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Pirehill First School


Phonics and Reading​

The Teaching of Phonics at Pirehill

Phonic skills are taught through discrete phonic sessions in Foundation Stage and Year 1 following The Teach Hub synthetic phonics programme. The Teach Hub Phonics sets out a detailed and systematic programme for teaching phonic skills over six phases, with the aim of pupils becoming fluent readers by age seven. It teaches all key elements of conceptual understanding, factual knowledge and the three essential skills of blending, segmenting and phoneme manipulation necessary for reading and spelling. Discrete sessions enable pupils to practice word building, word reading, dictation and phoneme manipulation exercises. This is continued into KS2 where necessary.


Where gaps in phonics knowledge have been identified, teachers plan for targeted intervention groups throughout the year to assist and enhance pupils’ progress.


All Year 1 pupils complete the Phonic Screening Check in June. A phonic intervention programme is delivered in school to support identified pupils who are at risk of not meeting the required standard. Should these pupils, or any other pupils, still not achieve the expected standard, intervention continues through Year 2 and pupils retake the Phonic Screening Check the following June.


Phase 6 phonics is taught from Year 2 and onwards through the delivery of No Nonsense Spellings which embraces knowledge of spelling conventions – patterns and rules; but integral to the teaching is the opportunity to promote the learning of spellings, including statutory words, common exceptions, the addition of prefixes and suffixes and personal spellings.


The Teaching of Reading at Pirehill

Being able to read is the most important skill pupils will learn during their early schooling and has far reaching implications for lifelong confidence and well-being. Reading feeds pupils’ imagination and opens up a treasure-house of wonder and joy for curious minds. Therefore, at Pirehill First School, our priority is both the teaching of reading skills and the enjoyment of literature, thus enabling our pupils to become lifelong, confident readers.


As pupils begin to read, we focus on decoding, primarily through phonics in addition to other strategies, e.g. whole word recognition, rhyme and context. As pupils build fluency, comprehension skills become our main area of focus.  Comprehension skills develop through pupils’ experience of high-quality discussion with the teacher, as well as from reading and discussing a range of engaging stories, poems and non-fiction.


Considerable time and effect is devoted, early on, to teaching reading systematically in Reception. Reading is taught through whole class reading, guided reading and one to one reading with an adult. Children are given lots of opportunity to read aloud.  Children are taught to apply phonic knowledge and skills as the route to decode words in our daily phonic sessions. We devote considerable time and resources to letting children practice blending sounds into words. Our reading books match their phonic level and ability. We re-read books to build up their fluency and confidence in word reading. Children are taught to respond speedily with the correct sound to graphemes and to read accurately by blending sounds in unfamiliar words. Reading takes place in all areas of learning in the EYFS both indoors and outdoors. 


From Year 1 onwards, reading and comprehension skills are taught weekly through 1 hour Whole Class Reading lessons.  Planning and teaching Whole Class Reading is an extremely effective approach to teaching specific reading skills and underpins reading at Pirehill First School. Teachers put time and effort into selecting and choosing a variety of books and texts that provide pupils with a rich and varied reading diet, enabling them to experience a range of authors and styles of books.  Careful consideration is given to choosing books that link to the current class topic, are engaging, motivating, and offer a sufficient level of challenge to the pupils’ reading and comprehension ability. The use of echo and choral reading teaching strategies offers opportunities for pupils to learn from clearly modelled ‘reading behaviours’; decoding, fluency, expression and the purpose of punctuation. Targeted questioning relating to the chosen text supports and enables pupils to recall information, sequence and summarise events, identify and comment on the structure, features and organisation of texts as well as promote the use of deduction (drawing conclusions from the information given in a text) and inference (reading between the lines to draw conclusions which are based on, but go beyond the information given in the text).


In addition to Whole Class Reading sessions, all pupils have the opportunity to read their levelled reading books to either the class teacher or teaching assistant on a weekly basis. We use “book bands” and ensure books are matched to pupils’ phonic knowledge and offer the right level of challenge so pupils make good progress. In order to have strong communication between teachers and parents/carers, each pupil has a Reading Diary where both staff and parents are able to comment on reading progress.


Home reading is encouraged and is an integral part of the pupil’s development. At Pirehill First School each pupil is expected to read at home at least 5 times each week; this may be to an adult for developing readers or independently for fluent readers. We work in partnership with parents so pupils develop a love of books and reading. Daily reading at home and at school ensures children make good progress in developing reading skills, whatever their age. Encouraging pupils to read widely, in and out of school, across both fiction and non-fiction, helps to develop their knowledge of themselves and the world in which they live, to establish an appreciation and love of reading, and to gain knowledge across the curriculum. Additionally, reading widely and often increases pupils’ vocabulary because they encounter words they would rarely hear or use in everyday speech.


At Pirehill First School we nurture and develop a love of reading by:

  • daily ERIC (Everyone Reading In Class) time, which allows pupils to independently read a book of their choice.
  • carefully selecting a class story / novel to share at the end of the day which exposes pupils to high level vocabulary and exciting plotlines.
  • having a dedicated reading area in each class that invites pupils to read a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts reflecting genres, cultures, gender and race.
  • each class having a range of books available to pupils that reflect their current class topic.
  • commencing the school year with a Whole School Text where the school is immersed in fun and engaging activities based around the text and theme.
  • celebrating World Book Day, where children are immersed in storytelling, author quizzes, book discussions and the opportunity to dress up as a book character and share their favourite book.
  • providing weekly visits to the school library, allowing pupils to take home and read a book of their own choice.
  • termly class reading challenges.
  • an annual visit from Stone Library to launch and encourage participation in the Summer Reading Challenge.