Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS) is our chosen Phonics program. We share the intent of ELS to ‘Get all children to read well, quickly’ and are passionate about every child becoming a reader.
All staff are trained to ensure we meet this intent and continuous training is provided to staff who teach Phonics regularly.
ELS teaches children to read by identifying the phonemes (the smallest unit of sound) and graphemes (the written version of the sound) within words and using these to read words. ELS is a whole class-teaching model. This means that every single pupil has the same opportunities when learning to read. Learning to read well, early, is a priority for every child. Children who may find it more challenging to learn how to read are given extra support from their teacher or partner teacher.
Children begin learning Phonics once the class has settled into Reception (usually by the fourth week), and it is explicitly taught every day. Throughout the day, children will use their growing Phonics knowledge to support them in other areas of the curriculum and will have many opportunities to practise their reading. This includes reading 1:1 with a member of staff, within a guided reading group and through continuous provision in the environment
Children continue daily Phonics lessons in Year 1 and regular lessons into Year 2 to ensure all children become confident, fluent readers and start to recognise specific spelling patterns within words.
We follow the ELS progression and sequence and use summative assessment to decide whether a cohort require amendments to the scheme. This allows our children to practise their existing phonic knowledge whilst building their understanding of the ‘code’ of our language GPCs (Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence).
We begin by teaching the single letter sounds before moving to diagraphs (two letters spelling one sound), trigraphs (three letters spelling one sound) and quadgraphs (four letters spelling one sound).
We teach children to:
- Decode by identifying each sound within a word and blending them together to read fluently
- Encode by segmenting each sound to write words accurately.
In Reception formative assessment takes place every half term to identify any gaps in children’s knowledge allowing the teacher to plan accordingly. In Year 1 and 2 children are assessed once they have completed the relevant phase.
ELS is designed on the principle that children should ‘keep up’ rather than ‘catch up’. We recognise that there may be specific barriers for certain children and offer smaller group teaching to enhance support. Where further support is required, 1:1 interventions are used where needed. These interventions are short, specific and effective. In Year 1 children are assessed at the beginning of the year and targeted for a longer daily reading intervention with one of our expert reading intervention teachers. This continues into Year 2 if needed.
ELS is supported by a wide range of completely decodable texts. These cover both fiction and non-fiction and are exciting and engaging for all our pupils. We match the guided reading and home reading texts to each child’s current phonic knowledge to ensure that they consolidate their most recent teaching and learning at home.
If children in Years 3 – 6 require continued phonics support 1:1 or small group interventions are used where needed. These interventions focus on gaps in children’s knowledge and are short and effective.
We create a partnership between school and home by running phonics workshops for parents of children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2.
High quality phonics teaching and learning means that our children can tackle any unfamiliar words that they might discover. Following the ELS progression, over time children improve their fluency and start to read easily and with good understanding. Those who need additional support are identified early and as a result, all children begin to read for pleasure, widening the opportunities for them to explore a rich and varied diet of literature independently.