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Early Reading and Phonics

Early Reading and Phonics

At Gatehouse reading is a valuable and rewarding experience, which is celebrated throughout EYFS. The children are exposed to a variety of nursery rhymes and have daily whole class story time. The teachers take pride in creating a stimulating environment which celebrates reading. Each class in KS1 has a specific area for reading, where fiction, non-fiction and poetry can be read, discussed and shared.


In EYFS, Literacy is taught in two week blocks, where the block is based on a text from the children’s interests. When planning, teachers ensure there is a variety of genre taught to ensure coverage across the year. In January, children start to take part in daily teacher-led guided reading sessions, where teachers share quality texts with children and encourage the development of early inference, prediction and sequencing skills through their structured questioning. Reading activities are also embedded within continuous provision.


At Gatehouse Primary Academy, we teach phonics through Read, Write, Inc (RWI). Read Write Inc. is a phonics-based reading programme developed by Ruth Miskin, which provides a structured and systematic approach to teaching reading, spelling and writing to children. It is used by more than a quarter of the UK's primary schools and is designed to create fluent readers, confident speakers and willing writers.


Children will begin the Read Write Inc Phonics programme when they start at Gatehouse in EYFS.

Information for parents about Read Write Inc

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Speed Sounds

When teaching your child phonics, we will use the term 'speed sounds',  these are individual sounds which your child will learn how to read quickly and effortlessly as they progress through Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. When the children have learnt the single sounds they begin to move on to two and three letter sounds these are called digraphs (2 letters making 1 sound like ‘ea’  in the word tea) and trigraphs (3 letters making 1 sound like ‘igh’ in the word light). Set 1 sounds include the digraphs 'ch', 'sh', 'th', 'ng, 'nk, and 'qu'. We refer to these as special friends.


Your child will be regularly assessed to ensure they are reaching their full potential and will receive additional booster sessions if appropriate. 


Set 1 speed sounds:



Set 2 speed sounds:



Set 3 speed sounds:


Fred Talk

As your child learns each sound (phoneme), they are taught how to blend the sounds together to make words. At school we use a puppet called Fred who can only speak in sounds, not whole words. We call this Fred Talk. For example, Fred would say d-o-g, we would say dog. Your child is taught to hear sounds and blend them together in sequence to make a word.



As your child learns each sound (phoneme), they are taught how to blend the sounds together to make words.  Your child will learn how to read real and nonsense words. Alongside this, your child will start to read 'green' words.  'Green' words are words which can be sounded out and blended like ‘dog’, ‘cat’.  



Sound Buttons and Dashes

Sound buttons are dots that can be written underneath a sound to support reading.  Your child will be taught to say the sound aloud as they touch the sound button.   If reading a diagraph (two letters making one sound) or trigraph (three letters making one sound), your child will know that this sound is represented by a dash underneath the letters which make the sound. See above in the word play, 'ay' is a diagraph, so has the dash underneath.

Fred Fingers

Fred Fingers are used for spelling. Your child is taught to sound out the word they are spelling and put up the correct number of fingers for the sounds they can hear in that word. For example: m-a-t = 3 sounds = 3 fingers. When your child starts to write words, they will be taught to use their 'Fred Fingers':


Say the word.

Hold up correct number of Fred Fingers.

Palm facing you.

Say the word again.

Pinch the sounds. (Gently pinch each finger as you say the sound)

Write the sounds.

Add sound buttons/dashes



As your child gains confidence reading individual words, they will move onto reading sentences, then onto 'ditties'. The Ditty books provide a bridge between your child reading simple words/sentences and reading short stories. 





Story Books


Children will then progress through the phases of phonics with accompanying matched reading books, until they are assessed as being secure in all of the phase sounds and can independently segment and blend the sounds to decode and read words in short books.