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St Joseph's Catholic Primary School

With God in Our Hearts We Love and Learn.

St Joseph's Catholic Primary School



A St Joseph’s learner will develop a love for reading and become familiar with a wide variety of books, poems and plays from both their own and other cultures. They will read fluently with appropriate expression and good understanding and will enjoy recommending books to others.

A St Joseph’s learner will enjoy writing in a range of genres, selecting appropriate vocabulary, grammar and punctuation. They will know how to improve their writing and will have the ability to write creatively for the enjoyment of themselves and others.

Early reading begins with an introduction to Phonics in Nursery. Children continue their phonics journey throughout Reception, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 (where necessary).

Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS)

Following the update from the DfE around phonics teaching we have adopted a Systematic Synthetic Phonics programme (SSP) called Essential Letters and Sounds. This phonics programme aims to support children in making quick progress to become fluent and confident readers.

The principles of ELS are based upon:

  • the delivery of whole-class, high-quality first teaching with well-structured daily lesson plans
  • the use of consistent terminology by teachers, children and parents
  • the use of consistent resources that support effective teaching
  • repetition and reinforcement of learning
  • regular and manageable assessment to ensure that all children ‘keep up’ rather than ‘catch up

ELS teaches children to:

  • decode by identifying each sound within a word and blending them together to read fluently
  • encode by segmenting each sound to write words accurately.

ELS is based on simplicity and consistency and the programme is delivered through daily whole-class lessons. Practice and repetition are key. There is no ‘down time’ in the lesson – a consistent fast pace is maintained where every aspect of the 30 minute lesson is modelled for children.

Four Part Lesson

Each lesson follows a four part approach: ‘review’, ‘teach’, ‘practise’ and ‘apply’.

Review - Lessons begin by reviewing previously taught graphemes using up to 12 grapheme cards. Each card contains a mnemonic to help children retain the grapheme. Children say the pure sound for each grapheme. Harder to Read and Spell (HRS) words are reviewed and children are encouraged to use one of the words in a sentence. They then use oral blending techniques to segment and blend up to eight words using previously learned graphemes.

Teach – A new HRS word is introduced to the children. They are encouraged to identify the part of the word that makes it harder to read and spell. Following this, a new grapheme is introduced to the children through its grapheme card. The children repeat the sound and repeat the mnemonic as modelled by the teacher. Children practise writing the grapheme, while saying the mnemonic, for about one minute They use different methods of practising letter formation before scribing it into their workbooks. This could be air writing, finger on carpet, whiteboards etc.

Practise – Children read words with new grapheme that they have learned. Where appropriate, new words are used in context to ensure that children understand the vocabulary being shared.

Apply – Children read and write captions or sentences that include the new grapheme and HRS word. More confident readers are encouraged to read with expression, as modelled by the teacher. Children are also reminded about capital letters at the beginning of names and sentences. During this time, the teacher will begin an intervention with children needing additional support in sound recognition and blending.

Supporting all Learners

ELS is designed on the principle that children should ‘keep up’ rather than ‘catch up’. Since interventions are delivered within the lesson by the teacher, any child who is struggling with the new knowledge can be immediately targeted with appropriate support, usually during the Apply activity.

Over-learning, alongside a range of Apply activities, helps children who acquire phonic knowledge more slowly to succeed. Children with additional support needs are rapidly targeted throughout the lesson, and any remaining gaps in their knowledge are closed the same day.

ELS has three interventions that are to be delivered on a one-to-one basis: oral blending, GPC recognition and blending for reading. These are intended to be short and concise and last no longer than five minutes. This helps ensure that children do not spend excessive time outside of the classroom or in group intervention sessions where they are removed from the rest of the curriculum.

Using Decodable Reading Books

It is vital that whilst children are learning to read, they read books that match their phonic knowledge. These reading books are intended to be used during the lesson on Day 5 of each week and as home readers. Children keep the books for one week and re-read them at least four times in this period.  Re-reading ensures that children develop their reading skills and fluency. This, in turn, supports their learning in school; as children become more fluent at reading, they are able to focus on their new learning. In EYFS, the Apply texts in the workbooks can also be sent home for additional reading practice.

Supporting Children with English as an Additional Language

Research shows us that children who are learning a second language require extensive repetition to help them embed their knowledge and transfer it into their long-term memory. To ensure that all children can access every part of the lesson, there is repetition of activities and routines throughout every lesson. ELS mnemonics and rhymes have been developed and created with this in mind and provide opportunities for teaching vocabulary as well as supporting spelling and letter formation.


Phonics teachers will assess children within each and every lesson to ensure that they are 'keeping up' with their peers. In addition, assessments are completed each half term to allow teachers to target and close any gaps that may be present in either sound knowledge or reading skills.

EYFS – The ELS Half-Termly Assessment is used as a baseline assessment in Reception. It is designed to allow teachers to identify any gaps in children’s developing phonic knowledge and reading skills, further supporting daily assessment for learning. This is repeated each half term and progress is monitored closely.

Year 1 – The Phonics Screening Check Assessment is completed each half term. This allows teachers to target gaps in knowledge through one-to-one interventions. The half termly assessments are monitored to ensure that all children are on track to pass the Year 1 Screening Check completed in the Summer term.

Becoming a Fluent Reader

ELS is designed to be used as part of an early learning environment that is rich in talk and story, where children experience the joy of books and language whilst rapidly acquiring the skills to become fluent independent readers and writers. At St. Joseph’s, there are many exciting ways that we foster a love for reading. This effectively encourages early readers to engage thoroughly in their Phonics, Reading and Writing lessons so that they can access the wide range of stories and texts that they experience in school.

In every class, story time is timetabled daily. The texts that are chosen are rich in language to model what good writing looks like to children. Each class advertises which book their class is currently reading by displaying a poster on entry to the room.

Every classroom has a dedicated reading area. In this area, carefully selected books are displayed by their front covers so that children can make informed choices about books that they want to read.

In writing lessons, high-quality texts with a rich vocabulary are used to enthuse children’s writing. Each time a text is introduced, children are encouraged to find out more about the author so that they continue to make informed decisions about books they read in the future.

We have a school library with a wide range of books available for children to read. There is a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts that support their learning in other areas of the curriculum. In this area, there are recommendations of books that children should read during their time at St. Joseph’s.

Staff members share with all children which books they are currently reading. This promotes reading within our school community and encourages children to make informed choices about what they will read next.

We regularly have Mystery Readers in school. Family members are invited into school to share stories with the children. Through providing this opportunity, reading is celebrated by the wider community. Here are some examples of how the visitors feel about this experience:

“It was such a pleasure to be able to go in to Class B and spend a little time with the lovely children. They were all so well behaved and excited, it was such a good idea and amazing to see the lovely environment that the teachers provide for the children to learn in.”

“It was a wonderful opportunity to spend time with my son in his classroom and read to him, he was full of excitement and so were all of his friends.”

“It was an absolute pleasure to come into Frankie’s class and read Hairy Mclary From Donaldson’s Dairy to all the Busy Bees. Such beautiful well behaved children. I can’t wait to do it again.”

"Ivy really enjoyed reading to class B. She was a little nervous at first but Mrs Jobburns and the class made her feel so welcome! She always asks if she can do it again. 
I was also invited to come and watch Ivy read, it was so lovely to see!"

Term by Term Progression

See below for a long term plan of where specific graphemes and Harder to Read and Spell words are covered.

Sound Mats (phase 2, 3 and 5)

See below for the graphemes taught within each phase. Phase 3 of ELS covers more than just the Phase 3 graphemes - some challenge from Phase 4 is introduced (in the form of adjacent consonants) alongside the Phase 3 teaching to extend children's sounding out and blending skills.

How Can You Support Your Child?

  • Teachers will share additional reading activities on Class Dojo. This could be videos to introduce the sounds that are going to be taught the following week (pre-teaching) or modelled examples of letter formation. All of these have been carefully chosen and modelled to support and extend your child’s reading ability.
  • Read to them and always discuss the story you are reading to try to build your child’s comprehension skills, inference and understanding.
  • Practice the sounds they know at home. These are the sounds shown in the Term by Term progression and on the Sound Mats (see above).
  • Listen to your child read their home reading book AT LEAST 3 times weekly. Supplement this reading with books that your child chooses – this might be a book written by an author that they have found out about at school.
  • Talk to them! The most important thing you can do is to talk to your child and listen to them when they are talking to you. Try to extend their vocabulary range and their skill at talking in increasingly more complex sentences. Remind them of the vocabulary they have read in the books that you have shared. For example, try to teach them alternative words for ideas, or nouns they already know.