Literacy and Reading

By beginning with phonics at an early age, we aim to lay firm foundations for literacy and seek to build on them throughout a pupil’s time with us.  Like all learning at Joseph Clarke School, we always respond to each pupil’s individual needs which means pupils learn at their own pace using methods that best suit their needs.  For some pupils, this will mean using an Intensive Interaction approach to communication and tactile signs and symbols.  Some pupils will follow a Functional Approach to Braille focussing on key vocabulary whilst others go on to use Braille as their primary medium.

Phonics at Joseph Clarke School

At Joseph Clarke School we feel that learning to read using either braille or print is an essential part of developing independent learners and a life skill that will be used beyond a pupil’s schooling with us. Teaching of phonics and the development of reading for each pupil personalised according to each pupil’s individual needs. This may involve communication development, sound awareness, playing with sounds, reading their name, functional reading skills that will impact upon a student’s independence skills, or reading to access the curriculum which could then lead to a love of reading for pleasure throughout their lives.

Why phonics is used to develop reading and spelling.

Phonological awareness is an important aspect of the development of phonics for reading and spelling. It also plays an important role in the development of vocabulary and impacts on the development of grammar and comprehension skills.

During the early stages of reading, phonics is taught as a way of decoding written letters and spoken sounds. As their knowledge and use of phonics is practised and consolidated, pupils will need to focus less on the actual decoding of words which then allows them to focus on the understanding and meaning within a text.

The teaching and learning of phonics

At Joseph Clarke school we lay firm foundations from the earliest stages of learning phonics and have established a consistent whole school approach to the teaching of phonics.  However, some pupils may use sight vocabulary more than a phonetic approach when learning to read.

At Joseph Clarke school we teach synthetic phonics in a structured and systematic approach following the Government Letters and Sounds document. We have short songs and actions to link to each single sound and focus on the correct pronunciation and enunciation of sounds.

Students who use braille

When teaching phonics, we include adaptations for braille users; the order of learning sounds in the Letters and Sounds document and learning of the braille letters is different. This means the early stages of phonics for braille readers may involve more oral learning alongside presentation of the braille grapheme prior to learning of the specific recorded braille letters. This stage is carefully assessed and tracked using our assessment materials to show progress and highlight areas to develop further.

Students with complex needs:

Communication development is essential for students with complex needs and the daily routines and short phrases that are repeated and linked to the daily routines, are essential. Phase 1 play with sounds and words is an enjoyable way of introducing sounds awareness to students with complex needs. The focus can then be on words that are important to the pupil and these words are incorporated into personalised stories as appropriate to their needs.

Pupils with Autism Spectrum Conditions

A range of approaches for teaching phonics are used when working with students with an autism diagnosis because each child learns in a unique way. This may involve use of visual resources, use of simple, concise language and minimal instructions. Depending on the need of the individual pupil they may learn phonics using the Letters and Sound approach or the whole word approach which combines concrete objects, photographs and picture symbols where appropriate and whole words in print or braille.

Initial stages of learning phonics:

  • Phase 1 - Introduce early phonics as appropriate for each child from Nursery age, ensuring Phase 1 is strongly established
  • Phase 2 – Lots of fun games and activities reinforce and consolidate the learning sounds
  • Phase 2 – Use of initial sound of a word/ name and class peer names to find a word
  • Phase 2 – Sounds are introduced in the order of the Letters and Sounds document, with an associated simple song and action.
  • Phase 2 – Introduction of tricky words in line with the Letters and Sounds document
  • Phase 2 - An emphasis, for all students, on oral phonics when learning to blend sounds to make words and segmenting words into their composite sounds alongside introducing them to the braille letters
  • Phase 2 - Use of modified print resources/magnetic letters for students with a vision impairment to enable them to read and blend sounds to make words and segment simple words to spell them
  • Phase 2 - Work on Braille graphemes in more depth in the order of learning braille
  • Phase 2 – use of pseudowords (nonsense words) as well as real words to help assess the level of phonic knowledge and understanding
  • Phase 2 – Work on blending sounds to read simple words and segmenting words to spell simple words with known letters and sounds
  • Phase 2 – A focus on the seating position for use of a Perkins brailler and position for reading braille
  • Ongoing assessment - into planning, reinforcement and consolidation of sounds learnt

Intermediate stages of learning phonics:

  • Phase 3 – Introduction of remaining single sounds and digraphs and trigraphs in line with the Letters and Sounds order of learning
  • Phase 3 – Lots of fun games and activities reinforce and consolidate the learning sounds
  • Phase 3 – Personalise learning and link oral and written braille learning so that braille users may still find their oral skills are higher than their physical skills of reading or brailling these sounds
  • Phase 3 – Focus also on decoding words more quickly so that comprehension of what has been read increases
  • Phase 4 – Within phase 4 some specific braille lower word signs and lower group signs are introduced alongside the phonics progression
  • Phase 4 - Continue to work on increasing speed of decoding words so that more understanding of what has been read is gained
  • Phase 4 – Similar activities to Phase 3 but with more complex words
  • Phase 3&4 – Use of pseudowords (nonsense words) as well as real words to help assess the level of phonic knowledge and understanding for both reading and spelling
  • Ongoing assessment - into planning, reinforcement and consolidation of sounds learnt

Later stages of learning phonics:

  • Phase 5 – Continue to work on sounds within more complex words
  • Phase 5 – Increase in phonic knowledge leads to fluency and should enable the pupil to gain more understanding of what they have read and to access their learning with more independence
  • Phase 5 – Continue to be introduced to different genres of reading and at higher levels of complexity
  • Ongoing assessment - into planning, reinforcement and consolidation of sounds learnt

Phonics sessions at Joseph Clarke School are:

  • Always stressing the importance of correct pronunciation and enunciation of sounds.

(See link     

  • Planned and taught daily using opportunities throughout the day to reinforce and consolidate learning in a cross curricular way
  • Using strategies, teaching styles and resources adapted to meet the individual preferences of the pupil
  • Fun and motivating, utilising students’ strengths and interests and using a variety of different media
  • Making use of the Letters and Sounds document

Assessment of phonics at Joseph Clarke School:

  • Phonics is assessed formally once a term with next steps noted for planning purposes
  • Uses separate assessment documents for braille and print users that consider the differing order of learning braille letters and print
  • Tracks progress termly for each student
  • Informal on-going assessment is made and next steps changed when necessary to move a child on or address gaps in their learning