Teaching phonics at Southview School

At Southview School, we take a whole school approach to teaching phonics. This enables children to acquire and secure automatic decoding skills, enabling them to progress from learning to read, to reading to learn for purpose and pleasure.

Grapheme-phoneme correspondence, blending and segmenting is taught in a clearly defined, incremental sequence, and phonic work is differentiated according to the skills of each child. It is taught as part of a broad and rich curriculum that engages children in a range of activities and experiences to develop their speaking and listening skills and phonological awareness.

The teaching of phonics for children with communication difficulties can be problematic. Children without any form of verbal communication cannot articulate or learn how to blend and sound out the words, which can be a block to them learning to read phonetically. Many of our children do not learn to read by using phonics at all, and may respond better to using the whole word approach, or by using a combination of symbols with the written word, which is favoured by children using AAC to communicate. Although they may not learn to read in this way, having a knowledge of basic phonetic skills may equip them to decode words later, or enable eye gaze users to access vocabulary on their devices which is stored alphabetically. As a school we use a consistent approach by using the Jolly Phonics scheme which we have been adjusted to incorporate elements of other schemes. This decision was based on its use of a physical action which reinforces the sound for children, and many will be able to sound out words using physical actions.

Our teaching also uses elements of other schemes which reinforce teaching. Namely the instructions used in ERR-‘my turn’, ‘your turn’, ‘together’, which can be used both in individual and group sessions to inspire confidence in children. It also uses the Letters and Sounds Phase 2 level of instructions as a base to teaching VC and CVC words, as well as some high frequency ‘tricky’ words such as ‘the’, ‘go’, ‘no’.

The teaching of phonics at Southview School is a multi-sensory experience, encompassing simultaneous visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic activities to engage core learning. It is systematic and follows a carefully planned programme which reinforces and builds on previous learning to secure progress within classes. There are opportunities to reinforce skills across the curriculum, such as having a ‘sound of the week’ activity. Children’s progress in developing and applying their phonic knowledge is carefully assessed and monitored. Teachers know their children well, and are flexible and sensitive to know where they may need extra support with using picture/symbol and whole word teaching.

Reading at Southview School

Southview School is unique in Essex as being the only PNI provision. Consequently, we have a wide range of ability throughout the school, from children working at early sensory levels, through to those able to read age appropriate literature, for whom we have developed a variety of opportunities to develop reading for pleasure. Reading is an integral part of what we do here, and each child will be nurtured and challenged to reach their full potential as they move through the school. We recognise that some of our children need an inclusive literacy programme, laid out in our PMLD curriculum, and others will follow a more ‘traditional’ route as laid out in our reading scale, which moves from dependence towards independence. At Southview, the functional use of reading is considered very important as pupils move through the school enabling them to live as independently as possible. Our children also face additional challenges with communication which can make learning to read phonetically difficult for them, and most use AAC as a support.


Pre-formal reader

Intent - At Southview, we recognise that children with PMLD have distinctly unique abilities and ways of working. Children identified as PMLD are likely to remain working at early developmental levels throughout their school journey. At the start of the academic year 2018-19, the school employed a school leader experienced in teaching children who are working at sensory levels. She has created a separate curriculum, our ‘Firm Foundations’-this is sensory based learning which will encourage reading in its earliest form-through early communication, interaction and engagement in learning.

Pre-reading behaviours - Children at this earliest level will not respond to the printed symbol, word or picture, nor be able to follow the sequence of a story presented in a book. They may well, however, enjoy a story presented to them in a multi-sensory way, and learn to make consistent responses to repeated actions, sounds or phrases.

Implementation - Underpinning everything, a good relationship needs to develop between an adult and the child. Adults will seek to understand children and recognise small changes in expression, body language or vocalisations and in this way will validate and respond to unintentional communication. Children will be given time to process information and engage actively in familiar social activities and events. They will have opportunities to participate in 1:1 interaction with familiar people in a relaxed and happy environment with adults who are attentive and ready to respond, echo and mirror the smallest of communications from the child. Physical comfort will be ensured as a priority. Targets are set in conjunction with the SaLT. Advice may also be sought from the specialist teacher team for VI and MSI. Targets will be taken from their EHC plans.
Children will have access to on-body cues, musical cues and objects of reference to help them begin to anticipate the structure of their day, changes of position or staff and activities. This encourages early sequencing, discrimination of objects and making choices.
Sensory stories and journeys will be a child’s earliest introduction to accessing stories, poetry and rhymes. These will involve the use of props and movement to encourage responses, engagement and awareness of repetitive phrases and actions.
Use of lights and sounds to develop early tracking which is especially important for those children with a sensory loss Development of switch skills. Pressing a big mac switch to communicate, make choices, and engage in stories and rhymes e.g. by repeating a phrase or sound at the appropriate point in the story.
Eye pointing, gesture and vocalisations will be used by a child to discriminate between different objects or experiences. Staff from Witham library to visit and deliver sensory stories.

Impact - Progress in pre-reading cannot be differentiated from communication/interaction, physical and the sensory world, and sensory exploration in our PMLD curriculum. They are all interlinked, and progression is often not linear. Progress can be affected by complex medical conditions and physical difficulties which require frequent changes of positions and interventions. Assessment tools include engagement scales, Quest for Learning, Communication matrix, switch progression and Positive Eye. All progress will relate directly to EHC targets.

Beginner reader

Reading behaviours - At the beginning of this stage, readers are not yet able to access print independently and may not yet have awareness that the text carries meaning.
They may have favourites stories that they like to share with an adult, and can remember key phrases from the text.
Children may join in with simple nursery rhymes, poems, songs and rhyming texts, by using sounds, speech, symbols, objects or photographs, or hi-tech devices such as iPad.
Symbols or photographs may be used to aid understanding in all areas of the curriculum enabling children to make choices and express their understanding.
They may understand symbols to convey meaning such as a visual timetable or Now and Next board. 
Children engage with phonics sessions and can recognise some letter sounds and CVC combinations.
Children may be able to recognise a few single words e.g. their name and those of their classmates.

Implementation - A suitable range of books is available in each classroom covering a variety of genres-fiction, non-fiction, stories from other cultures, poetry etc. Staff will regularly engage in reading of stories, 1:1 or in small groups.
Stories will be used as central to the term’s topics, and be read regularly to the whole class. This will be the same story read in the same way for at least half a term to build up children’s understanding.
Children will be able to access the local library, and their staff can come to speak to the pupils about accessing the Summer reading scheme.
Children will have access to structured phonics sessions using an adaptation of the Jolly Phonics scheme. Progress will be recorded. Some children who cannot speak or verbalise sounds may be at a disadvantage at reading phonetically, and phonological awareness is often delayed as they can’t practice manipulating, isolating or deleting sounds. Hi-tech AAC users often make use of predictive text, and phonological awareness may develop later as they learn to read.
Classes may have a letter of the week, and activities will revolve around that letter.
Makaton signing will be used to support the understanding or vocabulary to support all areas of the curriculum. Regular top-up sessions to support staff knowledge of core and topic vocabulary will be led by the school’s Makaton trainer.
Model one-to-one correspondence of printed words in books and in the environment. Books will be shared with older readers across school.
Children will experience a variety of adults reading to them i.e. World Book Day.

Impact - During this stage, children will become familiar with the function of books, and become aware of print around them in the school environment and beyond.
They engage with activities that develop early phonological awareness such as sound games and activities. Reading at this stage relies principally on memory of repeated experiences and exposure to words and symbols.

Developing reader

Reading behaviours - A developing reader is gaining control of the reading process. They can read familiar words confidently, and are becoming more independent at using their growing knowledge of phonics to decode unfamiliar ones.
They are able to access print in a simple book, and start to access a reading scheme. The print may be enlarged for those with visual impairments.
They can begin to access Bug Club, an online reading scheme, and can access this at home, sharing stories with their families. Children are making a transition from relying on memory to accessing words that are familiar but not known by heart.
They can access words on a variety of media such as social sight vocabulary and logos on familiar brands.
They will have a growing understanding of the meaning behind texts, and be able to re-tell, predict and discuss the plot in simple terms. They may need to rely on AAC to show their comprehension of stories.

Implementation - Displays around school will carry the printed word in addition to the symbol. Staff will point out the written word where they see it around school or in the environment, and children should be encouraged to read words wherever they occur.
Model directional principles for children, working left to right across a page, and finger pointing where possible. Where children are physically unable to do so, an adult may need to facilitate this.
Vocabulary to support teaching in all areas of the curriculum will need to be created to support children using AAC. This will involve symbols or words being loaded onto hi-tech devices to facilitate children asking and answering questions about the text.
Ensure children have a wide range of literature to access across a variety of genres, and include recognition of social sight vocabulary. Children are encouraged to read words on menus, packets, recipes etc to prepare them for independence in the community.
Children are encouraged to recognise whole words using high frequency word lists, and records kept of their progress in this area. Children will be encouraged to share books and read to each other.
Staff are trained in how to share books with children, and how to listen and encourage them to decode words and to question their comprehension, asking questions like ‘What has happened?’ and ‘What do you think will happen next?

Impact - Children will become more confident in using their reading strategies in a variety of situations. They will be keen to make their own choices in reading material, and will develop definite preferences.
Children may be able to sequence words and/or symbols to create their own simple sentences. They will become more confident in their understanding of simple texts.
They may re-read favourite simple stories. They are beginning to make connections and comparisons between stories. Older students may be able to access ASDAN.

Moderatelt fluent reader

Reading behaviours - Moderately fluent readers have developed confidence in reading unknown texts, but still like to return to familiar texts from time to time. They can join in with guided reading with a larger group of pupils, and can follow the text with very little support.
They may require some support when accessing new texts for the first time, or to read vocabulary relating to topic work/other areas of the curriculum. They are able to read to younger/less able readers. They may still require some help reading some new curriculum vocabulary, but will attempt words with increasing confidence.

Implementation - Records should be kept in reading diaries of the progress children are making. These should be shared with parents/carers. Children should be exposed to print in all forms, both in books and digitally.
In group reading and individually, children are checked in their understanding of meaning, and given opportunities to use their growing skills to order items from a menu or from the internet. They should have access to the community, particularly as they reach College, in order to use their skills in a functional way.
In addition to the reading scheme, moderately fluent readers should be able to choose reading material to suit their own particular tastes. Staff will be focusing on analytic approaches when approaching new words; such as looking at words within words, syllables, and common spelling patterns.
Children using AAC to communicate will use their devices to answer increasingly complex comprehension questions about the text, including explaining their ideas.
Reading will become part of the daily routine at school.

Impact - Children moving on from this level will be on the verge of independence and fluency. They may be able to access external accreditation such as ASDAN and functional skills/entry level examinations.
They are curious about literature and show enjoyment of books.
They are able to use their literacy knowledge increasingly independently to create their own stories.
They are able to use their skills in a functional way, accessing the internet safely to order online, and to read menus and other words in the community.
Children are building their stamina with reading.

Fluent reader

Reading behaviours - Fluent readers are capable readers, who read for pleasure, and approach familiar words with confidence. They have stamina and can read for longer periods.
They often choose to read at break times/their leisure times and will choose to read silently.
At the beginning of this stage, children will sub-vocalise the words, reading at the same pace as if they were reading aloud, but with maturity, the words become thoughts in the head and the rate of reading increases.
They will become confident with longer books that contain chapters, perhaps moving beyond the reading scheme, but may still need support with some information carrying books that support other areas of the curriculum.

Implementation - Staff will encourage children’s growing curiosity and interest in a wide range of literature.
Through modelling, staff will encourage children to cross-reference information that they find in a range of media.
Regular spelling assessments will encourage children to read and recognise words more readily, and prepare them for their own creative writing.
Regular assessments of their progress using standardised reading tests will be carried out on a yearly cycle. Regular daily routines around reading will be held in the classroom.
Staff working with children will emphasise intonation and expression when reading aloud to encourage children to recognise the subtleties and nuances in texts.

Impact - Children may choose reading in their own learning of a particular subject, either in information books or digitally. They may research a particular interest in their leisure time.
Children will participate in regular discussion about a text during guided reading/shared reading experiences. This may involve children and young people using AAC to communicate their viewpoints.
They will be able to access the written word in a variety of contexts with confidence including news articles and magazines. They may be entered for external accreditation e.g. functional skills, entry level.


Key Stage 1 & 2

I went to the shop
Stories with familiar settings
Non-fiction/information text

A long, long time ago
Traditional stories/fairy tales

Green living
Stories by familiar authors

This is me/where I live/my school
Non-fiction/information text
Stories with familiar settings

Lights , camera, action Stories by familiar authors


People who help us Stories with familiar settings


Dinosaurs/monsters Stories by familiar authors
Classic stories.

Food, glorious food Non-fiction/information texts

In the kitchen
Stories from different cultures.

A carnival of colour Traditional stories/fairy tales


Non-fiction/information texts

Abracadabra Traditional stories/fairy tales

Oh what a wonderful world
Stories from different cultures.

In a deep dark wood Poetry and stories with repetition

Down on the farm Stories with familiar settings

Water, water everywhere
Poetry and stories with repetition

Watch me go
Stories from different cultures.

Mini movers

Poetry and stories with repetition

Literacy work is topic based, differentiated and adapted by class teacher to meet the needs of all learners with AAC support as appropriate.

There will be 3 literacy sessions per week in KS1 and 2; 1 will focus on speaking and listening skills, one on writing, and one on reading.

Incorporated into literacy lessons will be sessions of intensive interaction and sensory experiences such as the soundboard. Learning leads will highlight the genre each term.

Key stage 3 & 4

Big screen
Reading and writing film narratives, dramatic conventions and scripts. Writing reviews of films.
Sharing poems (power of imagery) including poetry from Black poets - Benjamin zephania for example. Black history month is in October.

The importance of Dickens and studying a book if appropriate. Formal and informal writing and how to shift between the two.
Debating and balanced arguments.

Modern literacy classics
Class teacher to decide.
Also consider black history,
How to write reviews.
Extending narratives and story writing.

Stories from other cultures, traditional stories.

Inspirational people
Short stories with flashbacks, learning about fact and opinion.
Historical recounts

Dinosaurs and fossils
Read various non- fiction books. Look at at what makes a good non- fiction book. Writing to focus on reports, discussion texts and information texts.

Instruction texts,
Poems,(free verse, narrative poetry)
Persuasive writing and adverts.

British cultures
Myths, fables and legends.
The plays of Shakespeare. Word play, rhyme and metaphor.

Journalistic reports. Diary writing. Recounts.

Earth and space
Science fiction.
Persuasive writing.

Going places
Journalistic reports, learning about fact and opinion.
Historical recounts

Global rhythms and rhymes
Stories from other cultures.
Choral and performance.

A bugs life/James and the Giant peach
Novels and stories by significant authors. Information texts.
Debating and balanced arguments.

Machines and robots
Instructional texts, persuasive writing

Stories from other cultures.
Extending narratives and story writing.