Phonics International and Abbey 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 spelled 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”.
(National Literacy Trust)
Many of our students arrive at The Abbey with poor phonetic knowledge. Gaps in their Phoneme Grapheme Correspondence acts as a barrier to becoming competent, functional readers. As a whole school, we have prioritised the profile of phonics and upskilled teachers in their phonic teaching and learning.
We use DfE approved, Phonics International here at The Abbey. Phonics International (PI) is a highly-organised, systematic and yet flexible online synthetic phonics programme (program). Designed for all ages and needs and suitable for anyone who wants to learn to read and spell.
We have specifically tailored resources from Phonics International to ensure that they are most suitable for our students. We refer to this as Abbey Phonics.
All staff are trained in Abbey Phonics (including the Abbey Code and our common language approach), with weekly updates on the sound of the week and reading theme of the week.
Fully decodable books play a significant part in the reading journey of our students. The books accessible in school align with the Phonics International Programme of Study. Students therefore recognise which books they can read according to which sounds and ‘codes’ they have covered. Students thrive on their sense of achievement in finishing a book independently. In English lessons, adults hear students read weekly, often asking them to reread familiar texts as an opportunity to develop fluency and confidence.
The Alphabetic Code, titled The Abbey Code, is a simplified sounds chart which shows sounds and most codes for those sounds. The chart is grouped into consonants and vowels and each sound has an image to support recognition for the sound.
All members of staff have been trained in a common language to support students in the skills of decoding and encoding. Initially using prepared scripts and moving onto simple cue cards, staff are confident in supporting students when they ask how to read or spell words. The four steps of decoding (reading): find the code, point to/underline the code, blend the word, say the word and 4 steps for encoding (writing and spelling): say the codes, count the codes, draw sound dashes, write the word. Every member of staff wears a visual reading and spelling cue card, accessible in every area of the curriculum.
Supporting Reading Cue Card:
Supporting Writing Cue Card:
Reading Theme of the Week and Sound of the Week places reading at the forefront of daily school life. We go through these with staff at the start of every week and they are used in tutor times, lessons and reading afternoons. Students are encouraged to recognise the sound and add any words to the whiteboard.
Initial Assessment informs staff as to where students are on their reading journey. The Star Reader Assessment from Renaissance Learning indicates a student’s reading age and level of comprehension.
Staff have the knowledge and expertise to use data to support future progress and attainment. Using the whole school Arbor Platform, data is accessible to all teachers and support staff. It is used to group students in accordance with specific needs and informs which students require additional support from the Intervention Team. Further staff training and follow-up sessions reflect and refresh this cycle.
The Accelerated Reader programme unpicks possible skills deficits in other areas such as inference and deduction. Through a process of gaps analysis, teachers adapt teaching and learning to meet individual needs. This may be a discrete lesson on one of these skills or accessing additional support from the Intervention Team.