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Phonics and Early Reading

 At St James' C of E Infant and Nursery School we use the scheme Read Write Inc. as our inclusive synthetic phonic programme to teach our children to read, to write and to spell. We have adopted this as our whole school approach as the programme facilitates a graduated and tailored approach to learning basic sounds and letter formation before advancing to more complex sounds and reading for comprehension.  The programme moves with integrity from learning to read to reading to learn.

R.W.I sessions occur each day as the continuity and pace of the programme is key to accelerating the progress of children’s reading development.  The children work in small groups according to their confidence and competence. These groups are reconfigured on a regular basis in order to match the pace and the progress of each child; this reconfiguration also allows Class Teachers to identify where 1:1 interventions may be required in order to meet the expectations of both the Phonics Check and the end of Key Stage 1.


Aims and Objectives

The overarching objectives of the RWI programme are to teach pupils to:

  • apply the skill of blending phonemes in order to read words.
  • segment words into their constituent phonemes in order to spell words.
  • learn that blending and segmenting words are reversible processes.
  • read high frequency words that do not conform to regular phonic patterns.
  • read texts and words that are within their phonic capabilities as early as possible.
  • decode texts effortlessly so that their focus can be used on reading to learn (comprehension)
  • spell effortlessly so that their focus can be directed towards the composition of their writing


Teaching and Learning Style

The core principles of the programme are;

  • Praise – Pupils learn quickly in a positive climate.
  • Pace – Good pace is essential to the lesson.
  • Purpose – Every part of the lesson has a specific purpose.
  • Passion –It is the energy, enthusiasm and passion that teachers invest into lessons that bring the teaching and learning to life!
  • Participation - A strong feature of R.W.I. lessons is partner work; partners ‘teaching’ each other (based on research which states that we learn 70% of what we talk about with our partner and 90% of what we teach).


Nonsense words (Alien words) 

As well as learning to read and to blend real words, the children meet “Nonsense words.” These words present an opportunity to assess a child’s ability to decode using phonics. Children who can read non-words should have the skills to decode almost any unfamiliar word. Nonsense words will also feature in the Year One Phonics Screening check in the summer term.


What is the Phonics Screening Check?

The national Phonics Screening Check was introduced in 2012 to all Year 1 pupils. It is a short, statutory assessment to ensure that children are making sufficient progress in the phonics skills to read words and are on track to become fluent readers who can enjoy reading for pleasure and for learning.


Parent Information


Here is some useful information to help you understand how we teach phonics through Read, Write, Inc. We also hold regularly parent workshops demonstrating how RWI is taught in school. 



Why are the children in different groups for phonics?

All of the children participating in RWI are regularly assessed and their progress carefully monitored. After each assessment period we will reorganise the groups as necessary to ensure each child is in the correct grouping to learn the next set of sounds they need to become a fluent reader. All children will pick up phonics at slightly different rates, the important thing is that they are constantly making progress. If we feel a child is not making the progress we would expect, then we will give them extra 1:1 support in order that they keep up with their peers.


What is ‘Fred Talk’?  

Fred the Frog puppet plays an important role in our Read Write Inc lessons. Fred is only able to speak in sounds, not whole words. We call this Fred Talk.

For example, Fred would say ‘m-a –t’ we would say ‘mat’. Fred talk helps children read unfamiliar words by pronouncing each sound in the word one at a time. Children can start blending sounds into words as soon as they know a small group of letters well. During lessons children are taught to hear sounds and blend them together in sequence to make a word. We start with blending oral sounds, then progress to reading the letters and blending them together to read the word.


The following video is an example of blending sounds with Fred.


What are ‘speed sounds’?

In Read Write inc phonics the individual sounds are called ‘speed sounds’ – because we want your child to read them effortlessly. Set 1 sounds are the initial letter sounds. They are taught in the following order.


Set 1 speed sounds

m, a, s, d, t, i, n, p, g, o, c, k, u, b, f, e, l, h, sh, r, j, v, y, w, th, z, ch, qu, x, ng, nk

When writing the letter sounds the children use a picture and a phrase to help form the letters correctly.

e.g. M – maisie, mountain, mountain

Set 2 speed sounds

ay, ee, igh, ow, oo, oo,ar, or, air, ir, ou, oy

There are 12 Set 2 ‘speed sounds’ that are made up of two or three letters which represent just one sound, e.g. ay as in play, ee as in tree and igh as in high.

When children learn their Set 2 sounds they will learn:

  • the letters that represent a speed sound e.g. ay
  • a simple picture prompt linked to the ‘speed sound’ and a short phrase to say e.g. may I play
  • We call these 2/3 letter sounds that go together ‘special friends’


Every speed sound has a list of green words linked to it, so your child can ‘sound out’ and ‘sound blend’ words containing the new speed sound they have just learnt, for example (fred talk) s-p-r-ay = spray.


Vowel sound

Set 2 Speed Sound Rhyme

Green words (decodable)


ay: may I play

day play say may way spray


ee: what can you see?

See been seen sleep three green


igh: fly high

high might light bright night fright


ow: blow the snow

snow slow know show blow low


oo: poo at the zoo

too zoo food pool moon spoon


oo: look at a book

took shook cook foot look book


ar: start the car

star part hard sharp car start


or: shut the door

sort short snort horse sport fork


air: that’s not fair

fair stair hair air lair chair


ir: whirl and twirl

girl third whirl twirl dirt bird


ou: shout it out

out mouth round found loud shout


oy: toy for a boy

toy boy enjoy


Set 3 speed sounds

a-e, ea, i-e, o-e, u-e, aw, are, ur, ow, oi, ai, e, oa, ew,er, ire, ear, ure

When learning their Set 3 speed sounds they will be taught that there are more ways in which the same sounds are written, e.g. ee as in tree and ea as in tea.

Vowel sound

Set 3 Speed Sound Rhyme

Green words (decodable)


a-e: make a cake

shake make cake name same late date


ea: cup of tea

real please dream seat cream


i-e: nice smile

hide shine white nice time like smile


o-e: phone home

hope home phone spoke note broke


u-e: huge brute

tune use June  huge brute


aw: yawn at dawn

saw paw yawn law dawn crawl


are: care and share

share dare scare square bare


ur: nurse with a purse

burn turn spurt nurse purse hurt


ow: brown cow

how now down brown town cow


oi: spoil the boy

join coin voice


ai: snail in the rain

snail paid tail paint train rain 


e: he me she we

he me she we be


oa: goat in a boat

goat boat road throat toast coat


ew: chew the stew

chew new flew blew drew grew


er: better letter

never better weather proper corner after


ire: fire fire

fire hire wire bonfire inspire conspire 


oar: hear with your ear

hear fear dear near ear


ure: sure it’s pure

Pure sure cure picture mixture creature future


What is ‘word time’?

As soon as children have learnt a few initial letter sounds they begin to learn to blend the sounds together to read real words in a Word Time session. Each word time session involves oral blending of known sounds before they are shown the words written down on green cards. Children practice Fred talking the words until they become able to read them on sight. Children who are becoming excellent at reading single words are introduced to reading whole sentences. Once children are confident reading the short sentences they are challenged to use their developing phonic knowledge to write a sentence.

See link below for word time example.


Book Bag Books

Children will first be introduced to ‘Ditty books’ when they successfully begin to read single words and know all set 1 sounds. From this point they will bring home the book that they are working on in their RWI group. 

They will also be given a Book Bag Book with the same sounds that they are learning or have previously been taught in their phonics group, so that they can consolidate at home. 


Order of Story books: Children will hopefully follow the order listed below. The expectation is that all children will leave Year One as confident speedy readers, ready to take on the challenges of Year Two. However, some children may need extra support and your teacher will talk to you about this. 


Books                                                                             Year Group Expectations

Red Books 1-10                                                               Reception

Green 1-10                                                                      Reception

Purple 1-10                                                                     Reception

Pink 1-10                                                                         Year 1

Orange 1-12                                                                    Year 1

Yellow 1-10                                                                      Year 1

Blue 1-10                                                                         Year 1/2

Grey 1-13                                                                         Year 1/2                             


It is important that you continue to read stories, non-fiction and poems to your child as this will help them hear the structure of texts and build up their vocabulary bank.

Ruth Miskin, the founder of Read Write Inc, had complied a selection of short videos that give lots more information and examples. They are really worth watching - Click the link below to find out more about


  • Saying sounds correctly
  • Linking sounds to letters
  • Two letters, one sound
  • Practise, practise, practise
  • Putting sounds together to read simple words
  • Tricky words
  • Reading books
  • Using pictures
  • Writing letters
  • Read to your child as much as you can

Please see your child’s teacher for any further information you may need with regards to reading.