What is phonics?
Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skilfully. They are taught how to:
- recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes;
- identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make
- such as ‘sh’ or ‘oo’; and
- blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word.
Children can then use this knowledge to ‘de-code’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read.
Children can then begin to use the knowledge of sounds within words when they are writing. Children will learn to say the word they want to write, break the word into ‘chunks’ (segment) and then write each part down, using the letter-sound links they have been taught. This process is developmental and we group the children according to their phonic ability. Some children may not have developed good phonological awareness when they reach the end of KS1 and will need additional support in KS2.
Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read.
It is particularly helpful for children aged 5 to 7.
Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment.
Children who have been taught phonics also tend to read more accurately than those taught using other methods, such as ‘look and say’. This includes children who find learning to read difficult, for example those who have dyslexia.
What is the phonics screening check?
The phonics screening check is a quick and easy check of your child’s phonics knowledge. It helps our school confirm whether your child has made the expected progress.
How does the check work?
Your child will sit with their class teacher and be asked to read 40 words aloud.
- Your child may have read some of the words before, while others will be completely new.
- The check normally takes just a few minutes to complete and there is no time limit. If your child is struggling, the teacher will stop the check. The check is carefully designed not to be stressful for your child.
What are ‘non-words’?
The check will contain a mix of real words and ‘non-words’ ('pseudo' or ‘nonsense words’). Your child will be told before the check that there will be non-words that he or she will not have seen before. Many children will be familiar with this because we already use ‘non-words’ when we teach phonics.
Non-words are important to include because words such as ‘vap’ or ‘jound’ are new to all children. Children cannot read the non-words by using their memory or vocabulary; they have to use their decoding skills. This is a fair way to assess their ability to decode.
After the check
We will tell you about your child’s progress in phonics and how he or she has done in the screening check in the last half-term of year 1. If your child has found the check difficult, we will also tell you what support we have put in place to help him or her improve through Year 2. We will also suggest ways that you can support your child to take the next step in reading.
Children who have not met the standard in year 1 will retake the check in year 2.
All children are individuals and develop at different rates. The screening check ensures that teachers understand which children need extra help with phonic decoding.