At OLSA, we believe that phonics is best understood as a body of knowledge and skills about how the alphabetic system works, and how to apply it in reading and spelling, rather than one of a range of optional ‘methods’ or ‘strategies’ for teaching children how to read. We currently use the programme 'Letters and Sounds' to promote the use of phonics as the route to reading unknown words, before any subsequent comprehension strategies are applied. We do not use the programme to encourage children to guess unknown words from clues such as pictures or context, rather than first applying phonic knowledge and skills.
Through teaching systematic, synthetic phonics approaches, we believe in teaching children to read and then spell the most common exception words, noting the part of a word that makes it an exception word. These words are be introduced gradually to the children and at a pace suitable to their needs.
The teaching of phonics is consistent from EYFS through KS1 as all direct teaching sessions involve a routine so that teachers and children get to know what is coming next and minimum time is spent explaining new activities. Teaching and learning activities are fun and engaging but firmly focused on intensifying the learning associated with the phonic goal.
At each step, children have sufficient time to practise reading and writing with the grapheme-phoneme correspondences they have been taught, cumulatively. This is linked closely with the guided reading sessions to ensure continuity and familiarity with vocabulary.
We have an excellent range of texts that the children work from that are fully decodable for them at every stage of the programme. The Home Reads records closely match the phonics phase the children are working within, and regularly monitoring of the child's reading ensures that they are up to date and reviewed regularly in line with the child's needs. The texts taken home are therefore composed almost entirely of words made up of grapheme-phoneme correspondences that a child has learned up to that point.