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Phonics/ Reading

Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty.  It should be offered to them as a precious gift. 

Kate DiCamillo  


At St Mark’s, we recognise that reading is an essential tool in ensuring our children are given the best chances in life. It is a foundational skill which underpins a child’s ability to access the wider curriculum in primary school years and beyond. Sustained and persistent access to quality texts allows children to broaden their vocabulary, as well as access the wealth of writing skills and craftsmanship embodied in our rich and diverse literary heritage. 

How do we prioritise reading? 

In school 

  • All of our classrooms have a reading corner, that has been carefully and thoughtfully stocked with a range of fiction and non-fiction that are age appropriate and engaging.  There is a range of books that will appeal to all groups of learners, but the reading corners are not overwhelming.  The books have been categorised into different genres to help children choose books that will appeal to them. 

  • We endeavour to use books and high-quality texts in our selection of ‘Key Texts’ to enrich the learning and provide access to a range of genres.  

  • Reading is celebrated in our school. We have Reading Champions – a group of children from KS1 and KS2 who are responsible for alternating the books in the library; looking after the outside library and leading in our ‘St Mark’s Book Club.’  

  • Alternate Thursday assemblies are for ‘St Mark’s Book Club’, where children can share book reviews and recommendations of books that they have read.  There is a Q&A session where the rest of the school can probe deeper about the books read. 

  • St Mark’s Book Club will sometimes have an author focus, where children with a passion for a particular author will put together presentations to encourage others to give that author a go. 

  • We have a 'Book Review' board that all children can access and add to when they have read a book that they would recommend to their friends.

  • World Book Day is prioritised every year and a range of activities across the school will be done on a focus text or a focus genre. 

  • Whole class reading sessions have been recently introduced and are taught with a sharp focus on text analysis.  

  • We have a Reading Spine, which consists of books that we think that children should experience before they leave primary school.  This list is always evolving and it is one of the places that teachers go to choose suitable books to read aloud. 

  • We have a well stocked library that children visit once a week.  

  • We host an annual book fair to the school. 



  • In phonics, we apply our skills to read connected texts and teachers model and teach reading fluently and with prosody. 

  • All teachers have had the full ‘Sounds Write’ training, so they are able to deliver the programme to all groups of learners and identify any intervention that needs to happen. 

  • Sounds-Write phonics lessons are taught throughout the school. Children in Reception and Year 1 use reading books closely matched to the skills they have been taught. Year 2 pupils continue to learn phonics, picking their books from a colour banded selection. Children in Years 3and 4 have daily phonics sessions, continuing to build and spelling increasingly complex polysyllabic words. Children in Years 5 and 6 continue to consolidate and develop their knowledge, with the Sounds-Write approach used to teach the reading and spelling of vocabulary across the curriculum. In these sessions we begin to dig into the morphology and etymology of words. Children continue to be given support in selecting books from the class book corners for their individual reading book. 

  • Teachers make regular assessment during phonics sessions and run adaptable groups for keep up and catch-up sessions to target support. In our mixed-aged setting children work comfortably together across year groups. 

  • Phonics is taught in Reception from the middle of September, as soon as the new Reception children have settled into school.  

  • Pupils who are learning phonics in EYFS and KS1 take home decodable Dandelion reading book, which in line with their stage of phonics. These books are sent home with an emphasis on reading for fluency, we often ask them to re-read them for continued practice.  Pupils have access to our library and are encouraged to take library books home, in addition to their regular reading books. In EYFS and KS1 pupils may take a library book home as a book to share for pleasure as part of their reading books. 

  • Phonics is taught following the Sounds Write progression of sounds to ensure a systematic approach. It is a vocabulary rich programme which starts by building on what children can already do: they can speak! 

  • Phonics lessons follow the same daily sequence: review, new code, reading and writing in connected text. Children in Reception learn the sounds from the Initial Code, while those in the years above learn from the Extended Code. 

  • We teach phonics in a whole class setting. The skills are taught cumulatively working from simple to complex. We review learning and allow time to use and apply their knowledge in every session, as we know ‘practise makes permanence.’ 


How do we match the pupils’ reading books to their phonic ability? 

  • Pupils are assessed daily in phonics as well as half termly using the Sounds Write assessments. 

  • Decodable texts are first used to be read with a trained adult at school, before being sent home to be used as individual readers. 

  • Books are selected with a two unit ‘lag’ (i.e. one or two units behind the books being used in the reading in connected text part of the phonics sessions.) This lag ensures previous units can be reviewed, enabling spaced practice to help pupils gain automaticity. 

  • Teachers track the books against the sounds taught. 

  • Teachers are responsible for changing and or checking the pupil’s reading books. 

  • Children are encouraged to re-read texts to develop fluency. 

  • Children take home reading records. Teachers use these to monitor reading. 

  • We carefully select the books we use when reading  connected texts during phonics. These are phonetically decodable. 

How do we teach phonics from the start? 

  • Phonics teaching begins with our youngest pupils from the time they join us in Bluebells. The Initial Code begins as a transparent introduction to the English alphabetic code, where sounds are represented by one spelling. Phonics is promoted and embedded within the curriculum, exposing pupils to sound rich activities which provide the foundations for speaking, reading and writing. We complete baseline assessments in communication, language and literacy to support and identify speech, language and communication needs.  

  • Pupils begin learning letter sounds on entry to Reception. Following the Sounds Write system, pupils are immersed in a directed teaching approach which embeds systematic phonics skills as the core skills for reading. Sounds are taught in a specific order, and regular assessment informs future planning and interventions. 

  • First, pupils will learn to read and spell: 

  • Units 1-6 sounds: a, i, m, s, t, n, o, p, b, c, g, h, d, e, f, v, k, l, r, u, j, w, z 

  • They will use these sounds to blend and segment CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words i.e. sat 

  • Unit 7 introduces the x and y sounds and then teaches children that some spellings are written with a double consonant: ff, ll, ss, zz 

  • Units 8-10 teach no new code knowledge. Here the children build up their experience of reading and writing words with different structures i.e. VCC, CVCC, CCVC, CCVCC, CVCCC and CCCVC words. 

  • Unit 11 teaches that some spellings are written with two different letters: sh, ch, th, ck, wh, ng and  qu (representing the sounds /k/ and /w/ 

  • Students develop the key skills : segmenting (the ability to pull apart the individual sounds in words), blending (the ability to push sounds together to build words) and phoneme manipulation (the ability to insert sounds and to delete sounds out of words). 

  • They learn to perform these skills proficiently in simple 3- 4- and 5- sound words with structures CVC, VCC, CVCC, CCVC, CCCVC and CCVCC 

  • They will learn that: 

  • We spell sounds one at a time from left to right across the page. 

  •  Letters are symbols (spellings) that represent sounds. 

  • A sound may be spelled by 1, 2 or 3 letters 

  • And they will begin to understand that: 

  • The same sound can be spelled more than one way. 

  • Many spellings can represent one sound. 

  • Lessons contain a chance to review previous knowledge, a focus on the current unit and then time to read and write in connected text (reading at least one unit behind, dictation at least two units behind the current unit.) Each unit is studied for 2 weeks. 

  • To support the learning in school, pupils take home phonic books with sounds from the previous one or two units. 

  • Phonics is discussed with parents in the Transition to School meeting and parents are given resources to support phonics at home. 

  • When Reception pupils have started school we hold a 6 weeks in meeting with information on how to support phonics and we demonstrate an example lesson. 

  • Sounds Write runs a free course for parents: which we share on our class pages and in the annual phonics meeting. We also share an information leaflet containing key information. 

Reading at home 

  • At St Mark's we believe that for children to make the best progress, we need to work in partnership with their parents.  As a result, the importance of daily reading at home is discussed openly and passionately with all of our parents.

  • Upon entry to school all children are issued with a Reading Record. 

  • Dandelion books are used as home readers as they work in tandem with our phonics programme ‘Sounds Write’ for children in Bluebell and Fern.

  • We monitor pupils not reading at home so we can provide extra provision in school.  We also have open conversations with the parents of children who are not reading at home about the importance of reading at home with their child. 

  • KS2 staff monitor the books chosen by ‘free readers’ to check if the books are suitably challenging for them.  

  • KS2 Children who have additional needs may still be using the Dandelion readers as home readers. There is no stigma attached to this and suitable books are made available for them to choose from in their classrooms.

  • In KS2 the focus of home reading is to consolidate basic reading and comprehension skills.

  • Children are expected to read at least 3 times a week at home.

  • In KS2 the lowest 20% of readers are read weekly with a reading volunteer.  Progress is recorded against a reading framework in her observations.


Promoting a love of reading 

  • All staff are expert readers, modelling reading skills, discussing texts read with the pupils and sharing their own love of reading. 

  • The daily sharing of stories across all year groups is prioritised.

  • Our learning opportunities incorporate a range of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, to expose pupils to different texts they may enjoy. 

  • We have mapped Key Texts across the two years for each class. These texts have been selected for their impact, skills and craft moves they employ. Before teaching a text, teachers map out a ‘writing journey’ to ensure that the book is being used effectively to model and teach and ensure that all National Curriculum objectives are taught.  This also supports the children to understand what they are learning and what they have been taught.  

  • Pupils are encouraged to access the library and change books on a regular basis. Adults in school help the children to make suitable choices, ensuring that the books that they are choosing are accessible, but also over suitable challenge. 

  • We have an outside library (Reading Shed), that our Reading Champions open up for children to access during playtime.  This offers children the opportunity to enjoy books with their friends, or on their own.


Monitoring progress and intervention 

  • Teachers make constant assessment judgements –observing children in lessons, through questioning, looking at children’s writing, careful analysis of children’s errors and quizzing within lessons 

  • Planning includes assessment for the graphemes taught. Phonics is assessed half termly to identify gaps in learning to inform future planning and intervention. In the reception year phonics is assessed more regularly in the first term to identify gaps to inform catch up or keep up sessions. 



All children from Year 1 – Year 6 are assessed using the Lexplore programme in the Autumn term. 

  • children who get a low score will have targeted intervention from Lexplore  

  • Lexplore has pre-assessment and post-assessment to measure progress.  

  • Children who are not meeting ARE are assessed termly.  

  • Other children in the programme are assessed Autumn and Summer.  

Toe by Toe 

Toe by Toe is a diagnostic programme to check the mechanics of reading and what’s going on with the individual and how to address it.  


Write from the Start 

Write from the Start used from Reception up to develop handwriting skills.  


Colourful Semantics 

Colourful Semantics used for comprehension and oracy skills to give children understanding of how to communicate effectively, but also to innovate new ideas and understand the structure of language.  


Beat Dyslexia  

Beat Dyslexia is a multi-sensory approach to help dyslexic children to learn letter/sound relationships.  


Provision maps are created for all children with SEND and cover the interventions that children are taking part in and monitor progress. SEND children and other groups of learners are discussed as a priority at Pupil Progress Meetings.  Progress is also monitored through termly data drops. 


The St Mark’s programme of reading from Reception to Year 6

Bluebell class   

  • Daily phonics  

  • Weekly small group of guided reading  using Sounds Write books which are carefully chosen to, ideally be two units behind the current unit being taught, or at an appropriate level for the attainment of the readers. 

  • 1:1 reading with teacher and TA  

  • Increased targeted 1:1 reading for children who are not read with at home.  

  • Phonics games and access to all taught phonemes provided in continuous provision. 

Fern class 

  • Daily phonics continues.

  • Whole class guided reading is introduced. 

  • Additionally, the class is divided into groups of 5 children by attainment. Each group is read with every week. These groups read levelled phonics books. TAs are provided with National Curriculum reading checklists that they can mark progress against.  

  • Children who are not read with at home also get 1:1 reading  

  • Extra intervention and 1:1 reading happen for children who are not at ARE or are in the lowest 20% of the cohort.  This is delivered by TA who has been fully trained in the Sounds Write programme. This takes the form of 5 minutes a day of precision teaching, targeting sounds that children have not retained in order to close gaps. 

  • Volunteer readers are welcomed into the school and target children who are below ARE or are in the lowest 20% of the cohort.  


  • Whole class guided reading continues to be taught. 

  • Explicit daily Sounds Write lessons also continue. 


  • Whole class guided reading continues. 

  • Interventions are implemented on a needs basis, in partnership with summative assessment, diagnostic tools and ongoing formative assessments. 


Whole Class Guided Reading 

Whole class guided reading lessons usually take the following journey: 


The central goal of our guided reading lessons is to understand the specific text being read and the world in which it relates to through exploration of the text’s use of language. For our children, we ask: how does the text make you  feel? What does it make you  think? What does it help you  know? 


How do we support pupils to keep up? 

  • At St Mark’s, we know our pupils. We work dynamically to ensure that any gaps or misconceptions are quickly identified and cleared up. 

  • We watch our children carefully for their code knowledge, their non-word reading (application of phonics in made-up words), how they read in text and how they spell during independent writing. From this, we adapt and according to the pupil needs. 

Sometimes, pupils don’t make expected progress. In these cases, we deploy: 

  • Summative data is submitted once a term and pupil progress analysis is taken from this. Pupils identified by class teachers and in pupil progress meetings as not making progress have interventions planned for them and teaching staff are aware of who is a priority for intervention/support. 

  • Formative data informs day-to-day planning and teachers adapt and change this according the pupil needs. 

  • Pupils who did not achieve their phonics check receive interventions (daily reader/extra phonics support) and/or work in a group which is teacher driven. 

  • Where progress becomes a concern, parents are invited to a meeting with the teacher and advice is given as to how they can further support their child at home. 


In summary 

  • There is a clear progression of reading skills from Reception to Year 6 against which pupils’ progress is measured and gaps are noted and acted on. 

  • Phonics is taught daily, rigorously and faithfully to the Sounds Write scheme. 

  • Pupils who are struggling with phonics as identified in assessments are given instant support. 

  • Pupils who need further opportunity to practise reading because they do not read at home, are given priority to read to an adult in school. We have a therapy reading do who visits school once a week. 

  • Staff have pupil progress meetings  

  • The English Lead completes pupil conferencing in reading. 

  • We assist parents with supporting reading through discussions at parents ‘evening, reading information meetings and information on the website and newsletter. 




St Mark’s Reading Spine

We have created a St. Mark's Reading Spine based on good-quality books for staff to read aloud to each class.  Some are based on our curriculum projects, others are just wonderful books that will enrich children's imaginations, empathy and exposure to other places and worlds that they can't get to themselves. Ultimately, these books will help to develop a life long love of reading.  We will be reading these to the children in school, so by the end of their time at St. Mark's, they will have had exposure to lots of different types of books.  We will continue to add to this list as more books are published/discovered.