“Teach a child to read and keep that child reading and we will change everything. And I mean everything.” – Jean Winterson

This quote epitomises the intent of the Read Write Inc. programme, which we use to teach phonics at Girnhill Infant School. The Read, Write Inc. programme is a systematic, synthetic phonics programme that explicitly teaches children to read fluently and accurately. All of the staff at Girnhill are trained to deliver the Read, Write Inc phonics programme in school.

At Girnhill Infant School, we value reading as a key life skill and one that lays the foundations for lifelong learning. We want every child to learn to decode quickly and accurately so that reading becomes effortless. This enables children to develop their comprehension so that they can then begin to read for pleasure.

Our aim is that all children will be able to:

  • apply a knowledge of structured synthetic phonics in order to decode unfamiliar words with increasing accuracy and speed;
  • read accurately, fluently and with understanding
  • be able to read with expression, clarity and confidence
  • develop a good linguistic knowledge of vocabulary and grammar
  • read and respond to a wide range of different types of texts
  • read widely and often for pleasure and information
  • engage in discussion to in order to learn to elaborate and explain clearly understanding and ideas
  • become enthusiastic and motivated readers and gain a life-long enjoyment of reading and books.

Read, Write, Inc. is a method of learning centred on letter sounds and phonics, blending them together to read and write words and using these learnt sounds in their reading and writing. Using Read, Write, Inc. the children learn to read effortlessly so that they can put all their energy into comprehending what they read. It also allows them to spell effortlessly so that they can focus on composing what they write.

The children are assessed and grouped according to their ability and they work with a teacher or teaching assistant in a small group.  The Reading Leader, to ensure that they move through the programme at a good pace, continuously assesses the children.  At the end of each half term all children are assessed and then put into new groups according to their phonic knowledge and fluency when reading.

Read, Write, Inc. Lessons

We begin by teaching the children set 1 sounds.  Children can start blending sounds into words as soon as they know a small group of letters well. Once the children have been taught the first 5 sounds (m, a, s, d, t), they are then taught assisted blending using the sounds that they know.  During lessons children are taught to hear sounds and blend them together in sequence to make a word.  We start with blending oral sounds, then progress to reading the letters and blending them together to read the word.

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 single letter sounds and set 1 special friend 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.  These are ‘special friend’ sounds.

When children are taught Set 2 sounds they will learn:

  • a simple picture prompt linked to the sound
  • a short phrase to say e.g. may I play
  • the letters that represent a sound (special friends) e.g. ay

Each sound has a list of green words linked to it, so that the children have the opportunity to sound out and blend words containing the new sound they have been taught, for example, s-p-r-ay = spray.

When learning Set 3 speed sounds the children will be taught alternative sounds/graphemes, e.g. ee as in tree and ea as in tea.

The tables below show each sound, the associated phrase and example green words for set 1 special friend sounds, set 2 and 3 sounds and additional sounds that are taught.

Set 1 ‘Special Friend’ Sounds
SoundPhraseGreen Words
shship, shop
ththing, thin
chchip, chop, champ
ququeen, quack, quest
ngThing on a stringthing, string, ring, king
nkI think I stinkstink, think, link, sink
Set 2 Sounds
SoundPhraseGreen Words
ayMay I play?day, say, play, tray, today,
eeWhat can you see?see, feel, need, sleep, three
ighFly highnight, fight, flight, high
owBlow the snowshow, blow, flow, snow
ooPoo at the zoozoom, moon, food, cool
ooLook at a booklook, book, good, hood
arStart the carstar, bar, car, start, cart
orShut the doorsort, short, worn, horse
airThat's not fairfair, hair, chair, stair
irWhirl and twirlwhirl, twirl, shirt, skirt
ouShout it outmouth, found, shout, loud
oyToy for a boytoy, boy, employ, joy
Set 3 sounds
SoundPhraseGreen Words
a-eMake a cakemake, cake, flake, bake
eaCup of teaneat, real, clean, please
i-eNice smilehide, shine, white, nice
o-ePhone homephone, bone, home, spoke
u-eHuge brutetune, rude, June, perfume
awYawn at dawnsaw, law, raw, straw
areShare and carebare, spare, scare, flare
urNurse with a purseburn, turn, hurl, burp, lurk
owBrown cowhowl, down, brown, frown
oiSpoil the boyjoin, coin, voice, choice
aiSnail in the rainpaint, train, rain, pain
eHe, she, me, be, wehe, she, we, be, me
oaGoat in a boatfoat, throat, boat, float
ewChew the stewFlew, blew, crew, new
erA better letterover, weather, never
ireFire, firespire, conspire, hire, fire
earHear with your earfear, dear, gear, spear
ureSure it's purepicture, mixture, adventure
Additional Sounds
SoundPhraseGreen Words
ueCome to the rescuerescue, blue, glue, clue
ieTerrible tieties, tried, pie, lie
auPaul the astronautPaul, August, author, pause
e-eGo Steve and Peteeven, Steve, Pete, theme
knKnock knock, who's there?knight, knee, knock, knit, knot
ckTick tock clockclock, pick, black, snack

Nonsense Words (Alien words) 

As children build up their knowledge of sounds they are able to apply their decoding skills to any unfamiliar word, whether it be real or nonsense.  During lessons each day children will practice their decoding skills by sounding out nonsense words.  Children are unable to rely on existing knowledge of real words, and instead have to use their letter-sound knowledge. This is an important part of the Phonics Screening Check that the children complete at the end of year 1.

Learning to Blend and Ditty Books

As soon as children have been taught a few initial letter sounds they begin to learn to blend the sounds together to read real words in a Word Time session.  Each word time session involves oral blending of known sounds before they are shown the words written down on green cards.  Children practice Fred talking the words until they become able to read them on sight.  Ditty lessons follow on from this where children who are becoming excellent at reading single words are introduced to reading short sentences.  Once children are confident reading the short sentences they are challenged to use their developing phonic knowledge to write a sentence.

Storybook Lessons 

After ditty books, the next stage is storybooks. These books are closely matched to their developing phonic knowledge.  The storybooks consist of green words linked to the sounds that they have been learning, red words and challenge words to extend the children’s vocabulary.  After children have practiced these words individually they are prepared to see them in context in the story.

Comprehension activities, partner discussion and writing activities based on the book, follow on from reading.

Reading into Writing

Each story book follows a three or five day plan.

Writing activities include;

  • ‘Hold a sentence’ which encourages the children to remember a whole sentence while focusing on spelling and punctuation
  • ‘Build a sentence’ which gives the children the opportunity to create their own sentence to that shows the meaning of a word
  • ‘Edit a sentence’ which allows the children to critique a sentence using their knowledge of spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Children then complete a longer piece of independent writing, which gives them the opportunity to show off their creativity and to practice their spelling, grammar and punctuation.