Holy Cross Catholic Primary School


Phonics at Holy Cross

Phonics is a way of teaching children to read and write by blending and segmenting individual sounds. It is vitally important that children know the sound each letter makes (and not just the letter name) and also the sounds that can be made when different letters are joined together, for example ‘sh’ and ‘ai’.

At Holy Cross we are introducing a Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) programme called Little Wandle. We believe a structured teaching of phonics is fundamental to pupils going on to become fluent readers and therefore developing a love of reading. This rigorous and structured programme of teaching begins in Nursery and continues to Year 2. Any pupils still requiring support in Key Stage 2 also receive phonics sessions. We begin by encouraging children to explore and experiment with sounds, differentiating between sounds, becoming familiar with rhyme, rhythm and alliteration and finally orally segmenting and blending words.

Children throughout Reception and Year 1 take part in daily Phonics sessions. These sessions focus on learning new GPCs (Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence), decoding to read words and segmenting the sounds in a given word to spell. During Phonics lessons we also teach children to read and write ‘tricky words’. These are words that you cannot sound out and need to be learnt.

Alongside the teaching of phonics, children have access to a language rich environment, where they are able to apply their decoding skills and develop language comprehension in order to read and develop a lifelong love of books with a wide range of genres and authors. Pupils will read books closely matched to their phonic knowledge both in school and at home. They will reread books to increase phonic knowledge, fluency and understanding.

Key vocabulary:

Digraph – two letters make one sound (e.g. sh, ch, ai, ea, ou, ow).

Trigraph – three letters make one sound (e.g. igh, ear, air).

Split digraph – two letters make one sound but the letters have been split by another letter (e.g. a-e in cake)

Phoneme – a single unit of sound

Grapheme – a written letter, or group of letters that represent a sound.

GPC (Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence) – knowing how to match the phoneme with the grapheme.

Blend – to put or merge the sounds together to make a word (e.g. the sounds d-o-g are blended to the word ‘dog’.)

Segment – to break down the word into its individual sounds to spell (e.g cat can be split into the sounds c-a-t.).

Sound buttons – ways of visually isolating different sounds in a word. We use a dot under letters where one letter makes one sound and a line understand digraphs or trigraphs.


Reading is a vital skill that should be acquired as early and efficiently as possible to enable children to have maximum access to all areas of the curriculum. We aim to develop in our pupils a love of reading that will stay with them throughout their lives. This is also a key indicator for success in the future.

Reading is promoted as an enjoyable activity and as a life skill at Holy Cross. We instil a love of reading in our pupils through well-taught and carefully planned, engaging lessons and regular reading sessions. 

Our aims are to enable children to:

  • Develop positive attitudes towards reading, so that it is a pleasurable and meaningful activity
  • Use reading skills as an integral part of learning across the curriculum
  • Read and respond to a variety of texts whilst gaining increasing levels of accuracy, fluency, independence and understanding
  • Develop different strategies for approaching reading, and be able to use and understand the full range of strategies 

Children are taught to read by:

  • Regularly hearing high quality texts that are read to them on a regular basis in school
  • following a systematic synthetics phonics programme to ensure a high degree of success and confidence
  • reading books with adults both at school and at home
  • discussing texts in small groups or as a whole class
  • answering comprehension questions about a text they have listened to, or read themselves
  • identifying new vocabulary
  • practising and extending reading across the curriculum

Children have a range of reading opportunities throughout the course of the school day, in which to develop and extend their skills, confidence and interest. These include:

  • guided reading or whole class reading
  • independent reading
  • listening to books read aloud
  • pupils selecting their own choice of texts
  • regular reading of shared texts during English lessons
  • reading in other subjects across the curriculum
  • regular reading with an adult
  • reading or listening to books on Chromebooks

Reading Scheme

At Holy Cross we are introducing our pupils to fully decodable books from Collins Big Cat Phonic Reading Scheme. These books are matched to pupils’ phonic knowledge and are read in class during the week with an adult. Pupils are then able to read this book at home as an eBook. We feel this repetition and practise of decoding, comprehension and reading with prosody help pupils to become increasingly fluent and more confident. We also want pupils to share and enjoy books with their families and so pupils are able to choose free choice books.

In Key Stage 2, pupils select appropriate texts under the guidance of the teacher or teaching assistant for independent and home/school reading. As pupils progress through the school, they are given more responsibility for making their own reading choices from the wide range of resources we have in school.

Promoting Reading

Reading is an important part of the curriculum and helps children access learning in all subjects. Children who read for pleasure gain a rich vocabulary, more knowledge, critical thinking skills and become independent learners. As well as this, research also suggests that reading helps to improve the mental well-being of children. It is therefore vital that children find learning to read and write a rewarding and successful experience. Reading is promoted as an enjoyable and enriching experience to both children and parents via a wide range of activities, such as World Book Day, author visits, reader leaders, reading buddies, and enticing and exciting book corners. We also encourage children to read to an adult at home at least four times a week.

Some useful websites: