Crags Community School

Phonics and Early Reading 

Crags Phonics and Early Reading Curriculum

We teach our children using systematic, synthetic phonics following the ‘Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised’ programme. The website containing all of the information about this programme can be found by clicking the link below or carry on reading the next section for further information.


Phonics and Early Reading at Crags Community School

At Crags Community School, we believe that all our children can become fluent readers and writers. This is why we teach early reading through ‘Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised’, which is a systematic and synthetic phonics programme. We start teaching phonics in pre- reception 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, all our children are able to tackle any unfamiliar words as they read. At Crags, 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 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.

Because we believe teaching every child to read is so important, we have a Reading Leader who drives the early reading programme in our school. This person is highly skilled at teaching phonics and reading, and they monitor and support our reading team, so everyone teaches with fidelity to the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme.

How is Phonics Implemented at Crags Community School?

Foundations for phonics in pre-reception

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 our pre-reception children are well prepared to begin learning grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) and blending in Reception.

Daily phonics lessons in Reception and Years 2 – 3

- We teach phonics daily. In Reception, we build from 10-minute lessons, with additional daily oral blending games, to the full-length lesson as quickly as possible.

- Children make a strong start in Reception: teaching begins in Week 2 of the Autumn term. 

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 Phase 3 and 4 and are taught to read and spell words using Phase 5 GPCs with fluency and accuracy.

Daily Keep-up lessons ensure every child learns to read

Any child who needs additional practice will have daily 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 daily phonics lessons for any child in Year 2  - 6 who is not fully fluent at reading or has not passed the Phonics Screening Check. These children urgently need to catch up, so the gap between themselves and their peers does not widen. We use the ‘Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised’ assessments to identify the gaps in their phonic knowledge and teach to these using the Keep-up resources – at pace. 

Children in Key Stage 1 and Reception who are identified as needing additional support have a daily keep up session as a group or 1-1.

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.

- 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 Week 4. Children who are not yet decoding have daily additional blending practice in small groups, so that they quickly learn to blend and can begin to read books.

In Year 2 - 6, 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.

- In addition, all children have the opportunity to take home a ‘reading for pleasure’ book that can be shared with adults and be read to them.

Additional reading support for vulnerable children

Children in all year groups who have been identified as needing additional support read their reading practice book to an adult at least twice a week.

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.

Using the same resources and training ensure teachers all have a consistent approach and structure for each lesson.

The Reading Leader, English Lead 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.

Assessment of Early Reading

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 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.

Statutory assessment

Children in Year 1 sit the Phonics Screening Check. Any child not passing the check will re-take in Year 2 and will be tracked into Key stage 2 if necessary.

Ongoing assessment for catch-up

Children in Year 2 to 4 are assessed through their teacher’s ongoing formative assessment as well as through the half-termly ‘Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised’ summative assessments.

Phonics Screening Check

In Year 1 children are required to take part in a National Phonics Screening Test which happens in the summer term.  Children will work very hard in class on their sound recognition and reading skills.  If children do not reach the expected standard in Year 1 they will be expected to take or retake the test again in Year 2.  To support your child at home we will host a number of workshops and create resources that will show you what types of words children will be reading as part of the test.  

Quality Teaching of Phonics 

Taken from the 'DfE Reading Framework' July 2021 pg 45-46:

Synthetic phonic programmes have one thing in common: they teach children GPCs, to blend phonemes into spoken words and segment spoken words into phonemes. However, programmes use programme-specific systems and terminology such as actions, mnemonics, prompts, key words and routines to teach knowledge and skills.

It is important not to confuse children by mixing material from different programmes or across different classrooms – hence the phrase ‘fidelity to the programme’. For example, one programme might use the term ‘split digraph’, while another might refer to ‘magic e’ for the same vowel GPC in a word such as ‘late’.

Teaching grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs)

Programme writers select which GPCs they are going to prioritise for teaching, as well as their order, so that the GPCs generate the most words at each stage of the programme. Most programmes start with a simple code: approximately one grapheme for each of the 44 or so phonemes (maybe including a few common alternative spellings such as ‘c’, ‘k’ and ‘ck’ for the sound /k/).

A complex code follows, starting with the most common alternative graphemes. As the programme introduces more graphemes, the number of words a child can read increases rapidly. Some programmes continue to teach phonics for spelling, once children can read, including teaching further morphemes, as well as GPCs.

Common exception words

Programmes include a few common exception words to enable children to read texts. These words are kept to a minimum in the early stages,

for example: said to was I the me no of all he you they she we are my be some so were go no

The national curriculum refers to these as ‘common exception words’ (sometimes referred to as ‘tricky words’), because they contain GPCs that are unusual or have not yet been taught. Children are taught to read and spell these by noting the part that is an exception to what they have been taught so far. For example, in the word ‘said’, ‘s’ and ‘d’ correspond to the phonemes /s/ and /d/ as usual, but ‘ai’ corresponds to the phoneme /e/, which is unusual.

High frequency words

Children should not be asked to learn lists of high frequency words. They can read most of these in the usual way, by saying the sounds and blending them, when they have learnt the GPCs in the words, e.g. ‘mum’ and ‘came’. Synthetic phonics programmes teach others systematically as exception words, e.g. ‘said’ and ‘to’.

Capital and lower-case letters

Programmes teach that each lower-case letter has a corresponding capital letter; they share the letter name and represent the same sound. Children are taught, for example, that both ‘a’ and ‘A’ are called /ae/ and are pronounced /a/. Some programmes teach the names of letters only once children have learnt to say the sounds.

‘Decodable’ books and texts

Experienced readers can decode the specialist words in a book about advanced physics, even if they cannot understand them. However, most texts are not decodable for children who are beginning to learn to read.

The national curriculum says that pupils should be taught to: … read aloud accurately books that are consistent with their developing phonic knowledge and that do not require them to use other strategies to work out words.

This is why schools should invest in books that have been carefully structured in cumulative steps for children learning to read, so that they can decode every word as their knowledge of the alphabetic code increases. These books are often referred to simply as ‘decodable’ books.