St Ambrose Catholic Primary School

Grow through the love of Jesus

Reading and Phonics at Saint Ambrose

Learning to read is a fundamental skill for life. In the first instance children at St Ambrose are taught the sounds (phonemes and graphemes) made by individual, pairs and clusters of letters.

They read books with strongly patterned language and picture cues which are banded. 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. Alongside this they learn to instantly recognise by sight the most common words in the English language.

Many of these words are not phonically regular and it is important that they develop automation in their sight vocabulary. They see a word and instantly recognise it, without trying to sound it out. This automatic sight recognition of common words is crucial, as they appear so regularly in all the texts they encounter.

120 Medium Frequency Words

230 Common Words

To teach beginning readers about letter-sound correspondence we use a government publication called Letters and Sounds’, alongside a commercial scheme called ‘Jolly Phonics’. The aim of this scheme is to equip children with the phonic knowledge and skills they need to become fluent readers by the age of seven. It is a six phased scheme which is taught in Nursery through to Year Two. Through these schemes we are able to deliver a multi-sensory phonics, reading and writing programme of learning.

Nursery – Phase 1

Reception – Phases 2, 3 and starting 4

Year 1 – Phase 4 and 5

Year 2 – Phase 6

Children have daily phonics lessons and grouped according to the phase they are learning. Groups are fluid and flexible according to children’s progress and need. Children’s progress is tracked regularly and lessons are personalised to meet the needs of every child.

Children are set homework to reinforce and develop phonics skills taught in school.



In the summer term children in year 1 take a phonics screening check. This is designed to confirm whether pupils have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard. It will identify pupils who need extra help to improve their decoding skills. The check consists of 20 real words and 29 non-sense words that a pupil reads aloud to the teacher. Results are reported to parents. Those who do not pass the phonics screen check in Year 1 are rescreened in Year 2.

Phonics at home

Tips for teaching your child the sounds:

  • It is important for a child to learn lower case or small letters rather than capital letters at first. Obviously you should use a capital letter when required, such as at the beginning of the child’s name, e.g Kipper.
  • When you talk about letters to your child, remember to use the letter sounds: a buh, cuh rather than the alphabet names of the letters: ay bee see dee ee. The reason for this is that sounding out words is practically impossible if you use the alphabet names.
  • When saying the sounds of b,d,g,j and w you will notice the ‘uh’ sound which follows each, e.g. buh, duh. You cannot say the sound without it; however, try to emphasise the main letter sound.

Useful websites:



Our graded reading scheme – which incorporates a range of books from different highly evaluated series introduces children to new words gradually.  We use a selection of schemes including Oxford Reading Tree and  Project X. These books are levelled into colour bands 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. We use another commercial scheme graded reading book scheme ‘Code’ to support children who are finding reading more challenging.

Our school library contains a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books for free readers. It has a wide selection of Classics which children are encouraged to read.

Throughout the year we hold various activities to develop an enjoyment of reading.

  • Each class teacher identifies a novel to read during each half term
  • We take part in an annual summer reading challenge, World Book Day, National Poetry Day
  • We invite authors, rappers to visit and each class has the opportunity to work with the visitors and share their work in a whole school assembly