Phonics & Reading

At Orchard, we strive to ensure that all children become successful, fluent readers by the end of Key Stage One. 

We believe this is achievable through a combination of high quality, systematic, discrete, interactive and multi-sensory phonics teaching combined with a whole school language approach that promotes a ‘Reading for Pleasure’ culture.

Each class has a daily Reading for Pleasure session – pupils may read their own book either from home or from our reading scheme, hear the class story/novel or share a book chosen by the teacher linked to their learning.

Storytime at Orchard is treasured. Not only are teachers/staff members modelling expression and fluency but we also aim to make it engaging and fun to promote a love of reading. In the Early Years, we use story sacks, masks, puppets, choose children to come up and engage with the book and act it out. In Key Stage 1, we ensure that each class has an engaging ‘Reading Nook’

What is phonics?
Phonics is the knowledge of phonemes and graphemes and how these are used to read and spell words. (Phonemes are the sounds that are made by a single letter or group of letters. A grapheme is the written equivalent of a phoneme).

Teaching children to blend the sounds of letters together helps them decode unfamiliar or unknown regular words by sounding them out. For example, when a child is taught the sounds for the letters s, a, t, p, i and n, they can start to build up the words: “tap”, “taps”, “tin”, “pats” and “sit”.

High-quality phonics teaching helps children develop their reading, writing, spelling and general communication skills. It helps secure the crucial skills of word recognition that enable children to read fluently, allowing them to concentrate on the meaning of the text.

Aims of phonics teaching at Orchard Primary

  • To ensure the delivery of high quality, systematic phonic work for all children.
  • To establish the consistent practice, progression and continuity in the teaching and learning of phonics and spelling throughout the school.
  • To give all children word decoding strategies that will enable them to become fluent readers and confident writers.
  • To differentiate phonics and spelling work to enable all children to progress and achieve at appropriate levels.

What scheme do we use to teach phonics at Orchard?
Children in Reception and Key Stage 1 follow the synthetic phonics approach, based on the Jolly Phonics Scheme, and laid out in the ‘Letters and Sounds’ document in which individual letters or letter sounds are blended to form groups of letters or sounds, and those groups are then blended to form complete words. We supplement our systematic approach where necessary with other resources such as ‘Phonics Play’.

How does Jolly Phonics work?
The sounds are taught in a specific order (not alphabetically). This enables children to begin building words as early as possible.

The Phase 2 and 3 letter sounds taught in EYFS are split into seven groups as shown below.

In Year 1, children are taught alternative ways that these sounds might be spelt, for example ‘er’ can also be spelt ‘ur’ and ‘ir’. They are taught that some sounds have alternative pronunciations, for example ‘ow’ as in ‘cow’ and ‘ow’ as in ‘snow’.

At the beginning of Year 2, children revise previously taught sounds from Phase 5, in order to support them with their spelling. Children will then begin Phase 6 with the aim of supporting children in becoming fluent readers and accurate spellers. During this Phase, the children are developing their ability to read a wide number of words either automatically, or decoding these words silently or aloud.

The children will then move onto applying spelling rules and patterns into their independent written work, using the Spelling Shed scheme. E.g. adding suffixes ed, ing, the kn and gn silent letters, homophones and the use of contractions.

Using a synthetic phonics approach, Jolly Phonics teaches children the five key skills for reading and writing.

  1. Learning the letter sounds - Children are taught the 42 main letter sounds. This includes alphabet sounds as well as digraphs such as sh, th, ai and ue.
  2. Learning letter formation - Using different multi-sensory methods, children learn how to form and write the letters.
  3. Blending - Children are taught how to blend the sounds together to read and write new words.
  4. Identifying the sounds in words (Segmenting) - Listening for the sounds in words gives children the best start for improving spelling.
  5. Tricky words - Tricky words have irregular spellings and children learn these separately.

How do we teach phonics at Orchard?
Discrete 20-minute phonics lessons take place daily across Reception and Key Stage 1.

Phonics sessions are structured in the same way each day, building consistent and familiar routines. In this way children know what to expect, are aware of expectations and are not distracted in their progress towards the learning intent. We follow the structure of ‘Review, Teach, Practise, Apply and Assess’ to ensure that children are consolidating phonic knowledge and skills over time and that they are able to apply them in context.

With fun actions to teach the 42 letter sounds, as well as games, stories and songs, our multi-sensory phonics sessions allow pupils to revise their knowledge, learn new sounds and use and apply their reading and writing skills in a highly engaging way.

Within these sessions, children are also introduced to ‘tricky words’ and aim to read and write the high-frequency words for the phonics phase they are working in.

What are tricky words?
Pupils are also taught to read and spell ‘tricky words’ – words with spellings that are unusual or that children have not yet been taught. Tricky words are words that cannot be decoded using phonics but are frequently used in the books the children are reading. These include the words ‘to’, ‘was’, ‘said’ and ‘the’ – you can’t really break the sounds down for such words so it’s better to just ‘recognise’ them.

Follow this link for some ideas for games that you can play to help your child learn their tricky words:

As children’s rates of progress through the phases will differ, to enable us to meet the needs of all pupils more effectively, we group the children according to the phase they are working at.

Progression in Phonics
As a general rule:


  • Children will be taught Phase Two and Three of the Jolly Phonics programme during the Autumn and Spring terms.
  • Children should be able to read and spell phonically regular words using the sounds from Phases Two and Three as well as most, if not all the ‘tricky words’ from those phases. They will be taught Phase 4 during the Summer term.

Year One: 

  • Phase Four will be consolidated if necessary before moving onto Phase Five.
  • No new grapheme-phoneme correspondences are taught in Phase Four but children learn to blend and segment words with adjacent consonants e.g. swim, clap and bump.
  • Children are also taught to blend and segment longer words with more than one syllable.
  • Consolidation of previous phases will ensure that children can read and spell all high-frequency words, including tricky words.
  • In Phase Five, children learn the ‘complex code’ by learning alternate graphemes for the phonemes they already know, they also learn different ways of pronouncing the graphemes.

Year Two: 

  • Previous consolidation of phases should allow children to revisit Phase Five at the beginning of Year 2.
  • Children will then move onto Phase 6. In this phase, children will begin to learn different aspects of spelling e.g. spelling rules/tense etc. They will be introduced to new spelling patterns in order to enhance their writing across the curriculum.
  • Summative Phonics assessments for all children on the Phonics programme will take place during October, December, April and July. This will allow us to determine knowledge and understanding of the letters and sounds and high frequency words/tricky words

As well as our instructional programme for phonics, regular assessments allow us to track where our children are according to our expectations and ensure that pupils access appropriate teaching and interventions to develop their reading skills. These set a benchmark for coverage and consistency by all staff to ensure that by the end of Year 1 our children meet the Phonics Screening Check standard.

Children who require extra support to develop their phonic knowledge across EYFS and Key Stage 1 and 2 are identified and targeted for intervention, once a child’s needs have been assessed. These sessions can take place 1:1 or in small groups and with the class teacher or a Teaching/Learning Assistant.

Children who require extra support to develop their phonic knowledge across EYFS and Key Stage 1 and 2 are identified and targeted for intervention, once a child’s needs have been assessed. These sessions can take place 1:1 or in small groups and with the class teacher or a Teaching/Learning Assistant.

Children are provided with constructive and timely feedback in lessons. Teachers provide parents with feedback on their child’s progress and achievement at parent’s evening, achievement assemblies, through termly progress check reports and in the end of year report.

We also promote an open door policy whereby our parents feel comfortable discussing any concerns and teachers can discuss particular strengths and targets.

What is the Phonics Screening Check?
The attainment and progress of children in phonics is assessed regularly across the year, both discretely at the end of each phase or term, through reading and writing tasks set across the curriculum and through formal assessments.

At the end of Year 1, children participate in the phonics screening check which assesses their knowledge of grapheme/phoneme correspondence and their skills in blending. This information is submitted to the local authority.

Those children who do not pass the phonics screening check are highlighted for further intervention and targeted support before completing the screening check again at the end of Year 2. For children who do not succeed a second time, provision is made for them to receive focused intervention and targeted support in Key Stage 2.

Previous Phonics Screening Checks
Below are some previous checks that you can download and practice with your child:
 Phonics Check 2013.pdf
 Phonics Check 2014.pdf
 Phonics Check 2015.pdf
 Phonics Check 2016.pdf

The check contains a mix of real words and ‘non-words’ or ‘pseudo-words’ (or ‘nonsense/alien words’). Children will be told before the check that there will be non-words that he or she will not have seen before. All children will be familiar with this because we already use ‘non-words’ when we teach phonics. Non-words are important to include because words such as ‘vap’ or ‘jound’ are new to all children. Children cannot read the non-words by using their memory or vocabulary; they have to use their decoding skills. This is a fair way to assess their ability to decode.


Jolly Phonics Useful Phonics Resources & Links
The Parent/Teacher Guide provides background information on the Jolly Phonics programme and also suggests products that would be suitable for use in the home.

The Jolly Phonics website has a wide range of worksheets and activities that your children will enjoy working through at home, as well as guidance if you are new to phonics:

Where can I hear the letter sounds?
Download all the 42 letter sounds taught in Jolly Phonics and practice them with your child:
 Jolly Phonics Letter Sounds - How we pronounce the sounds at school
 Jolly Phonics Action Songs a-z - Sing along and learn your sounds

Where can I get activity ideas?
Browse the range of handy activity sheets and word banks that you can use to support your child at home:

Where can I see videos of the teaching
A selection of teaching videos showing the key skills taught in Jolly Phonics can be found on the Jolly Phonics Youtube channel:

Early Reading
To support children in applying their phonic skills we use a variety of reading schemes in Foundation and Key Stage 1, including mixed books from Collins, Oxford and Pearson Bug Club which are organised into reading bands. The books which the children take home, are carefully matched to the child’s current reading ability and are fully decodable to allow the child to practice sounds they have learnt and therefore increase fluency and enjoyment of reading. Books are changed regularly. Parents are encouraged to fill out a small section in their child’s reading record, outlining their reading experience - did they like the book, were they able to read it fluently, were there any words they found challenging? etc.

We also teach a wide range of nursery rhymes, traditional stories and songs and read ‘quality texts’ to and with the children. This helps to increase the number of words they know – their vocabulary – and helps them talk confidently about books. The children learn to identify rhyme and alliteration.

When children are decoding fluently, they move from the reading scheme to Accelerated Reader, choosing their own individual reading books from the decimal-coded selection. Children take an online quiz when they finish their book and the data helps teachers to monitor children’s progress, ensuring that comprehension skills continue to develop.

In Year 2 children may be invited to select a book from the class library which is intended for them to read and talk about with an adult at home.
 Reading Progression Grid.pdf
 Progression Reading Targets Years 1-6.pdf


Useful Resources for Phonics & Early Reading
 Jolly Phonics Actions Sheet.pdf
 Phonics Word List.pdf
 Phonics  Alternative Pronunciations and Spellings.pdf
 Parent Phonics  Booklet 2023.pdf
 A4 Phase 2 Sound Chart.pdf
 A4 Phase 3 Sound Chart.pdf
 A4 Phase 5 Sound Chart.pdf

Useful Videos: – Mr Thorne Does Phonics – an excellent range of videos that children love to use to learn their phonics – Jolly Phonics Phase 2 song which has actions to help children remember the sounds – Jolly Phonics Phase 3 song which has actions to help children remember the sounds – Video of teachers going through the Phase 3 sounds – Video of a teacher going through the Phase 5 sounds

Accelerated Reader
Accelerated Reader (AR) is a computer program that helps teachers manage and monitor children’s independent reading practice. 

At Orchard Primary School, children in Year 3 upwards use AR, with children in Year 2 using the system after Christmas.

How does Accelerated Reader work?
Your child will choose a book at their own level and read it at their own pace.  When finished, they will take a short quiz on the computer.  Passing the quiz is an indication that your child has understood the book.

Accelerated Reader gives both children and teachers feedback based on the quiz results, which the teacher then uses to help your child set goals and direct ongoing reading practice.

Accelerated Reader is used as part of a comprehensive reading programme in place at Orchard Primary School.  While we continue to teach the skills of reading in class through shared reading texts and whole class texts, the Accelerated Reader books chosen by your child will provide them with the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills they have developed.

What are STAR Reading Tests?
Every child taking part in Accelerated Reader will complete a STAR reading test at the beginning of the year and at the end of each half-term.  It is a twenty minute multiple choice reading assessment completed individually on the computer.  Questions continually adjust to your child’s responses so if their response is correct, the difficulty level is increased.  If they miss a question or give an incorrect answer, the difficulty level is reduced.

The STAR reading test, along with teacher judgement assists us in identifying a child’s ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development) range i.e. it provides the band from which pupils should select books. The range aims to challenge a child without causing frustration or loss of motivation. A ZPD can change throughout the year based on STAR reading tests, professional judgement and quiz results.

To ensure children experience success from the outset they begin each year by taking books at the lower end of their ZPD range.

What are points?
Every book that has an AR Reading Practice Quiz is given a point value. AR points are computed based on the difficulty of the book and the length of the book. Children earn points, or a portion of a book’s points, depending on how well they do on the Reading Practice Quiz. For example, a child who takes a 5-question quiz on a book worth 1 point will earn 1 point for 5 correct answers (100%), 0.8 point for 4 correct answers (80%), etc. A child who reads a book worth 5 points and takes a 10-question quiz will earn 5 points for 10 correct answers (100%), 4.5 points for 9 correct answers (90%), etc. For quizzes with 3, 5 or 10 questions, a child needs to pass a quiz with a score of 60% or higher to earn points. For quizzes with 20 questions, a child needs to pass with a score of 70% or higher to earn points.

How many Accelerated Reader quizzes are there?
There are over 26,000 AR quizzes available, with more being written every month.

Accelerated Reader includes several types of quizzes designed to support the development of several reading skills.

The quizzes we use at Orchard are: -

  • Reading Practice Quizzes are the most common type of assessment in AR. The purpose of these quizzes is to determine whether your child has read a book, to measure your child’s literal comprehension of the book and to provide immediate feedback. Each Reading Practice Quiz consists of 3, 5, 10 or 20 multiple-choice questions depending on book level and length.
  • Vocabulary Practice Quizzes measure a child’s command of vocabulary words encountered while reading. They are designed to reinforce vocabulary acquisition, assist with individualising vocabulary instruction and generate your child’s interest in words through authentic, in-context literature experiences. Quizzes include 5, 10 or 15 words from a particular book as well as review words from previously read books.

How much will my child read during the school day?
According to research, children who read at least 20 minutes a day in school and 20 minutes a day at home with a 90% comprehension rate (average percentage correct) on AR quizzes see the greatest gains. Therefore, your child will have 20 minutes set aside for reading during each school day. Please replicate this at home too.

How can I help my child become a better reader?
As with anything, performance improves with practice. Encourage your child to read at home. Create a culture of reading in your household by reading with your child, starting a home library, visiting your local library or bookshop on a regular basis, letting your child see you reading and discussing books that each of you have read. When reading with your child, stop and ask questions to be sure your child is comprehending what is read. Reading with your child, no matter what the child’s age, is an important part of developing a good reader, building a lifelong love of reading and learning and creating a loving relationship between you and your child.


Useful Websites Phonics advice and access to free E-Books. Free to register. - Suggested books for children, advice on how to read with your child, book lists, fun games, competitions to win free books, Children's Book Club etc. - Expert recommendations and opening extracts of books. - Publisher’s website designed to give parents help and advice for reading with children.