It is important that our children have good phonemic awareness. This may appear similar to phonics, but it is not the same. However, they are dependent on each other and can often overlap. Phonemic awareness is auditory, focused on sounds and does not involve print.
We teach our children to orally blend the sounds they hear, for example when given the sounds d, o, g, they can tell you the word is dog. We also teach our children to orally segment where they themselves sound words out such as p, a, t.
These sounds are called phonemes and there are 44 in the English language.
Phonics is a way we teach our children how to read and write. It helps children hear, identify and use different sounds that distinguish one word from another in the English language.
Phonics involves matching the sounds of spoken English with individual letters or groups of letters. For example, the sound k can be spelled as c, k, ck or ch.
Using a systematic approach, we teach our children to recognise letters (graphemes) and link them to their associated sounds (phonemes) in Reception and Year 1.
We teach our children to blend the sounds of letters together to decode unfamiliar or unknown words by sounding them out. For example, when a child is taught the sounds for the letters t, p, a and s, they can start to read the following words: tap, taps, pat, pats and sat. It is based on the idea that children should sound out unknown words and not rely on their context.
We also teach our children to segment or break up words to hear the sounds within them. Initially, we ask children to stretch out the words using their hands and saying the individual sounds as they do. For example, cat is stretched out to hear the sounds c, a, t. This will then progress onto making/writing the word using this knowledge.
In Reception and Year 1, children take part in daily phonics sessions. As well as grapheme-phoneme correspondence, blending to read and segmenting to spell we also teach children to read and write ‘tricky words’. These are words that you cannot sound out and children are just expected to remember how to read and write.
THE TERMINOLOGY WE USE
Phoneme – a single unit of sound
Grapheme – a written letter, or a group of letters that represent a sound
Blend – to merge sounds together to make a word (e.g. the sounds d, o, g are blended to the word dog)
Segment – to break down the word into its individual sounds to spell (e.g. cat can be split into the sounds c, a, t)
Decode – a key skill for learning to read that involves taking apart the sounds in words (segmenting) and blending sounds together
Digraph – two letters that make one sound (e.g. sh, ch, ai, ea, ou, ow).
Trigraph – three letters that make one sound (e.g. igh, ear, air, ure).
Split digraph – two letters that make one sound but the letters have been split apart by another letter. (e.g. the a – e sound in cape)
Tricky words – words that cannot be fully decoded
Phonic Phases – the progression of the phonic scheme
THE PURE SOUNDS
In Phonics, we teach the children pure sounds. This is different to when we were taught ourselves and, it is important not to add an ‘uh’ sound to the end.
Here is a helpful link:
At Woodside Primary School, we use Bug Club Phonics to teach our children the fundamental phonic skills to create able readers and writers.
BUG CLUB PHONICS
Bug Club Phonics follows an approach of synthesising phonemes associated with graphemes a child sees; or put another way, learning to read by blending the sounds associated with the letters a child sees. The programme is the product of extensive research on the best way to teach children how to read.
The reading books your child brings home are designed to support them in practising and consolidating the learning they have done at school. They also enable children to experience the pleasure and pride of reading their own books.
All the books in Bug Club Phonics have been finely-levelled to ensure that all children can read books at exactly the right level for them. What’s more, there are online versions for every printed title and a personalised website for each child.
USING THE PRINTED BOOKS
Inside every Bug Club Phonics printed book there are notes to help you make the most of reading with your child.
Inside front cover: there are suggestions of things to do before your child starts reading, such as saying the sounds and practising blending them to make words as well as things to do whilst your child is reading to you; for example, checking their understanding of the story or information on the page.
Inside back cover: the activities here are to help your child consolidate what they have read and increase their fluency.
USING THE ONLINE READING WORLD
Your child can enjoy reading Bug Club Phonics books online as well as in print. Each child has a unique homepage and can log into it by following these steps:
- Go to activelearnprimary.co.uk
- Enter the login details:
Your child’s class teacher will allocate a username and password which will be placed in the front of their reading record/homework book.
Our school ID is lxt6 (lowercase l, x and t)
- Your child’s homepage will appear.
Reading a book online
We allocate books to your child according to their phonic knowledge. These books will appear in the ‘My Stuff’ area of their personal homepage.
The eBooks have three main additional features to help your child.
- Phoneme pronunciation guide: click on the bug icon to hear some of the phonemes (sounds) in the book.
- Read to me: after your child has had a go at reading the book, you can click on this to hear the text read out loud e.g. to help your child with giving expression.
- Quiz question: click on the second bug icon within the book to answer a question designed to reinforce your child’s learning. Their teacher will receive information about attempted questions.
When your child has finished the book, clicked on the phoneme pronunciation guide and attempted the quiz question, he or she will earn ‘ActiveLearn Coins’. By reading more books, your child will earn enough coins to ‘buy’ a reward in one of the many reward schemes.
When your child has finished a book, it will move to ‘My Library’. Children can read these books again if they want to, or they can choose new books from ‘My Stuff’.
After your child has learnt to read
Until they are fluent readers, younger children will benefit from reading aloud to you as often as possible. By the time they are in Years 5 or 6, many children prefer to read silently to themselves. Create quiet opportunities for them to do so, but then talk to them about the book they are reading.
When sharing a book with your child, try to take opportunities to talk about the book – before, during and after reading.
Before reading: look at the book cover and talk about your child’s expectations. Is the book likely to be fiction or non-fiction? Have you read other books together about these characters or by this author? What does your child think the book is going to be about?
While reading: support your child when unknown words need tackling: you can sound them out, split them into syllables, or identify suffixes and prefixes. Remind your child to listen to the words while reading them, to make sure that they make sense. Have a ‘meaning check’ every now and again to ensure that your child understands the text.
After reading: talk about the book. What was it about? Did it match your child’s expectations? Ask questions beginning with the words how and why to check that your child has been able to read between the lines. Ask whether anything seemed puzzling. Then ask your child to explain what the best and worst bits of the book were, and why.
Bug Club is a finely levelled, phonically based online reading scheme with interactive activities. We ensure that each child has a book at exactly the right level for them. The online reading world ensures children can access reading resources anywhere at any time. New books/activities will be allocated regularly.
Bug Club books have a fantastic range of titles, which are organised into phonic phases and later the book band levels that we use in school. Within each phase/level, there is a carefully planned progression of books. This fine progression gives children plenty of opportunity to develop their reading skills and master each fine step while moving through the reading programme.
It is important that your child can read the books fluently and understand what they have read before they move on. If they race through, they will not be ready for the next set of books which often affects motivation. Please take time to re-read the same book to build confidence. Also, encourage your child to read back the sentence in full before moving onto the next.
If you don’t have access to a computer or prefer for your child not to use online reading, they can still enjoy a hard copy of the books. Just speak with your child’s class teacher so they are aware.
How does my child’s teacher know how we are getting on at home?
Every teacher is able to log on and see what books your child has accessed and how many attempts it has taken to get the answers of the activities correct.
If you are sure your child can read the books fluently write a note in your child’s reading diary and the teacher will select one of the books and get your child to read it to do a quick assessment as the next set will be harder.
If your child is having trouble using the pupil world, help can be found in the Help Section of ActiveLearn Primary (in the top right-hand corner of the website).
Please note: We strongly recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox web browsers with ActiveLearn. If you prefer to use Internet Explorer, please check you have at least IE9 in order for everything to work as it should.
PHONICS SCREENING CHECK
The phonics screening check assesses children on how well children can decode certain words. The Phonics Screening Check is a test for children in Year 1. Children take it during June in a one-to-one setting with a teacher.
During the Phonics Screening Check, children are asked to read (decode) 40 words. Most of these words are real words but some are pseudo-words. Pseudo-words are included to ensure that children are using their decoding skills and not just relying on their memory of words they’ve read before. Because some children may misread these pseudo-words based on their similarity to words in their existing vocabulary, each pseudo-word is clearly identified with an image of an alien. Most teachers and children, therefore, refer to pseudo-words as alien words.
If your child has difficulty passing the Phonics Screening Check or is reading below the expected level, they will receive additional support in phonics until they meet the expected level. As a school, we use Rapid Phonics and Rapid Reading intervention programmes. We support children 1:1 and within nurture groups. Whilst children are exposed to daily phonics teaching, the support is engineered to their needs according to our assessments.