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Phonics and Early Reading



At John Betts, we believe that all our children can become fluent readers and writers thanks to a systematic and synthetic phonics programme. We start teaching phonics in Reception and follow the Government approved Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised, which ensures children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering phonics to read and spell as they move through school.


The system is based on a six-phased progression scheme which is taught in Nursery (prior to the children’s arrival) through to Year Two.

Reception – Phases 2, 3 and starting 4

Year 1 – Revise Phase 3 and move on to Phase 4 and 5

Year 2 - Phase 6


As a result, all our children are able to tackle any unfamiliar words as they read. At John Betts we also model the application of the alphabetic code through phonics in shared reading and writing, both inside 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.


Daily phonics sessions are taught in Reception and Year 1. In Reception, we build from 10-minute lesson with additional daily oral blending games, to the full-length 25-minute lesson as quickly as possible. Each Friday, we review the week’s teaching to help children become fluent readers. Assessment is used to monitor progress and to identify any child needing additional support as soon as they need it.

Each grapheme (the smallest unit of a writing system, such as a letter or a digraph) is introduced with a visual and an action to help children recall the sound. Handwriting is also supported as the formation phrase complements the visual cue for the grapheme. Please have a look at the Phase 2, 3 and 5 Grapheme Information Sheet below:












Early Reading

At John Betts, we value reading as a crucial life skill. By the time children leave us, they read confidently for meaning and regularly enjoy reading for pleasure. Our readers are equipped with the tools to tackle unfamiliar vocabulary. We encourage our children to see themselves as readers for both pleasure and purpose.


We teach children to read through guided reading sessions. We use books matched to the children’s secure phonic knowledge. These sessions are monitored by the class teacher, who rotates and works with each group on a regular basis. The reading practice sessions have been designed to focus on three key reading skills: decodingprosody (i.e. the patterns of stress and intonation in a language) and comprehension.


Guided Reading and Home Reading Books are levelled so that children can progress through the books in levels of difficulty. Reading deliberately patterned, simple, repetitive grammatical structures helps children to achieve early success. This success creates confidence – an essential prerequisite for ongoing, successful learning. 


Reading is all about establishing meaning and appreciating the purpose and intentions of the writer.  As children progress on their reading journey in later KS1, VIPERS is used to support and improve comprehension of texts:



Adults can use this bookmark (available as a pdf below) for examples of questions to pose when the child is reading:




Phonics and Early Reading Workshop

Reading Records – All pupils have a reading record. For young children this serves as a dialogue between the class teacher and parents about:


  • the book the child has read
  • what page they have got up to
  • how they read
  • how well matched the book was to the child's ability level
  • any words they have found difficult


For more fluent readers in Year 2, and for all readers from Year 3 onwards, the reading record becomes something else: a record of a child’s personal response, in writing, to the books they are reading.


Reading for Pleasure 

We value reading for pleasure highly and work hard as a school to grow our Reading for Pleasure pedagogy.

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


Every classroom has an inviting book corner that encourages a love for reading. We curate these books and talk about them to entice children to read a wide range of books. Buddy readers are paired to children from older classes to foster a love of reading and interactions that encourage conversations around stories. Termly visits to the local library empower children to access reading resources outside of school.


Everybody knows that learning to read is a fundamental skill for life. We recognise and value that learning the skill of speaking and listening are fundamental in supporting children's ability to read and write. We therefore provide multiple opportunities for children to share their ideas, thoughts and opinions through discussion. Teachers and Teaching Partners provide ample opportunities for back and forth interaction to model new language as well as how to conduct a skilled conversation. As a result of these approaches children expand their vocabulary and comprehension skills which enables them to read with confidence.  and In the first instance children at John Betts are taught the sounds made by individual, pairs and clusters of letters. They read books that are matched suitably to the phoneme they are currently learning in order to secure and deepen their understanding.  In reception class and in Year 1, children have regular phonics sessions that assist them to recognise letters understand the sound they make and blend these sounds together to create words. Letter-sound correspondence is taught through a highly structured synthetic phonic approach using the Little Wandle scheme.  

6. Reading Strategies



Reading strategies

Key phrase


Use a range of strategies, including accurate decoding of text, to read for meaning

Decode accurately

Read with basic understanding (recall)


Understand, describe, select or retrieve information, events or ideas from texts and use quotation and reference to text

Seek, find and understand Literal response to text.

Refer to examples in the text


Deduce, infer or interpret information, events or ideas from texts

Inference and deduction. Read between the lines; interpret information; put yourself in the character’s shoes.

Use evidence from the text to support views


Identify and comment on the structure and organisation of texts, including grammatical and presentational features at text level

Why is the text presented and organised as it is?

Comment on structure. Comment on presentational features


Explain and comment on the writers’ use of language, including grammatical and literary features at word and sentence level

Why did the writer use that word/phrase/image/sentence construction/ punctuation?

Awareness of the impact of the language used on the reader; literary awareness


Identify and comment on the writers’ purposes and viewpoints, and the overall effect

What are the ‘big messages about life’ here?

What are the writer’s attitudes, values and view on the world?

What is the writer’s purpose?


Relate texts to their cultural and historical contexts and literary traditions

What style of writing is this? Which literary genre does it sit in?

How does this text relate to the world of literature?

Can you put the text in context: socially/historically/culturally?


To help develop children develop these skills, adults create opportunities for back and forth interactions when they are reading. The links below are to a range of generic question prompts that adults can use to formulate questions to pose when their child is reading.

What are the books that children at John Betts study in their literacy units of learning? Please use the links below to view some of the titles which will be studied in different classes.

Reading journals – All pupils have a reading journal. For young children this serves as a dialogue between the class teacher and parents about:

  • the book the child has read
  • what page they have got up to
  • how they read
  • how well matched the book was to the child's ability level
  • any words they have found difficult


For more fluent readers in Year 2, and for all readers from Year 3 onwards, the reading journal becomes something else: a record of a child’s personal response, in writing, to the books they are reading.

Writing at John Betts


John Betts begins with a quality text by a significant author. This text provides the context for learning and development of skills. Children become immersed in the text through carefully planned and engaging starting points; they might have a visitor to their classroom, a message from a character or a drama experience. Opportunities for developing punctuation, grammar and spelling are embedded throughout the sequence of work, along with regular written outcomes. Each sequence of work will result in a purposeful and sustained piece of writing.


Children at John Betts also have opportunities to produce some non-narrative writing that reflects the topic being studied by the class that term. Whilst the narrative sequence based on a quality text is being followed, children build up an understanding of their topic by exploring it through the different subject areas. This understanding, along with explicitly taught writing skills leads to quality outcomes. Throughout the year children are provided with extended opportunities to write across the curriculum with clear purpose. 

Handwriting at John Betts


Each year, children across KS1 and KS2 have the opportunity to win their pen licence. This is awarded to children who consistently show neat and joined handwriting in all of their books. Class Teachers will monitor and guide each child on this journey and when they think they are ready, a child can go and show Miss Mair their books. 


We follow the Nelson Handwriting scheme and as part of morning skills sessions, children get to practise forming their letters correctly.


Attached are examples of the high expectations we expect from the children across the school, in order for them to be awarded their pen licence.