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Early Reading & Phonics

At Portfields, your child is taught to read using the Read Write Inc. (RWI) phonics programme.  Read Write Inc., developed by Ruth Miskin, provides a structured and systematic approach to teaching early reading. It is designed to create fluent readers and confident speakers. All children in EYFS and Key Stage One have explicit phonics lessons throughout their first three years at school.


What is phonics?

Phonics is a method of teaching children to read quickly and skilfully by linking phonemes (sounds) and their graphemes (written symbols).

Your child is taught how to:

·Recognise the sounds that each individual letter represents.

·Identify the sounds that different combinations of letters represent (e.g. ‘sh’, ‘ay’).

·Blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word.


As your child learns to read, they will move through different stages. These are called a ‘set’. First, your child will learn to read sounds written with one letter. They will then learn to read sounds written with two and three letters (your child will call these ‘special friends’).  As they learn new sounds, they will learn to read words containing these sounds by sound-blending, e.g. s-a-t sat, sh-i-p ship, s-t-ay stay.

Teaching staff ensure all phonemes are pronounced purely, without an additional 'uh' on the end of each sound – known as 'schwa' - which can potentially confuse children when combining the sounds together into words, for example:

/p/ /o/ /t/ = pot        (correct)        
/puh/ /o/ /tuh/ = puhotuh      (incorrect) 

How can I help at home?


Read Write Inc. books are sent home to further consolidate learning and increase pupils’ success with reading. Gradually, pupils are exposed to a variety of texts, which build their comprehension skills and their vocabulary. As a result, children become confident readers early on and shift from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn.’


A key element of learning to read is developing comprehension, fluency and expression. This comes from children reading sounds and words that they are secure in. Please encourage your child to read their reading book at least three times, with each read building on the last.  Please remember, children enjoy re-reading stories they know well and their speed and understanding improves on every read.

Each time your child reads, please focus on the following:

First read: read every word accurately

Second read: read more words ‘at a glance’

Third read: read the whole story accurately, fluently and with a storyteller voice


When your child reads the story, ask them to sound out the words that they can’t read automatically. For example, sh-ee-p sheep. Please don’t allow your child to struggle too much or guess the word by using the pictures. Praise them when they succeed.


Phonics Screening Check


The Phonics Screening Check is taken individually by all children in Year 1 and is designed to give feedback to teachers and parents on how each child is progressing in phonics. Pupils are asked to read 20 real words and 20 pseudo words, known to the children as 'alien words', in order to ensure children are decoding the words instead of memorising or guessing. ‘Alien words’ are introduced to children in Reception.



Read Write Inc. Glossary


‘Special Friends’

Special friends are a combination of two or three letters representing one sound. For example, ee, ay, igh, oa.


Fred Talk

Fred the frog helps children read and spell. He can say the sounds in words, but he can’t say the whole word, so children have to help him.

To help children read, Fred (the teacher) says the sounds and then children say the word.

For example, Fred says c-a-t, children say ‘cat’, Fred says l-igh-t, children say ‘light’.


‘Fred in your head’

Once children can sound out a word, we teach them to say the sounds silently in their heads.

We show them how to do this by:

1.      whispering the sounds and then saying the whole word

2.      mouthing the sounds silently and then saying the whole word

3.      saying the whole word straight away


Red Words

Red Words are also known as common exception or tricky words. They occur in stories regularly (said, what, where) but have unusual letter combinations (‘ai’ in the word ‘said’ makes the sound ‘e’).

Remind your child not to use Fred Talk to read Red Words but instead to ‘stop and think’.

Tell them the word if you need to.


‘Special Friends’, ‘Fred Talk’, read the word

Your child will be familiar with this term. Remind your child to read words using ‘Special Friends, Fred Talk, read the word’

For example ‘chip’: spot the ‘ch’, then Fred Talk and blend to read the word e.g. ch, ch-i-p, chip.