Teaching children to read is at the heart of our goal as an Academy. Daily teaching of systematic, synthetic phonics is an integral part of how we teach our children to read.
Phonics is a way of teaching 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. In turn, this helps them to develop the skills needed to read and then write.
We follow an adapted version of the Letters and Sounds phonics programme which begins when our pupils first start school with us, whether that is in our Nursery or Year R or at any point they join us if they need phonics.
Pupils continue learning to read through phonics until they complete Phase 5. At this point, they move onto our Accelerated Reader programme of reading, which provides banded books to help pupils continue their reading journey. The skills they learn through their phonics learning will help them throughout their lives.
As well as phonics, all our pupils enjoy daily reading lessons, storytimes and visit our library once a week where they have access to a wide range of books that they can bring home to enjoy with you.
Reading at Home
Once pupils hit their first phonics milestone in Year R (usually midway through the Autumn term but all pupils learn at different speeds), they will begin bringing home Big Cat Fully Decodable Texts.
The term fully-decodable means the books only contain sounds (such as /s/ or /ch/) that your child has been taught. This means that they are able to use their phonics blending skills (identifying the sounds /c/, /a/ and /t/) to read all the words, not needing to rely on images or guesses to read.
Research has shown that pupils can be put off reading if they see too many words which they cannot read because they have not been taught the sounds in them.
This example shows what it can be like for children who have not been taught to read all of the sounds in a book.
Passages like this can be frustrating for children who are learning to read.
To support your child in their education, they should read with an adult at home every day to practise what they have learned in school. The books have been designed to be appealing and enjoyable and they develop from opportunities to practise reading words containing initial sounds, stories and non-fiction texts as well.
Why Reading at Home is so Important
We know that children who read every day make better progress and learn to read quicker than those who do not. We know that children who develop a love of reading tend to outperform their peers in tests. We also know that reading is the core skill required to access almost all other subjects, whether that's science, maths, French or history. Good readers are able to access the curriculum and we know that our pupils who leave Year 6 as confident readers get the best possible start to their secondary education.
If you take 10 minutes a day to practise reading with your child, across their time at Freemantle, they will have benefited from 425 extra hours of learning. That's the equivalent of an extra 71 school days. It is no surprise that pupils who read daily tend to do better in school than those who do not.
Pupils will re-read the same book several times a week and this may be different to how you were taught to read. This approach follows research which shows, like any skill, your child needs time to master the sounds they have been taught. Please do not worry that your child is reading and re-reading the same book several times; this is part of their journey to mastering reading!
Reading is the key to success in school.
Example Phonics Booklet
Below is an example of the phonics booklets our pupils begin using when they start Phase 3 of phonics (usually in Year R but all pupils learn at different rates).
Pupils begin by reviewing sounds they have already learned with their teacher.
They then learn to segment and blend words that contain new and familiar sounds and then read words containing sounds they have learned.
Every lesson provides pupils with a chance to apply their phonics skills to one of our modern fully-decodable Big Cat books.
In a single lesson, pupils will practise reading hundreds of words.
Bringing Phonics Booklets Home
Pupils in Years 1-6 who are learning to read through phonics will bring these booklets home everyday; it is important they are returned to school daily.
Spending 5 minutes a day practising the sounds in these books that your child has learned will help them to consolidate and develop their reading skills.