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St Rose's

Catholic Infant School

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At St Rose's Catholic Infants School we use Essential Letters and Sounds to teach phonics.  This is a Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) scheme and it is a structured and sequenced way of teaching children how to read.  ELS is published by Oxford University Press (OUP).


What does this look like in school?

The use of phonics is one of the many skills needed to be able to be a reader and writer. We aim to teach high quality phonics to ensure the children have the best start possible in reading and writing. The learning of phonics is the beginning of children’s body of knowledge, skills and understanding that are an essential part of learning to read. In order to read and understand texts children must learn to recognise/decode the words on the page. Good quality phonics teaching allows the child to be secure in the skills of word recognition and decoding which allows children to read fluently. This will result in children being able to read for pleasure and will allow them to move onto developing higher order reading for meaning skills. These phonic skills need to be taught systematically.




In Nursery, early phonics forms part of the communication, language and literacy areas of learning. The curriculum focuses on tuning into sounds, listening and remembering sounds and talking about sounds across seven aspects:

  • Environmental sounds, instrumental sounds and body percussion (Autumn term)
  • Rhythm, rhyme and alliteration (Spring term)
  • Voice sounds, oral blending and segmenting (Summer term)



Daily phonics sessions will begin as soon as children start their Reception year. Learning to read and write letters develops phonemic awareness rapidly. It seems easier for children to identify phonemes in words when they know how they correspond to letters, because letters provide visible and concrete symbols for sounds. Phonics sessions might be only ten minutes long in the first few days. However, by the end of Reception children will need about an hour a day to consolidate previous learning, learn new content and practise and apply what they have learnt, maybe split into different sessions for different activities.


Key Stage 1

In Year 1 the children will continue with daily phonics lessons throughout the year where they will develop their knowledge of alternative sounds for graphemes.


In Year 2 the children will begin with phonics before moving on to the ELS spelling programme.



Each class has adequate resources to ensure that sessions can be taught with consistency and the children know what a phonics lesson feels like.  In each class you will find:

  • ELS flashcards
  • ELS sound mats
  • ELS Wall Frieze
  • ELS Spelling Poster
  • ELS Work Books (Reception and Year 1)
  • Alphabet


In every discrete phonics lesson:

· New phonemes will be taught using the correct articulation and terminology and all children will use this terminology in their learning. e.g. phonemes, digraphs, trigraphs, split-digraph

· At the start of every lesson ELS phoneme flashcards are used as a quick warm up to revisit and review previous sounds for each phase. Not all sounds are necessarily revised- just those that need reinforcing.

· Feedback will be given throughout the lesson to individuals to move learning forwards and drive progress.

· Words will be segmented with robot arms and blended with blending hands.


We reinforce the link between reading and writing in every ELS lesson through the independent application of the children’s understanding. We also ensure that all our teachers reference the learning from ELS lessons when writing as part of the wider curriculum.


The alphabetic code

All readers should be taught four skills:

· graphemephoneme correspondences (that is, the alphabetic code) in a clearly defined, incremental sequence

· to synthesise (blend) phonemes (sounds) in order all through a word to read it

· to segment words into their constituent phonemes for spelling

· that blending and segmenting are reversible processes. English represents the sounds of the language and uses an alphabet to do this. It is generally accepted that English has 44 sounds (although this number varies slightly, depending on regional accents). The way the 26 letters of the alphabet are used in English (singly or in combination) to represent the 44 sounds is referred to as the alphabetic code.


Common exception words

Children will be taught to read words that are not completely phonically regular through the ELS teaching sequences. These are referred to as ‘harder to read and spell words.’ (HRSW) Children need to be taught to read these words on sight, so that they do not have to spend time puzzling them out. Teachers help children to practise their speedy recall of HRSW. In terms of spelling, children need to remember the tricky parts of a word, that is, the letters that do not match the usual grapheme-phoneme correspondences they have learnt. For example, the word ‘said’ is not phonically regular in that the sound /e/ in the middle of the word is normally written ‘e’ as in ‘bed’ (or sometimes ‘ea’ as in ‘bread’, ‘dread’ or ‘read’ – past tense) and not ‘ai’ as in ‘paid’. However, the sounds at the beginning and end of ‘said’ are represented with ‘s’ and ‘d’, just as one might expect; it is only the middle of the word that is tricky.


In addition to this, we also teach the children High Frequency Words (HFW) that they will come across in their reading books.  By helping them to develop their knowledge of sight vocabulary, the children will be more confident in developing fluency in their reading.



Children who still need extra support to develop their phonic knowledge across the EYFS, Key Stage 1 are identified and targeted for intervention. Interventions are delivered within the phonics lesson by the teacher and any child who is struggling with the new knowledge can be immediately targeted with appropriate support. Where further support is required, 1:1 intervention is used where needed. These interventions are short, specific and effective. ELS is designed to make use of all the teaching time during the phonics lesson – through targeted support where required, reducing the need for external interventions - meaning that there is minimal disruption to curriculum teaching time.

Some children will complete daily reading with an adult; children who read daily with an adult are those identified as needing more practice to keep moving through the intended curriculum; they read for fluency with support staff each day. Children working in small intervention groups work with an adult to consolidate the sound learnt in the main class; this supports children to keep up with the curriculum.


Phonics screening check

At the end of Year 1, children participate in the phonics screening check which assesses their knowledge of grapheme-phoneme correspondence and their skills in blending. This information is submitted to the LA. Those children who do not succeed in the phonics screening check are highlighted for further intervention and targeted support before completing the screening check again at the end of Year 2. The check is intended as a test of phonic decoding – not as a wider test of reading – to assess whether children have learnt key knowledge and skills by the end of Year 1. Comprehension is a separate dimension and is formally assessed at the end of KS1.