St Helen's Primary School

St. Helen's Primary School


Phonics and Reading

Reading across the school

Here at St Helen's we are passionate about reading in all forms. We strive to ensure that all children are successful, fluent readers by the end of Key Stage one and believe this is achievable through  combination of strong, high quality, discrete phonics teaching. We also promote a whole language approach that promotes a 'reading for pleasure and culture' across school.

Reading Approach - INTENT

At St. Helen's we teach reading through Little Wandle Letters and Sounds revised, which is a systematic and synthetic phonics programme. We start teaching phonics in Nursery through sound discrimination and we follow the progression structure, ensuring that children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering phonics to read and spell as they journey through school.  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, alongside a growing need for children to be exposed to rich vocabulary.

Comprehension - At St. Helen's we recognise that this skill should also be taught throughout a child's learning journey and this element is integral to our teaching sequence and differing skills of reading are taught and learnt throughout the whole school to enable all children to confidently read for meaning.

Within Key Stage Two children access a reading book matched to their reading ability through the use of our school miscue system. For those children whom need extra intervention linked to their phonics we do this through 'catch-up', using The Little Wandle Letters and Sounds revised assessments. 

Within school we have two identified leaders of Reading whom drive the early reading programme and beyond the early years. Across the leaders they hold the skillset of being extremely knowledgeable around those early skills of phonics and how phonics leads into fluency of a reader. At St. Helen's everyone teaches with fidelity to the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds revised programme.

Reading Approach - IMPLEMENTATION

Foundations for Phonics within Nursery - We believe the importance of getting children off to a good start with reading cannot be overstated. The teaching of Early Reading starts from Nursery at St. Helen's. 

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 that Nursery children are well prepared to begin learning grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) and blending in Reception. We understand that key features of a rich curriculum which are essential to Phase One and beyond are the range and depth of language experienced by the children. We exploit the power of story, rhyme, drama and song to inspire children's imagination and interests, thus encouraging them to use language. 

Daily Phonics lessons in Reception and Year 1

We teach Phonics for 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 is used to review the week's teaching to help children become fluent readers. We follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised expectations of progress. Children in Reception are taught to read and spell using Phase 2 and 3 GPCs and words with adjacent consonants (Phase 4) with fluency and accuracy. Children in Year 1 review phase 3 and 4 and are taught to read and spell words using Phase 5 GPCs with fluency and accuracy.

Daily 'Keep-up' lessons

Any child who needs additional practise has daily keep up support, taught by a trained adult. Keep-up lessons match the structure of class teaching and use teh same procedures, resources and mantras but in smaller steps with more repetition, so that every child secures their learning. 

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 trained adults to small groups of approximately six children. We use books matched to the children's secure phonic knowledge using 'Little Wandle Letters and Sounds' revised assessments and book matching grids. This is 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 week 4. Children who are not yet decoding have daily additional blending practise in small groups, so that they quickly learn to blend and can begin to read books. In Year 2 and 3 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 book is taken home to ensure success is shared with the family. Reading for pleasure books also go home for parents/carers to share and read together with their child. We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds revised parents resources to engage families and share information about phonics, the benefits of sharing books, how children blend and other aspects of our provision, both online and through workshops.


Parent Information Booklet for Little Wandle Letters and Sounds - Reading

Supporting Parents with Phonics and Reading


In addition to this, we send home grapheme-phoneme cards, word cards to blend and tricky word cards so that children can continue to practise at home. We ask parents/carers to make a comment should they see that their child is struggling with their words cards, so that we can intervene in school. 

Reading Assessment - IMPACT

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:

  • daily 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 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 keep-up support that they need. SLT use the assessment tracker to narrow attainment gaps between different groups of children and so that any additional support for teachers can be put into place.


Statutory Assessment

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


Free Little Library

As part of our ongoing efforts to build the profile of reading and the opportunities for reading across the school, we are delighted to officially open our first Free Little Library. You may remember a newsletter last year, calling out for help to create the library. Thankfully, local company Hunters Home Improvements came to the rescue and built out first, fabulous Free Little Library.

The Free Little Library can be found on the KS2 playground and is available for pupils to access during the day, but more importantly for parents and families to access whenever they want to. The library is filled with high-quality literature from award-winning authors, meaning you can guarantee a great read at home as a family.

The books found within the library are a great example of the type of books that we want children in KS2 to be reading, but also have them read to them by family members as a shared experience.

Books can be taken at any time, by anyone. All that we ask is that books are returned in the same condition that they are taken.