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What is Phonics?

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.

Written language can be compared to a code, so knowing the sounds of individual letters and how those letters sound when they’re combined will help children decode words as they read.

Understanding phonics will also help children know which letters to use when they are writing words.

Phonics involves matching the sounds of spoken English with individual letters or groups of letters. For example, the sound k can be spelt as c, k, ck or ch.

Teaching children to blend the sounds of letters together helps them 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 build up the words: “tap”, “taps”, “pat”, “pats” and “sat”.

In the Summer term of Year 1, pupils show their understanding of phonics by taking part in a government screening check called the Phonics Screening Check (PSC). The children do not see this as a test as staff review past tests in an informal manner with them. After the screening check in May 2022, one parent asked when we would be carrying out the check as she was unaware that her daughter had actually completed it due to her daughter being completed unaware that it was any different to usual classroom activities! There will be a parents/carers meeting explaining how you can support your child with this after the February half-term. Please check your emails for a date and come along if you can. There is also some information about the PSC in the links further down.

Learning to Read

Reading is probably the most important skill that a child will learn in primary school.  It opens up a whole new world of learning and imagination and gives them the opportunity to become fluent, enthusiastic readers. 

Children who read regularly or are read to regularly have the opportunity to open the doors to so many different worlds! More importantly, reading will give our children the tools to become independent life-long learners.

We aim to achieve this together through:

  • Read Write Inc, a program to help to your child read at school
  • Encouraging children to develop a love of books by reading to them daily, at home and at school
  • Giving children access to a wide range of books at school and at home

Read Write Inc (RWI) Introduction

At St Mary's, we are very excited to use a Phonics and early reading scheme called Read Write Inc (RWI) to help our children to read. The teaching of this scheme along with your help as parents, sharing books at home with your children and encouraging them to read and share their new knowledge, will help your children become independent, lifelong readers.

What is Read Write Inc?

Read Write Inc (RWI) is a phonics complete literacy programme which helps all children learn to read fluently and at speed so they can focus on developing their skills in comprehension, vocabulary and spelling. The programme is designed for children aged 4-7. However, at St. Mary’s we will continue teaching RWI to children beyond the age of 7 if they still need support in their reading.

RWI was developed by Ruth Miskin and more information on this can be found at

Staff are trained in how to deliver the programme and pupils are organised in to groups according to their phonic knowledge throughout the school. 

All children who are accessing RWI Phonics will receive two reading books. One reading book that matches their book level and the sounds that they are learning and as children can read this themselves 'I can'. They have a second book, a 'we can' book to share together with an adult to develop their love of reading.

How is Read Write Inc taught?

All children are assessed every 6 weeks by our Reading Leader (Mrs Bartlett) to ensure that pupils are accessing Phonics at the level that they need to secure understanding and enable good progress.  This ensures that all children are learning the 'sounds' that they need to know to move them on confidently to the next stage of their reading journey. Children are taught in these groups, every day, focussing on the different sounds. For the first 4 weeks of the Autumn term, these sessions are for 1/2 hour each day and focus on 'speed sounds' (see parents PowerPoint below for more information). In KS1, these sessions are then extended to an hour when children share storybooks and develop their writing skills. Reception children continue with daily 1/2 sessions in addition to having access to learning opportunities during Child Initiated Learning (exploration time). Your children will bring books home to share with you focussing on the sound that they have been learning. In addition, they will bring home a picture book from the library to share together.


The children:

  • learn 44 sounds and the corresponding letters/letter groups using simple picture prompts – see below
  • learn to read words using Fred talk and sound blending
  • read from a range of storybooks and non-fictions books matched to their phonic knowledge
  • work well with partners
  • develop comprehension skills in stories by answering 'Find It' and 'Prove It' discussion questions


The children:

  • learn to write and form the letters/letter groups which represent the 44 sounds with the help of fun phrases
  • learn to write words by using Fred Talk
  • learn to build sentences by practising sentences out loud before they write 


The children work in pairs so that they:

  • answer every question
  • practise every activity with their partner
  • take turns in talking and reading to each other
  • develop ambitious vocabulary

Year One and Year Two

Children follow the same format as Reception but will work on complex sounds and read books appropriate to their reading level. Daily sessions of RWI phonics last for 1 hour.  The RWI strategies are then applied in daily literacy lessons in class.

Five key principles underpin the teaching in all Read Write Inc. sessions:  

  1. Purpose – know the purpose of every activity and share it with the children, so they know the one thing they should be thinking about
  2. Participation – ensure every child participates throughout the lesson. Partnership work is fundamental to learning
  3. Praise – ensure children are praised for effort and learning, not ability
  4. Pace – teach at an effective pace and devote every moment to teaching and learning
  5. Passion – be passionate about teaching so children can be engaged emotionally.

The children are then assessed every 6 weeks to ensure they are in the correct group.

Fred Talk

We use pure sounds (‘m’ not’ muh’,’s’ not ‘suh’, etc.) so that your child will be able to blend the sounds into words more easily.

At school we use a frog puppet called Fred who is an expert on sounding out words! we call it, ‘Fred Talk’. E.g. m-o-p, c-a-t, m-a-n, sh-o-p, b-l-a-ck.

The children are taught the sounds in 3 sets. You can support your child at home by completing the little sound books that are sent home. Please focus on the sound that has been taught that day but also recap on the previous learning. This will really help to cement the child's learning and will give them the opportunity to show you how clever they are 🙂.

Step One

Set 1 Sounds are taught in the following order together with rhymes to help children form the letters correctly and instantly recognise sounds ready for blending.




Down Maisie then over the two mountains. Maisie, mountain, mountain.


Round the apple, down the leaf.


Slide around the snake


Round the dinosaur's back, up his neck and down to his feet.


Down the tower, across the tower,


Down the insects body, dot for the head.


Down Nobby and over the net.


Down the plait, up and over the pirates face.


Round the girls face, down her hair and give her a curl


All around the orange


Curl around the caterpillar


Down the kangaroos body, tail and leg


Down and under the umbrella, up to the top and down to the puddle


Down the laces, over the toe and touch the heel


Down the stem and draw the leaves


Slice into the egg, go over the top, then under the egg


Down the long leg


Down the horse's head to the hooves and over his back


Slither down the snake, then down the horse's head to the hooves and over his back


Down the robot's back, then up and curl


Down his body, curl and dot


Down a wing, up a wing


Down a horn, up a horn and under the yak's head.


Down, up, down, up the worm.


Down the tower, across the tower, then down the horse’s head to the hooves and over his back


Zig-zag-zig, down the zip.


Curl around the caterpillar, , then down the horse's head to the hooves and over his back


Round the queen’s head, up to her crown, down her hair and curl


Cross down the arm and leg and cross the other way


A thing on a string


I think I stink

Step Two

The children are then taught Set 2 Sounds - the long vowels. When they are very confident with all of set 1 and 2 they are taught Set 3 Sounds.

Long  vowel sound

Set 2 Speed Sound cards

Set 3 Speed Sound cards


ay: may I play

a-e: make a cake

ai: snail in the rain


ee: what can you see

ea: cup of tea

e: he me we she be


igh: fly high

i-e: nice smile


ow: blow the snow

o-e: phone home

ao: goat in a boat


oo: poo at the zoo

u-e: huge brute

ew: chew the stew


oo: look at a book




ar: start the car




or: shut the door

aw: yawn at dawn



air: that’s not fair

are: share and care



ir: whirl and twirl

ur: nurse for a purse

er: a better letter


ou: shout it out

ow: brown cow



oy: toy for a boy

oi: spoil the boy




ire: fire fire!




ear: hear with your ear




ure: sure it’s pure?


Nonsense words (Alien words)          

As well as learning to read and blend real words children will have plenty of opportunities to apply their sound recognition skills on reading ‘Nonsense words’. These words will also feature heavily in the Year One Phonics Screening check in the summer term. 

Step Three

Children will be introduced to ‘Ditty books’ when they successfully begin to read single words. The short vowels should be kept short and sharp:

Children use sound-blending (Fred Talk) to read short ditties. They will bring these home once they have read and discussed the book in class. Children will then be challenged to use their developing phonic knowledge to write short sentences.

Within all the books children will have red and green words to learn to help them to become speedy readers. Red words are words that are not easily decodable and challenge words to extend children’s vocabulary. Green words are linked to the sounds they have been learning and are easily decodable.

During the RWI sessions children will read the book three times and at each new reading they will have plenty of opportunities to practise using their developing comprehension skills. You may have heard your child talking about ‘hold, edit or build a sentence’.

Hold a sentence is an activity that encourages children to remember a whole sentence while focusing on spelling and punctuation.

Build a sentence is to give children the opportunity to create their own sentence to that shows the meaning of a word and edit a sentence allows the children to critique a sentence using their knowledge of spelling punctuation and grammar. Children complete a longer piece of independent writing, which gives them the opportunity to show off their creativity and to practice their spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Further information on RWI

For further information about Read Write Inc, please view the Parent's information PowerPoint on this page, there are also parent information brochures available in the information stand in the front lobby of the school.

If you have any further questions please contact Debbie Bartlett (Phonics Leader) through the school office email address (

Helping your child at home

In addition to the suggestions in the PowerPoint of how to support your child with their reading at home, please find below some further guidance when sharing a book with your child:-

  • Encourage the child to use Fred talk to sound out the word before blending.

  • Encourage the child to find clues in the pictures as to the meanings of words.

  • If the child gets really stuck on a word, you could give him/her the first sounds to help them. Break the word down into smaller parts (syllables) if that helps.

  • Read the word for him/her if that helps the flow.

  • Read along with the child if he/she is nervous

  • Re-read familiar books to increase the child’s confidence

  • Praise the child for getting a word right

  • Aim to make the reading experience fun, cosy and time together you enjoy.

  • If a child reads a book easily, ask them to tell the story in their own words or to think of a different ending.

  • For children with longer texts – read part of the book and ask child to tell the rest of the story in their own words.

  • Write a constructive comment in reading diary – eg X was able to recognise words at random today, X was able to recognise initial sounds.

  • Some children may only be looking at picture books – so encourage them to talk about what is happening in the pictures.

  • If sharing a familiar story e.g. Goldilocks and the Three Bears, encourage children to join in repeated phrases.