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Bridge Hall Primary School Where Every Child Matters and Every Day Counts

Teaching Phonics and Reading

A strong start in phonics

At Bridge Hall Primary School, phonics is taught using the 'Unlocking Letters and Sounds programme, which was validated by the DFE in December 2021.


Discrete, daily lessons lasting 20-25 minutes begin at the start of Reception Class.  To ensure that all members of staff who deliver the sessions teach confidently and with fidelity to the programme, we regularly access accredited training.  This training also facilitates a high level of consistency in the delivery of phonics teaching, both within and across year groups.


Unlocking Letters and Sounds Progression

In Reception, children continue the Phase One journey started in Nursery, or if new to the school, in their pre-school setting.  This phase focuses on general sound discrimination (of environmental and instrumental sounds and body percussion), rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and oral segmenting and blending.  The over-arching aim of this on-going phase is for children to experience regular, planned opportunities to listen carefully and talk extensively about what they see, hear and can do.  This phase forms the bedrock of developing children's early reading.

Phase Two is taught from week 3 in Reception (as Phase One continues alongside).  The purpose of this phase is to teach at least 19 letters, and move children on from oral blending and segmentation to blending and segmenting with letters.

By the end of this phase, children should be able to read some VC (vowel-consonant) and CVC words and be able to spell these on paper or with tactile resources.  During this phase, children will learn to read two-syllable words and simple captions as well as some high frequency and common exception words such as: I, the, to, no, go and into.

Four new phonemes are taught each week, with one day being regularly assigned to retrieval of the previous week's learning.


Term 1

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

Set 6:  l  ll  ss


At Bridge Hall Primary School, Phase Three is taught in Reception from the beginning of Term 2.  The purpose of this is to teach another 25 graphemes, most of them comprising of digraphs (two letters making one sound/phoneme) and trigraphs (3 letters making one sound/phoneme).

The children continue to practise CVC blending and segmentation in their phase and will apply their knowledge of blending and segmentation to reading and spelling simple two-syllable words and captions.  Children will also learn letter names during this phase, learn to read some more common exception words and also begin to learn to spell some of these words.  


Term 2

Set 1:  j  v w  x

Set 2:  y  z  zz  qu

Set 3:  ch,   sh,   th.  (voiced and unvoiced), ng

Set 4:  ai, ee,  igh   oa

Set 5:  oo.   ar.   or.   ur

Set 6:  reading words containing -ing with no change to the root word.  Assess and review phase 3 work from weeks 1-5


Terms 3 and 4

Set 7:  ow.  oi.  ear.  air

Set 8:  ure,  er,  reading and spelling words containing digraphs and trigraphs

Set 9:  review phase 3 work

For the remainder of Terms 3 and 4, the children will work to revisit sounds and common exception words that have already been taught as part of a mastery approach.  By the end of this phase, the aim is that our children can represent each of about 42 phonemes by a grapheme.

Phase 4

Phase 4 teaching commences in Term 5 in Reception.  Phase 4 comprises of a consolidation of children's grapheme knowledge with new exposure to CVCC, CCVC, CCVCC and CCCVCC words containing adjacent consonants.  There is also a focus on polysyllabic words and the introduction of further common exception words.


In Year 1 Term 1, our children continue to master this phase alongside Year 1 National Curriculum requirements, such as how to form plurals.  For a full list of the phonemes and graphemes covered, please see the progressions document below.

In Year 1 Term 2, our children begin Phase 5 learning.  The purpose of this phase is for them to broaden their knowledge of graphemes and phonemes for use in reading and spelling.

In Phase 5 (a) children will learn new graphemes for reading, for example ay and in play and oy as in boy.  In this phase, they will also be introduced to split digraphs, such as the a-e in cake.  This phase provides further practice in the reading and spelling of additional common exception words.

In Year 1 Term 4, our children begin their Phase 5 (b) learning.  In this phase, the children are taught alternative pronunciations of known graphemes, for example y as in 'by' and 'gym'.  This phase provides further pratice in the reading and spelling of additional common exception words.

In Year 1 Term 5, our children begin their phase 5 (c) learning.  In this phase, the focus is on the alternative spelling of phonemes, for example ch/as in picture.

In Year 2 Term 1, the children will revise Phase 5 (a) and focus on Phase 5 (b) mastery.  In Term 2 they will complete Phase 5 (c) mastery.  By the beginning of Phase 6 (in Year 2, Term 3) the children will move onto learning spelling as per the National Curriculum requirements.  By this point our children should know most of the common grapheme-phoneme correspondences.  They should be this point, be able to read hundreds of words, doing so in three ways:

  • Reading words automatically if they are very familiar
  • Decoding them quickly and silently (as their sounding and blending routine is well established)
  • Decoding the words aloud

It is during Phase 6 that many of our children become fluent readers ad they will start to read longer and less familiar texts with independence.  The shift from learning to read to reading to learn is taking place.

We recognise that for some less fluent and less confident readers, their recognition of graphemes consisting of two or more letters is often not automatic enough at this point.  We understand that the necessity for complete familiarity is essential and put into place interventions for support them with this.  These children will also benefit from rereading shorter texts several times in order to experience what fluent reading feels like.

Phase 6 also focuses heavily on the teaching of spelling, with a particular focus on: forming the past tense, adding suffices and the application of spelling in writing.

At Bridge Hall Primary, daily formative assessment plays a vital role in the early identification of any pupils who are in danger of falling behind in their phonics learning.

Over the past year, we have invested heavily in the teaching of phonics including supporting the lowest 20% through training delivered by Unlocking Letters and Sounds hub.  This has provided our staff with a sound understanding of an array of short, targeted interventions as recommended by Unlocking Letters and Sounds.  These interventions are delivered with identified children with the aim that they will 'keep up' rather than having to 'catch up'.

More summative assessments are completed every new term, assessing grapheme-phoneme correspondence and word reading.  The impact of interventions feeds into this, so it is very much a working document between summative assessment points.  Pupil progress meetings ensure that the Reading Lead can keep track of pupil progress and support teachers in ensuring accelerated progress for those falling behind.  Staff at Bridge Hall are skilled in ensuring the full engagement of all pupils within the whole-class phonics lesson.  As part of this, they may determine that certain children sit within the teacher's direct eye-line or more closely to a supporting TA or have additional scaffolds to assist them.


Supporting pupils who are new to the school

When a new child stats their journey at Bridge Hall Primary, it is essential that we establish quickly where they are in terms of their phonics knowledge.  This will be done by listening t the child read and carrying out a phonics assessment where necessary.

Ensuring a successful transition from Year 2 to 3 and beyond

We recognise that a strong transition programme between Years 2 and 3 is essential for success across the curriculum,  ut especially in reading.  All teachers and most member of the support staff across Key Stage 2 have received accredited phonics training. This ensures that the strength in our phonics programme does not come to an abrupt halt because the children have entered the junior phase of their education.  Furthermore, our intervention programme continues, with the same recognisable format and consistent approach for pupils, until the point when they become fluent readers.


What does a phonics lesson look like?

The sequence of teaching in a discrete phonics session

Every phonics lesson at Bridge Hall Primary is planned through Unlocking Letters and Sounds using a consistent session structure.  This enables children to easily access new learning.

Every lesson includes the opportunity to:

Revisit and review

Revisiting and reviewing recognition and recall of previously taught graphemes and common exception words.


Teaching new common exception words and new graphemes.


Practising the reading and spelling of common exception words using the new graphemes by blending for reading and segmenting for spelling.


Applying this knowledge to reading and writing sentences consisting of the newly taught common exception words and graphemes.

Guided Reading in Reception and Key Stage 1


From Reception through to Year 2, every child takes part in a Guided Reading session once per week.

These sessions are focused opportunities for pupils to practise their decoding skills and read with increasing fluency. Children are grouped in order for the books to be pitched at an instructional level.

Each session follows this structure:

Book introduction

Scaffolding and strategy check

Independent read     

Return to text                                                                                                

Respond to text

Developing Fluency

Reading fluency is described by Such (2021) as ‘a pre-requisite for the comprehension that is the purpose of all reading’. At Bridge Hall Primary, we recognise that reading fluently involves accuracy, automaticity and prosody. Such describes these as:

Accuracy – being able to decode where errors are very rare or entirely absent.

Automaticity – being able to read quickly, with relative ease. A reading rate of 110 word count per minute is likely to be required for prosody while less than 90 wcpm makes it close to impossible for meaning to be processed.

Prosody – the ability to read in a way that mirrors the sound of natural spoken language. This includes intonation, stress and rhythm.

In order to become fluent readers, we understand that our children must have lots of decoding practice. This is achieved by:

  • Allocating all children reading books which are pitched appropriately to match their phonic knowledge until they are fluent readers. Pupils are not asked to read books that require them to guess words or deduce meaning from pictures, grammar or context clues.
  • Giving our pupils the opportunity to read their reading books regularly in school (1:1 with an adult as often as is possible).
  • In Reception and KS1, children have small group guided reading sessions weekly.
  • Pupils in Reception and Year 1 take home a decodable book a week (alongside a picture book to share). Pupils are expected to read each decodable book at least 3 times to develop fluency and prosody.




Progression through 'Unlocking Letters and Sounds'

Introducing our parents to Unlocking Letters and Sounds