Phonics at The Meadows

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As of October 2021, we will no longer be using the Letters and Sounds programme to teach Phonics within school.  We have recently invested in a new systematic, synthetic phonics programme called 'Rocket Phonics'.  This new resource has been written by phonics experts and will support us in teaching our pupils with their early reading and writing skills.  Pupils will be given full online access to the programme which will enable teachers to assign eBooks.  The eBooks will then be able to be read at school or home on any internet-enabled device.

At The Meadows, we want our children to be able to speak and write fluently in order to share their ideas and emotions with others. By the end of Key Stage 2, pupils should be able to read a wide range of texts for pleasure in order to develop culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually. However, a love of reading and an ability to decode texts does not happen automatically. Children need to be taught positive reading attitudes from a young age both within the home and in their learning environments. To be able to read confidentially requires a range of reading skills as detailed below.
However, while these skills are important for understanding a text fully, children must first be able to decode. This year, we have introduced a new reading dog known as:
This reading dog relates entirely to learning to decode a text with the use of Phonics. The aim of the Letters and Sounds programme is to ensure the automatic
reading of all words
– decodable and tricky - to allow children to access a broad range of texts.

So... what exactly is phonics?

Words are made up from small units of sound called phonemes. Phonics teaches children to be able to listen carefully and identify the phonemes that make up each word. This helps children to learn to read words and to spell words.
In Phonics lessons children are taught three main things:
They are taught GPCs. This stands for grapheme phoneme correspondences. This simply means that they are taught all the phonemes in the English language and ways of writing them down. These sounds are taught in a particular order. The first sounds to be taught are s, a, t, p.
Children are taught to be able to blend. This is when children say the sounds that make up a word and are able to merge the sounds together until they can hear what the word is. This skill is vital in learning to read.
Children are also taught to segment. This is the opposite of blending. Children are able to say a word and then break it up into the phonemes that make it up. This skill is vital in being able to spell words.

What makes Phonics tricky?

In some languages, learning phonics is easy because each phoneme has just one grapheme to represent it. The English language is a bit more complicated than this. This is largely because England has been invaded so many times throughout its history. Each set of invaders brought new words and new sounds with them. As a result, English only has around 44 phonemes but there are around 120 graphemes or ways of writing down those 44 phonemes. Obviously we only have 26 letters in the alphabet so some graphemes are made up from more than one letter.
ch th oo ay (these are all digraphs - graphemes with two letters)
There are other graphemes that are trigraphs (made up of 3 letters) and even a few made from 4 letters.
Another slightly sticky problem is that some graphemes can represent more than one phoneme. For example: ch makes very different sounds in these three words: chip, school, chef.

So why bother learning Phonics?

Phonics teaches children how to crack a code – to be able to decode text and thus giving them the tools to expand their experiences. In the past people argued that because the English language is so tricky, there was no point teaching children Phonics. Now, most people agree that these tricky bits mean that it is even more important that we teach Phonics and children learn it clearly and systematically. 
When following the Letters and Sounds programme, the children build on their prior learning systematically. Each lesson follows the same consistent approach. Below you can view the progression from Phase 1 to Phase 6.

Rocket Phonics Progression


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Year 1

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Year 2

Phase 6


  • reading the words automatically if they are very familiar;

  • decoding them quickly and silently because their sounding and blending routine is

  • now well established;

  • decoding them aloud.

Children’s spelling should be phonemically accurate, although it may still be a little unconventional at times. Spelling usually lags behind reading, as it is harder. During this phase, children become fluent readers and increasingly accurate spellers.

How is Phonics taught at The Meadows?

Phonics sessions are snappy and engaging. They include a range of resources such as games, songs and actions. Children, very quickly, learn a range of actions to help them to decode a text. Phonics is taught as soon as the children enter Reception. Each session follows the same consistent format:

Review and Revisit
Recently and previously learned phoneme-grapheme correspondences, blending and segmenting skills as appropriate
New phoneme-grapheme correspondences; skills of blending and segmenting; tricky words
New phoneme – grapheme correspondences; skills of blending and segmenting
New knowledge and skills while reading/writing
From Year 2, the children begin to follow the Spelling Shed lesson sequence. For more information, see here.

Home learning

At The Meadows, home learning in terms of reading is a way to consolidate what has been taught in school. It is not about teaching your child how to read. They are given texts that are 90% decodable that apply the sounds they have already be taught. Each child is allocated three different books:

1. A fully decodable text that applies their sound of the week (with a sticker that says 'I can read this to you')

2. A decodable text to share with an adult. This is a text that is to be adult-led (this book will have a sticker 'Share this book with me')

3. A reading for pleasure book. This may be a book that the children can read independently. It will not be phonetically based, but is there to encourage a love of reading and to widen their breadth of reading. 

Pupil voice

"Dot Decoder helps me read!" - Jamie
"We have been learning about split-digraphs in our Phonics lessons" -  Eadie
"Our reading dogs are in our classrooms to remind us" - Abigail