Phonics and Early Reading 

‘Reading for pleasure is the single most important indicator of a child’s success.’ (OECD 2002)

‘The will influences the skill and vice versa.’  (OECD 2010)

At Poplar Primary School, we strive for our children to become independent, fluent and enthusiastic readers, who enjoy reading a variety of texts. 




At Poplar, we teach Phonics through Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised, which is a government validated, systematic and synthetic programme. We start teaching Phonics in Nursery and Reception and follow this progression map,  which ensures children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering Phonics to read and spell as they move through the school. 


As a result, all our children are able to tackle reading unfamiliar words as they read. We model the application of the alphabetic code through Phonics in shared reading and writing, both in and outside of the Phonics lesson and across the curriculum. We have a strong focus on language development for our children, because we know that speaking and listening are crucial skills for reading and writing in all subjects.


In our Nursery, we provide a balance of child-led and adult-led experiences that meet the curriculum expectations for ‘Communication and Language’ and ‘Literacy’, for example, sharing high quality stories and poems, learning nursery rhymes, attention to high quality language. We ensure Nursery children are well prepared to begin learning grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) and blending in Reception. 


In Reception and Year 1, we teach Phonics for 30 minutes a day. Our Reception team build from daily 10 minute lessons, with additional oral blending games, to full-length lessons as quickly as possible. Each Friday, we review the week’s teaching to help children consolidate and practise their learning.  


Any child who needs additional practise partakes in ‘Keep Up’ and ‘Catch Up’ sessions, which are taught by fully trained members of our staff (teachers or teaching assistants). These sessions match the structure of class teaching, and use the same procedures, resources and mantras, but in smaller steps with more repetition, so that every child secures their learning. 


Alongside our Year 2 children’s daily Phonics/ Spelling sessions, we ensure additional Phonics support is provided for our children who are not reading fluently, or have not passed the Phonics Screening Check (taken at the end of Year 1). We use ‘Rapid Catch-Up’ assessments to identify the gaps in their phonic knowledge and teach ‘bespoke’ to these using the Rapid Catch-Up resources – at pace. We prioritise ensuring these children quickly catch up to age-related expectations in reading. 



Early Reading 

Alongside our discrete Phonics sessions, we teach our Reception and Key Stage One children to read through ‘Reading Practise’ sessions, at least three times a week. These are taught by fully trained members of our staff and in small groups of approximately six children. We use books that are closely matched to the children’s secure phonics knowledge (using the Little Wandle assessments and book matching grids). 


Each ‘Reading Practise’ session has a clear focus, so that the demands of the session do not overload the children’s working memory. These have been designed to focus on decoding, prosody (teaching children to read with understanding and expression) and comprehension (teaching children to fully understand the text). In Years 2 and 3, we continue to teach reading in this way for any children who still need to practise reading with decodable books. 


At Poplar, we want children to develop an enjoyment of reading and we work hard to grow our ‘Reading for Pleasure’ pedagogy. We design our curriculum around high-quality stories and poems; our ‘core’ texts. All of our children visit our stimulating library, which is generously stocked with age-appropriate and popular texts. Alongside this, each classroom has an inviting book corner, where children can spend time accessing a range of familiar and new texts.