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Portway Infant School

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Reading and Phonics

How to help your child learn to read - at the bottom of this page are some useful links


If your child has recently started school, you might be wondering how you can help them learn to read at home, or perhaps you are interested in knowing a bit more about what they are learning at school. Most parents of young children were taught to read using a different strategy to the one used today, which is why it can be hard to know what to do for the best.


At Portway Infant School we teach the children using the scheme ‘Letters and Sounds’. The way children are taught to read through this is called phonics. There are some useful words you might want to know like phoneme (the sound of each letter) and grapheme (what each letter looks like). The phonemes – graphemes are also split into groups called phases. This is to help teachers assess where children are with their phonics.


What differs now from when most of us were children, is the very short sounds that letters make. You may remember being taught “t” as a “ter” sound,  now it has a very short snappy “t” – if you whisper it, it’s easier to make the sound. The two you may find particularly tricky to pronounce are I and n. With the “l” sound, pronounce as you would at the end of “Hull” more of an “ul” sound. With “n”, don’t be tempted to say “ner”, it’s very much a “n” on its own, like “pan". Another tricky one is “r”, not “rer”, as you might think, but more of a growling “rrr” sound. When you say a letter, think how it actually sounds in a word, for example “f” might come out as “fer” but in a word has a very short “f” sound, like in “fluff”, if you think that “f” is said “fer” then this word would become “ferluffer”.


The vowel sounds (a, e, I, u and o) can be taught as you normally say them ( a in apple, e as in elephant, i as in igloo, u as in under, o as in orange), however there are some exceptions (e.g. child) but these will be addressed in school later on. There is also a list of tricky words that do not follow the normal pronunciation of other words.


Words such as 'the, some, said, to' are tricky and these are taught on-sight, telling the children you cannot sound these out. There is also a list of pseudo words ( alien words) that are used to check the child’s decoding skill. Words such as “vok”, “chup”, “bleem”. At Portway we teach phonics daily for 20 to 30 minutes it teaches sound/letter recognition, spelling patterns and formation of the letters.


Phonics is taught in a structured way giving them the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment.


Here is the order in which the letters are taught, and the phases:-


  • Phase 1
  1. Tuning in to sounds
  2. Listening and remembering sounds
  3. Talking about sounds (so basically being aware that words are made of graphemes and phonemes)
  4. Orally sounding out words to identify and spell them.
  5. Hearing words that start and end with the same sounds.


  • Phase 2

Learning which letter makes which sound (one set taught per week):

Set 1. s a t p

Set 2. i n m d

Set 3. g o c k

Set 4. ck e u r

Set 5. h b f, ff l, ll ss


  • Phase 3‚Äč

Set 6. j, v, w, x

Set 7. y, z, zz, qu, ch, sh, th, ng, ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er


  • Phase 4

No new graphemes.

Practising all the graphemes and blending them together to make words.

This phase includes learning to read and spell longer words.


  • Phase 5

New graphemes

ay (day), ou (out), ie (tie), ea (east), oy (boy), ir (girl), ue (blue), aw (saw), wh (when), ph (photo), ew (new), oe (toe), au (Paul).

Split digraphs (where the sound is split by another letter)

a-e (make), e-e (these), i-e (like), o-e (home), u-e (rule).


New pronunciations for known letters:

I (fin, find), o (hot, cold), c (cat, cent), g (got, giant), u (but), ow (cow, blow), ie ( tie, field), ea (eat, bread), er (farmer, her), a (hat, what), y (yes, by, very), ch (chin, school, chef), ou (out, shoulder, could, you).


Throughout the school, the English curriculum enables children to develop the necessary skills to become successful readers and writers and we place a high emphasis on enjoyment. Alongside the formal teaching of reading, phonics, grammar, spelling and creative writing, we encourage good speaking and listening skills.


The curriculum is delivered in a variety of ways such as whole class teaching, paired, group and independent learning. We are aware that different children learn in different ways and so try to accommodate all learning styles.


Our main reading scheme used in school is The Oxford Reading Tree and this is also supplemented by lots of others. We recommend that children read at least four times a week at home because we know that this has a huge impact on their fluency, enjoyment and comprehension. We have a reading reward system where children earn a badge when they have read 25 and 50 times at home and then a brand new book when they have read 100 times. 


In order to encourage a life-long love of reading, the children take home a library book from their class book corner, they visit the school library to borrow books for their classroom, they have a daily story-time and they enjoy DEAR time(Drop Everything and Read) three times a week.


We are fortunate to have a team of volunteers comprised of mainly parents and grandparents who visit regularly to listen to children read. Sixth Form pupils from the local secondary school, Woodlands, also visit on a weekly basis to hear readers.We are keen for parents to read with their child in school. At 8.50 everyday in the Early Years Foundation Stage you can have the opportunity to come into class and share a book before we register at 9.00.


Staff are  keen readers and we attend book clubs after school to make sure we are getting the most up to date quality texts for your children.  


We have a fantastic local library at Park farm. Please visit with your child as they have a wonderful range of children's books.



Tricky words

Homemade games to make and play at home