After this, pupils' understanding of the concept 'two letters - one sound' is further developed through the introduction of the most common consonant two-letter spellings: '', '' and '', in words like 'shop', 'chimp' and 'thin', for example.
Finally, two, three and four letter spellings of the vowels are introduced and pupils are taught how to read and spell polysyllabic words, starting with simpler words (such as 'bedbug') and gradually moving to the more complex (such as 'mathematical').
All of this is taught within a well-structured, incremental and coherent framework based on the knowledge - both conceptual and factual (see below) – on which the alphabet principle and thus the writing system is based and the three key skills needed to enable learners to use the principle effectively.
Our approach teaches the conceptual understanding needed to become an effective reader:
Within this conceptual framework, we teach the factual knowledge required to become an effective reader and speller: the approximately 176 spellings that represent the 44 or so sounds in English, starting with the most simple one-to-one correspondences.
Reading and spelling also requires expertise in the skills necessary to make use of the alphabet code and pupils need to be able to:
Sounds-Write provides opportunities for practising these skills on an everyday basis until pupils achieve the automaticity required for fluent reading and spelling.
Sounds-Write offers teachers a structure for the teaching of phonics that is cumulative, sequential, explicit and code-oriented. It places equal weighting on both reading and spelling as well as giving the children the opportunity to write the words that they are spelling.
The introduction of Sounds-Write has seen our Year 1 Phonics results increase from 42% (2014) to 91% (2020).
Phonics in pre-school
The teaching of phonics starts in pre-school. At the beginning of the year children explore sounds, experiment with writing the sounds through play and through the use of pen and paper. When the children are ready Sounds Write initial code is taught.