Reading & Phonics

The context of our school

Elmwood Infant school is a diverse, multicultural and inclusive school, reflecting the pupils and families we serve. We firmly believe that Literacy is a significant life skill and that the development of strong learning foundations will enable our children to listen, speak, read and write confidently throughout their school career and on into adult life. We believe that it is important to foster an enthusiasm for, and an appreciation of, the different strands of English (Reading, Writing and Spoken Language) in a broad, cross-curricular and real-life sense at all stages throughout the school.​

At Elmwood, we believe it is important to value children’s home languages, as children with a strong foundation in their first language acquire additional languages more successfully and have greater academic success. It is essential that our approach to teaching phonics and reading is accessible to all learners, regardless of background. At Elmwood Infant School we aim to support children with SEND to become resilient and independent.


Phonics (reading and spelling)

At Elmwood Infant School we believe that all our children can become fluent readers and writers. This is why we teach reading through Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised, which is a systematic and synthetic phonics programme. We start teaching phonics in the ‘early years’ and follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised progression, which ensures children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering phonics to read and spell as they move through school.

As a result, we expect all our children to be able to tackle any unfamiliar words as they read. At Elmwood Infant School we also model the application of the alphabetic code through phonics in shared reading and writing, both inside and outside of the phonics lesson and across the curriculum. We ensure that our SEND children are involved in our whole class teaching but also have individual support at the appropriate level through ‘keep up’ sessions. We have a strong focus on language development for our children because we know that speaking and listening are crucial skills for reading and writing in all subjects.


At Elmwood Infant School we value reading as a crucial life skill. By the time children leave us, we aim for children to be able to read confidently for meaning and regularly enjoy reading for pleasure. We provide children with the tools to tackle unfamiliar vocabulary through regular reading sessions. We encourage our children to see themselves as readers for both pleasure and purpose.

Because we believe teaching every child to read is so important, we have a Reading Leader and a Phonics Leader who drive the early reading programme in our school.


Foundations for phonics in Nursery

  • We provide a balance of child-led and adult-led experiences for all children that meet the curriculum expectations for ‘Communication and language’ and ‘Literacy’. These include:
    • sharing high-quality stories and poems 
    • learning a range of nursery rhymes and action rhymes
    • activities that develop focused listening and attention, including oral blending
    • attention to high-quality language.
  • We ensure Nursery children are well prepared to begin learning grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) and blending in Reception. Nursery children have access to phase one phonics teaching.

Daily phonics lessons in Reception and KS1

  • We teach phonics for up to 30 minutes a day. In Reception, we build from 10-minute lessons, with additional daily oral blending games, to the full-length lesson as quickly as possible. Each Friday, we review the week’s teaching to help children become fluent readers. 
  • Children make a strong start in Reception: teaching begins in all children’s first full time week
  • We follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised expectations of progress:
    • Children in Reception are taught to read and spell words using Phase 2 and 3 GPCs, and words with adjacent consonants (Phase 4) with fluency and accuracy.
    • Children in Year 1 review Phases 3 and 4 and are taught to read and spell words using Phase 5 GPCs with fluency and accuracy. 
    • Children in Year 2 will continue teaching using year 1 assessment data alongside Phonic Screening Check (PSC) data to ensure fluency and accuracy.

           Keep-up lessons ensure every child learns to read

  • We target specific children who need additional practice by offering Keep-up support, taught by a fully trained adult. Keep-up lessons match the structure of class teaching, and use the same procedures, resources and mantras, but in smaller steps with more repetition, so that every child secures their learning.

We timetable relevant keep up sessions weekly so children have short, sharp lessons which last 10-15 minutes and have been designed to work towards children quickly catching up to age-related expectations in reading.

Teaching reading: Reading practice sessions three times a week

  • We teach children to read through reading practice sessions three times a week. These:
    • are taught by a fully trained adult to small groups of approximately six children
    • use books matched to the children’s secure phonic knowledge using the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessments and book matching grids on pages 11–20 of ‘Application of phonics to reading’.
    • are monitored by the class teacher, who rotates and works with each group on a regular basis.
  • Each reading practice session has a clear focus, so that the demands of the session do not overload the children’s working memory. The reading practice sessions have been designed to focus on three key reading skills:
    • decoding
    • prosody: teaching children to read with understanding and expression
    • comprehension: teaching children to understand the text. 
  • In Reception these sessions start in the Autumn term . Children who are not yet decoding have additional blending practice in small groups, so that they quickly learn to blend and can begin to read books. 
  • In Year 2, we continue to teach reading in this way for any children who still need to practise reading with decodable books. 

Home reading

  • The decodable reading practice book is taken home to ensure success is shared with the family.
    • Reading for pleasure books also go home for parents to share and read to children.
    • We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised parents’ resources to engage our families and share information about phonics, the benefits of sharing books, how children learn to blend and other aspects of our provision, both online and through workshops.
    • Children bring home the same ‘decodable’ book for 3 days, practising all of the core skills promoted within Little Wandle.

Additional reading support for vulnerable children 

  • Children in Reception and Year 1 who are receiving additional phonics Keep-up sessions read their reading practice book to an adult daily. 

Ensuring consistency and pace of progress

  • Every teacher in our school has been trained to teach reading, so we have the same expectations of progress. We all use the same language, routines and resources to teach children to read so that we lower children’s cognitive load.
  • Weekly content grids map each element of new learning to each day, week and term for the duration of the programme. 

Lesson templates, Prompt cards and ‘How to’ videos ensure teachers all have a consistent approach and structure for each lesson.

  • The Reading Leader, Phonic Leader and SLT use the Audit and Prompt cards to regularly monitor and observe teaching; they use the summative data to identify children who need additional support and gaps in learning. 

Ensuring reading for pleasure 

‘Reading for pleasure is the single most important indicator of a child’s success.’ (OECD 2002)

‘The will influences the skill and vice versa.’ (OECD 2010)

We value reading for pleasure highly and work hard as a school to grow our Reading for Pleasure pedagogy.

  • We read to children every day. We choose these books carefully as we want children to experience a wide range of books, including books that reflect the children in our school and our local community as well as books that open windows into other worlds and cultures.
  • Every classroom has an inviting book corner that encourages a love for reading. We curate these books and talk about them to entice children to read a wide range of books. 
  • In Nursery/Reception, children have access to the reading corner every day in their free flow time and the books are continually refreshed. 
  • Children from Reception onwards have a home reading record. The parent/carer records comments to share with the adults in school  to ensure communication between home and school.
  • The school library is made available for classes to use at designated times. Children across the school have regular opportunities to engage with a wide range of Reading for Pleasure events (book fairs, author visits and workshops, national events etc).​



Assessment is used to monitor progress and to identify any child needing additional support as soon as they need it.

  • Assessment for learning is used:
    • within class to identify children needing Keep-up support 
    • weekly in the Review lesson to assess gaps, address these immediately and secure fluency of GPCs, words and spellings.
  • Summative assessment for ReceptionYear 1 and Year 2 (when using the LW program is used):
    • every six weeks to assess progress, to identify gaps in learning that need to be addressed, to identify any children needing additional support and to plan the Keep-up support that they need.
    • by SLT and scrutinised through the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessment tracker, to narrow attainment gaps between different groups of children and so that any additional support for teachers can be put into place. 
  • Fluency assessments measure children’s accuracy and reading speed in short one-minute assessments. They are used: 
  • in Year 1 and sometimes Year 2, only when children are reading the Phase 5 set 3, 4 and 5 books
  • to assess when children are ready to exit their programme. For KS1 children, this is when they read the final fluency assessment at 60–70+ words per minute. At these levels, children should have sufficient fluency to tackle any book at age-related expectations. After exiting their programme, children do not need to read any more fully decodable books.
  • placement assessment is used:
    • with any child new to the school in ReceptionYear 1 or Year 2  to quickly identify any gaps in their phonic knowledge and plan and provide appropriate extra teaching.

Statutory assessment

  • Children in Year 1 sit the Phonics screening check. Any child not passing the check
    re-sits it in Year 2.

Ongoing assessment  in Year 2  

  • We will ensure children in year 2 will be taught phonics daily until fluency and accuracy are embedded. The length of this will be determined by cohort of students and will be reviewed after each half term, in line with assessment. Once children have ‘graduated’ phonics they will move on to ‘a bridge for spelling’. Those who need extra support will move on to the rapid catch up program. Assessments will then be carried out approximately every 5 weeks.
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