Teaching Reading and Phonics at St Mary's

Every child deserves success right from the start. We know that the sooner children learn to read, the greater their success at school. This is why we put reading at the heart of what we do.

We use a teaching programme called Read Write Inc. Phonics to teach our children to read and write. This begins in Reception and continues throughout Y1 and Y2.

Phonics Learning Resources

Please click on the picture link to access the resources.

How do we make phonics easy for children to learn?

Read Write Inc. Phonics depends upon children learning to read and write sounds effortlessly, so we make it simple and fun.

The phonic knowledge is split into two parts.

First we teach them one way to read and write the 40+ sounds in English. We use pictures to help, for example we make ‘a’ into the shape of an apple, ‘f’ into the shape of a flower. These pictures help all children, especially slower-starters, to read the sounds easily.

Children learn to read words by sound-blending using a frog called Fred. Fred says the sounds and children help him blend the sounds to read each word.

Then we teach children the different spellings of the same sounds. For example, they learn that the sound ‘ay’ is written ay, a-e and ai; the sound ‘ee’ is written ee, e and ea. We use phrases and actions to help them remember each sound for example, ay, may I play, a-e  – make a cake?


The Order of Teaching 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.

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

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.


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 s-p-r-ay = spray.

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.

The sound, the associated phrase and example 'green' words


Vowel sound

Set 2 Speed Sound Rhyme

Green words


ay: may I play

day play say may tray today


ee: what can you see?

seen need sleep feel three green


igh: fly high

might light sight night fright


ow: blow the snow

snow flow know show blow


oo: poo at the zoo

mood fool pool stool moon spoon


oo: look at a book

took shook cook foot


ar: start the car

bar park smart sharp car spark


or: shut the door

sort short worn horse sport fork

Vowel Sound

Set 3 Speed Sound Rhyme

Green Words


a-e: make a cake

shake name same save brave late


ea: cup of tea

neat real clean please dream


i-e: nice smile

hide shine white nice wide like


o-e: phone home

hope home rose spoke note those


u-e: huge brute

tune rude use June excuse


aw: yawn at dawn

saw raw law straw dawn crawl


are: care and share

bare bare spare scare flare square


ur: nurse with a purse

burn turn hurl burp slurp lurk


ow: brown cow

howl down brown drown gown


oi: spoil the boy

join coin voice choice noise


ai: snail in the rain

paint train rain plain strain


e: he me she we

he me she we he


oa: goat in a boat

toad road oak loaf throat toast


ew: chew the stew

new knew flew blew crew newt


er: better letter

over never weather hamster after


ire: fire

spire bonfire inspire conspire hire


oar: hear with your ear

fear dear gear spear year


ure: sure it’s pure

picture mixture adventure pure




Reading the books

Once the children are confident in recognising initial letter sounds and blending these into words, they will begin to read ditties, followed by story books.

Before they read the story, they sound out the names of characters and new words, practise reading any of the ‘tricky red’ words, and tell them a thought-provoking introduction to get them excited about the story.

Then, the children read the story, several times, to focus on reading the words carefully; reading the story fluently and reading with understanding.

Staff read to the children, often, in order to model fluency and expression.  We talk to the children, as we read, commenting on the characters and events and sharing our thoughts about the story.  This modelling of our thinking encourages the children to do the same, thus helping them understand what they are reading more fully.

How do we teach children to spell confidently?

We use just two simple activities: Fred Fingers to spell regular words and Red Rhythms for tricky words.

Fred Fingers

We teach children to spell using ‘Fred Fingers’: we say a word and then children pinch the sounds onto their fingers and write the word, sound by sound.

Red Rhythms

We teach tricky words with Red Rhythms. We say the tricky letters in a puzzled or annoyed voice and build the letter names up into a rhythm, for example, s-ai-d.


How do we make writing simple for children to learn?

We teach handwriting, spelling and composition separately, gradually bringing each skill together step-by-step.

We teach children to form letters with the correct pencil grip and in the correct sitting position from the very beginning. They practise handwriting regularly so they learn to write quickly and easily.

Once children can write simple words, we teach them to ‘hold’ a sentence in their heads and then write it with correct spelling and punctuation.

Very soon children are able to write down their own ideas. We try out different sentences together, drawing on new vocabulary and phrases from the storybook they’ve just read.  They practise saying their sentences out loud first so they don’t forget their ideas while they’re writing.  They also learn to proofread their own writing using ready-made sentences containing common grammar, punctuation and spelling errors.


Story and Poetry Time

Over the course of the year, the children will listen to a range of stories and poems, learning to join in with repeated phrases, for example,  in traditional tales and also, sharing information in non-fiction books.  At St. Mary’s, we are very good at linking the chosen texts to the topics we are studying, each half term, and developing a range of reading and writing activities for the children to explore and enjoy.

How can you help your child?

To best support us in teaching your child how to read, we ask that you read the decodable books that are sent home every Thursday. It is expected that these books be read at least four times before being returned on a Tuesday. Reading the books several times will help to build their confidence and fluency. This is especially important as they begin to learn that the sounds within our language can be spelt in different ways.  Spending 10 minutes a day reading with your child will hugely support them in their journey to becoming an independent reader.


 The texts sent home are carefully matched to the teaching taking place in school. Your child will be practising what they have been taught in school with you at home.


You can further support your child by sharing picture books and other reading materials with them. Reading to your child is vitally important as, not only does it encourage them to develop a love of reading, but it will also support their language and comprehension skills too. Providing a language rich environment where texts are discussed and shared will have a positive influence on your child’s learning journey.