Reading and Phonics

The Teaching of Reading at Our Lady’s RC Primary School 

At Our Lady’s we aim to give all our children the skills needed to be confident and fluent readers who can read for both pleasure and learning.


We teach phonics so that children can learn to read by:

  • Recognising the sounds that individual letters make – s, a, t, p, i, n
  • Identifying the sounds that different combinations of letters make – ch, sh, ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, air, or, ar, ow
  • Blending sounds from left to right to make a word – spin, coat, chair.

The individual units of sound are called phonemes. There are 44 different phonemes in the English language. The letters or combination of letters that represent those phonemes are called graphemes.

The teaching of phonics is taught explicitly in daily lessons and is also embedded within English teaching in each class.

Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS)

‘Essential Letters and Sounds’ phonics scheme has recently been introduced in school. It is based on a scientifically proven method of instruction that is effective in reducing cognitive load and works within the known limits of a child’s working memory. The way that information is presented builds upon prior knowledge, reduces children’s memory load and increases their ability to transfer knowledge from their working memory to their long-term memory, retaining what they have learnt quickly. It is used in Nursery, Reception Class, Year 1 and Year 2. It is also used for intervention in other year groups where needed.

In Nursery, children initially start to explore sounds in the environment. In daily phonics sessions they use ‘Jolly Phonics’ songs and action rhymes to engage children in their learning, helping them to associate sounds with actions. Children listen to stories, and share books, songs and rhymes daily. They participate in structured activities around phonics as part of the continuous provision provided in both indoor and outdoor learning. When children are ready, the teacher begins to introduce more formal teaching of phonics through delivery of the DFE approved ‘Essential Letters and Sounds’ scheme. This prepares them for learning in Reception Class.

Daily teaching of phonics continues in Reception Class where all children are engaged in the delivery of synthetic phonics lessons. Phonemes(sounds)and graphemes are taught, and applied in early reading and writing, following the systematic order set out in the Essential Letters and Sounds scheme.

As children learn the 44 phonemes and the different graphemes that represent them, they will be able to blend those sounds together to read words. c   a   t   cat.  Then connections will be made with other similar words: sat, pat, spat etc. building on children’s existing knowledge.

It is very important that everyone reading with the child at school and at home, know how to pronounce each phoneme correctly. Therefore, workshops and videos are shared with parents to demonstrate the correct pronunciation. This enables all parents to support their children at home. Click here to view pronunciation of phonemes and blending videos.

Daily Lessons and Activities

In addition to the daily phonics lesson, children participate in activities each day to apply what they have learnt in both their reading and writing. There are lots of opportunities for repetition of learning and reviewing and building upon what they know. They each have a phonics activity book with carefully structured activities to apply what they have learnt. Use of clearly focused smart board presentations, mnemonic association, rhymes, stories, and phonics- based spellings, all support the development of learning phonics.

Decodable Books

There are a wide range of decodable books which are closely matched to the specific phonic phase in which children are working. Children read regularly in school. A reading book will be sent home each week so that children can practice their developing reading skills at home. This is very important, in order to give children, the best possible chance of remembering what they have learnt so that reading will become automatic and fluent.

ELS Assessment

Children’s developing phonic knowledge is assessed regularly as part of ongoing formative assessment during lessons. Teaching will be adapted to address misconceptions quickly. Summative Assessment is built into the ELS scheme every 5 weeks. Pupil progress is tracked so that intervention will be given to address gaps in a child’s learning. This may be a quick 1:1 intervention or a longer- term intervention.

Home /School Support

Parents and carers are encouraged to:

  • Watch the videos: Pronunciation of Phonemes and Blending Phonemes
  • Read together with their child every day and talk about the book.
  • Attend phonics and reading workshops
  • Make reading fun and stress free.

Simple View of Reading

We recognise that learning to read has different aspects including phonic decoding of letters and sounds to read words, and the development of comprehension skills (understanding vocabulary and reading for meaning).

 Reading Behaviour and Book Talk

In the EYFS, children listen to and share several books every day. They do this as a whole class but also in story groups. The teacher models book reading behaviour and engages children in book talk. With story books, they look at the front cover and title and predict what the story may be about. They learn that we read words from left to right, how to turn pages, they talk about characters and what is happening in the story, they learn how to predict what may happen next and they talk about the sequence of events and how the characters feel and why. They act out the story and they express what they like or dislike about the story. They are encouraged to make links to the story and aspects of their own lives. This helps to develop their comprehension/understanding of the story. They read widely to include fiction, non-fiction and poetry. They gain lots of pleasure from listening to and talking about stories.


Some children can use their phonic knowledge to read any word but they do not understand the content of what they have read. It is important for all children to develop an understanding of vocabulary.

The extension of vocabulary is promoted in class throughout all subjects.  In reading, comprehension skills are developed in each year group and questions are refined to encourage the children to move on from literal understanding and simple retrieval of information from a text, to developing the ability to deduce and infer, comment on the writer’s use of vocabulary, explain the purpose and effectiveness of the layout and organisation of a text, make comparisons and summarise key points from the text. Children will learn to evidence their answers to questions, by quoting from the text.  They learn to put their answers coherently and concisely in writing, rather than in spoken answers.

Children are encouraged to ‘read as a writer’ and ‘write as a reader.’

When reading texts in class, they are encouraged to think about the writers use of language, devices used to capture the reader, choice of words, building of suspense, use of rhetorical questions to draw the reader in etc.

When children are writing, they are encouraged to think about what they have learnt and use this knowledge to capture their own audience and to use layout and organisational devices and language choices which are appropriate for the purpose of their writing.

Range of Reading Books

Children who read widely and are read to often, gain an extended vocabulary and a wealth of inspiration for their own writing

All children start by accessing fully decodable ELS and Oxford Reading Tree scheme books, matched to the phonic phase in which the child is working. As they progress, their reading experience is integrated and enriched with a range of graded books including fiction, non-fiction and poetry books from ORT and a range of age/stage appropriate texts including recommended reads from Book Trust.

Children have opportunities to engage in a range of independent, guided group and whole class shared reading throughout the week. A diverse range books are available including:

  • ELS – phonics matched and decodable books
  • Oxford Reading Tree scheme books- traditional tales, graphic novels, fiction, non- fiction, Tree Tops, All Stars, Poetry etc.
  • Floppy Phonics and Songbirds
  • Book Banded Guided Reading sets
  • Shared-whole class readers – significant authors Y1-Y6
  • Free reading, high quality texts for fluent readers (range of levels)
  • Pathways to Write Collections for Reading to Writing stimulus.
  • Library Books
  • ‘The Day,’ ‘The Week’ and ‘National Geographic. magazines
  • Online e-books
  • Class collections

Children are involved in reading a range of books across all curriculum areas. Not just in ‘reading lessons.’ We believe that it is important to provide all children with a wide selection of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books from different genres and a range of cultures. Books are purposefully selected which have positive images that challenge stereotypes and reflect diversity.  We are a multi lingual school with aver 40% of children with English as an additional language. We have a range of bilingual books in school and reference books in a variety of languages to give children opportunities to read in their first language.

Book Led Approach -‘Pathways to Write’ scheme

‘Our School has recently introduced a scheme into Year 2-Year 6 called Pathways to Write.’ In each class, the introduction to writing each half term, is introduced through the reading of a stimulating book. The book is read and analysed in reading lessons. Lots of work is completed around the book and it is used as a model for good writing. Children imitate the writer at first but then move on to innovate then invent their own writing, using what they have learnt throughout the unit of work. Here we see the technique of ‘Reading as a Writer’ and ‘Writing as a Reader.’

The Pathways book used in reading, as a stimulus for writing, is often used as a starting point in our wider curriculum. For example – ‘Star of Hope’ – is used as a reading and writing text in Year 6 and also links well with the persecution of Jews in their World War 2 History topic and with their shared reading of Anne Frank’s diary. It helps them form connections between learning which helps to make their learning stick and not be forgotten.

Reading Support

Reading ability is assessed throughout the year to identify children who require additional support with their reading. Staff are deployed throughout the school to work with children in order to improve their phonic application, fluency, intonation, decoding skills and comprehension. Reading Recovery, and booster phonics and inference intervention sessions are provided where necessary. The lower attaining 20% of readers in each class are targeted for regular 1:1 reading in school.  Some pupils are screened for Dyslexia and receive appropriate additional support in school.

Parental Support

Home reading is strongly encouraged and is an integral part of the child’s development. In order to have strong communication between teachers and parents/carers, each child has a reading record book where both the staff and parents can write comments about how the child is progressing with his/her reading.

Reading Promotion/Initiatives

Reading buddies, challenges and competitions, ‘Drop and Read’, Performance Poetry, Extreme Reading, Author visits, Book Fairs, Story Club, World Book Day, Recommended Reads, Book Swap, Phonics Bingo etc. are some of the ways in which reading is encouraged in school.

Reading for pleasure is extremely important. Children from Nursery to Year 6 are keen to access our well stocked library every week. During library lessons, they often share and talk about a book and they also learn about the way that a library is organised. They can choose a book to take home from a wide range of books available and they can change their books each week.

Children are involved in choosing books for the library. Groups go out to a local book shop each year to purchase books that reflect the interests of the children. We are aware of gender bias in books and are proactive in finding books that avoid stereotypes and promote equality and positive role models.

The school has excellent links with Manchester Libraries. We regularly attend workshops and audiences with authors. We also attend local theatre performances which bring books to life for our children.

The school also subscribes to journals and magazines such as ‘The Day’ and ‘The Week’ which provide reports on current local and global issues. They are interesting and vastly improve children’s general knowledge and are a great source of inspiration for discussions and debates.

In order to develop a strong culture of reading in the whole school community, we have introduced a ‘book swap’ resource for both children and adults. This consists of families donating books. These are available for parents or children to take from the school then replace if they can when finished. We generate and make available a large number of books which can be shared and enjoyed across the whole school community. All families have access to a large number of books regardless of their financial position.

We do provide parents with recommended reading lists so that they can make informed choices when purchasing books for their children.


Staff will assess the children formatively throughout the year through 1:1 reading, whole class/shared reading and guided reading sessions, oral and written comprehension activities. Children from Year 1 to Year 6 will sit termly Pira Reading tests which give a summative assessment for each child. A Reading Age is attained from this as well as a standardised score. Individual pupil progress is tracked. Gaps in learning are analysed so that intervention can be put in place for pupils needing support.

Phonic assessments are carried out regularly to ensure that children are making age related progress through the ELS programme.

Y1 children take the statutory Phonic Screening Check in June. Those who don’t meet the expected standard in Year 1 will repeat the screening in Y2.

Y6 take the statutory SATs Reading test in May.

Continual Professional Development

Teachers and Teaching Assistants attend training to develop their skills in the teaching of reading, including the teaching of phonics, ELS training and reading intervention training. We regularly use an experienced training provider EY2P, made up of experienced English advisors from the local authority. 

Get in touch

Our Lady's RC Primary School

Whalley Road, Whalley Range, Manchester, M16 8AW

Head of School Anna Ward and Executive Head Catherine Gordon

0161 226

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