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Reading and Phonics

Reading

Reading for meaning is seen as central throughout all stages of development.

Pupils are given access to a variety of reading materials:-

  • fact, fiction
  • poetry, myths, legends
  • notices, plans, maps
  • picture books
  • sensory books
  • personal books
  • comics, newspapers
  • Big Books
  • shopping lists and products on shelves
  • social signs in school and out

Pupils are given access to “specialist” reading materials such as objects of reference timetables, personal signifiers, location markers, personal photographic/symbolic timetables, “choose Boards”, Environmental cues and Visual supports which may show where to go, what to do when there, when they know they have finished, what to do when finished and what will come next.

Children are often provided with personalised reading materials such as treasure boxes, personal photograph albums, class-made books reading books using high-frequency words and other words of particular relevance to the given child. 

We offer, where practical, independent, shared and guided reading opportunities to help the child understand the story, to distinguish print from pictures, to scan left to right, top to bottom and to work from the beginning to the end of the book. 

We develop phonological awareness through the use of a structured synthetic phonics programme which will enable decoding of print for reading and encoding for spelling.  Many children are taught synthetic phonics following many principles from the DFEE letters and sounds programme.  However, the starting point for many children is to encounter written words that are relevant to them: such as their own name, social, environmental and media words, vocabulary for needs, interests and feelings, high-frequency words, keywords in topics and reading scheme vocabulary are taught first. Once a child has a vocabulary of around 50 words, he or she will start to be taught to use phonic skills.  This is especially important for some children on the ASD who may find phonics very difficult and need to continue with whole word recognition. 

Our core reading scheme is Oxford Reading Tree and this is supplemented by books from other schemes to meet pupils’ needs. These schemes enable the child to acquire a sight vocabulary, build on phonic knowledge, use contextual and picture clues as an aid to decoding print and becoming a competent reader.  ICT is used extensively to both motivate and provide access for pupils. Reading spans the whole curriculum with each topic having keyword lists drawn up by each teacher to be taught to pupils.

We also provide a range of 'real books,' accessible to the child which give breadth and balance to the reading scheme and also help the child to recognise, and increase his/her understanding of, the diversity of beliefs, attitudes and social and cultural traditions. 

For the older, moderately independent reader, we provide the opportunity to read books which have been carefully chosen as being more age appropriate in content, while retaining a relatively simple text with good picture clues. 

We encourage the child to use information retrieval skills for reference purposes using books or the internet, for simple reference purposes to aid his/her studies.

As the child becomes a more experienced reader s/he will enjoy a widening range of reading materials, will read silently from choice, will manage the reading necessary in most curriculum areas or, in the case of developmental groups, develop the basic reading skills required for life. 

We seek to ensure that the older child, whose reading has progressed more slowly, will be encouraged to use other media than reading to experience and enjoy a wide range of literature which is appropriate for his/her age and ability.  

Phonics

At Merryfields School we follow, where relevant (for many children a whole word approach to reading is their natural starting point), the DFE Letters and Sounds Programme.   Children encounter a range of activities to support their learning.  At the earliest level children are encouraged to discriminate between different sounds – for example, using sound lotto games or identifying different sound making instruments.  Later, children will be taught to associate a sound with an object of reference such as “a” for “apple”, “b” for banana and so on before progressing to letter mnemonics (such as a flash card with the letter and a corresponding picture). 

As well as being encouraged to imitate a staff model, letter sounds are often taught using the Jolly Phonics songs and Geraldine Giraffe short videos. Also, children are given the opportunity to blend and segment words often with practical resources such as cubes (e.g. c-a-t), or pictures with the appropriate letter sounds on velcro beneath. 

Children may segment words (spell) using the Communicate in Print software where a symbol or picture will appear after the child has typed the word.  Similarly, many apps/software such as “pirate phonics” and education city are used.   Likewise, a diverse spectrum of experiences is given to support children’s ability to form individual letters.  Formation of graphemes (written letters) are linked to wider fine motor, early writing skills experiences such as making marks in sand or paint, tracing over letter templates with a whiteboard pen, before being taught the formal skill of making the letter shapes with a pencil.