St Therese of Lisieux

St Norbert's
Catholic Primary School

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Like most primary schools, here at St. Norbert’s we use a method of teaching called 'synthetic Phonics' to help children learn to read and spell. On this page you will find information on what synthetic phonics (known to the children as Bug Club Phonics) is and how you can help your child develop this vital skill.

Phonics is one method of teaching children how to read and write. It's all about sounds. There are 44 sounds in the English language, which we put together to form words. Some are represented by one letter, like 't', and some by two or more, like 'ck' in duck and 'air' in chair. Children are taught the sounds first, then how to match them to letters, and finally how to use the letter sounds for reading and spelling. Synthetic phonics refers to 'synthesising', or blending, the sounds to read words. It's based on the idea that children should sound out unknown words and not rely on their context.

Systematic synthetic phonics teaches letter sounds very rapidly, explicitly showing children how to build up words with letters from the start, and always includes blending with printed words. Systematic synthetic phonics does not normally teach spelling, but Bug Club Phonics does teach spelling by reversing the reading process described above, i.e.

• Children hear a word, e.g. “cat” and say it.

• They say the first phoneme: /c/.

• They write the corresponding grapheme: ‘c’.

• They say the word again and say the next phoneme: /a/.

• They write the corresponding grapheme: ‘a’, and so on.

 

This process is known as segmenting and is followed by the children reading the word they have produced by sounding and blending. In our approach, both blending for reading and segmenting for spelling are fully scaffolded. We model for the children how to sound and blend words for reading, but in each lesson children must attempt to sound and blend words for themselves to find out how they are pronounced. We also model for the children how to segment for spelling and continue to scaffold the children through the process with each word they spell. This ensures that they identify each phoneme and choose the appropriate grapheme in turn, until the word is spelt.

 

Bug Club Phonics teaches a new grapheme and related phoneme, or alternative spellings to previously-taught phonemes, in every Phoneme Session. This fast pace, backed up by daily revision of past teaching, has proved the most effective and successful method of phonic training. This means that the basic 40+ phonemes (Units 1–12), and then the alternative spellings of these phonemes (Units 13–30), are acquired quickly, and early reading skills develop rapidly. Decodable readers are introduced after just 10 days’ teaching at the end of Unit 2. This enables children to apply the taught strategies and enjoy contextualised reading early on. The order of grapheme introduction ensures that children start reading and spelling a wide range of words at the earliest possible stage.

 

Programme structure

 Unit structure

The following tables show what is covered in each of the units of Bug Club Phonics. (See also the section ‘Bug Club Phonics and the phases of progression’ on page 9.) For reference purposes, Table 1 (covering Units 1–12) shows what will have already been taught in Reception (Primary 1).

 

 

 

 

The following table (Table 2) shows what is covered in each of Units 13–30, the Key Stage 1 (Primary 2 & 3) part of the programme.

 

 

  

Extra tuition

To keep the class together, where there are a couple of, or a small group of, children who are struggling with the same element (for instance a specific sound), a separate nurture group, in addition to the whole-class session, is formed to practise and consolidate knowledge.  For those with greater needs, one-to-one tuition is usedto diagnose their difficulties and consolidate their learning. These approaches enable the whole-class sessions to continue, with every child having the chance to keep up and enjoy them.