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Elm Tree Primary School

'Growing Enquiring Minds'

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How we teach phonics at Elm Tree

At Elm Tree Primary School we teach phonics using the Speed Sounds aspect of Read Write Inc (RWInc). We teach the sounds in the order set out in the RWInc scheme and use RWInc sayings and captions to teach the sounds eg ‘ay may I play’. This is a high quality phonics resource published by OUP. It sets out a detailed and systematic programme for teaching phonic skills for children starting in the Reception year with the aim of them becoming fluent readers by age seven.


The individual sounds are called ‘speed sounds’ – because we want your child to read them effortlessly. There are 3 sets of sounds in RWInc phonics.


Set 1 sounds Set 1 sounds are the initial letter sounds and 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


Set 2 sounds 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. When children learn their Set 2 sounds they will learn:  the letters that represent a speed sound e.g. ay  a simple picture prompt linked to the ‘speed sound’ and a short phrase to say e.g. may I play


Every speed sound has a list of green words linked to it, so your child can ‘sound out’ and ‘sound blend’ words containing the new speed sound they have just learnt, for example s-p-r-ay = spray.


Speed Sounds Chart - Set 2

Set 3 speed sounds When learning their Set 3 speed sounds they will be taught that there are more ways in which the same sounds are written, e.g. ee as in tree and ea as in tea.

Speed Sounds Chart - Set 3

What are “Tricky words”? Tricky words are words that cannot be ‘sounded-out’ but need to be learned by heart. They don’t fit into the usual spelling patterns. In order to read simple sentences, it is necessary for children to know some words that have unusual or untaught spellings. It should be noted that, when teaching these words, it is important to always start with sounds already known in the word, then focus on the 'tricky' part.

At Elm Tree these words are called RED WORDS.


What are High Frequency words? High frequency (common) are words that recur frequently in much of the written material young children read and that they need when they write.

At Elm Tree we refer to this words as RED WORDS.


Nonsense words (Alien words) As children build up their knowledge of sounds they are able to apply their decoding skills to any unfamiliar word may it be real or nonsense. During lessons each day children will practice their decoding skills by sounding out the letters in ‘Alien 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 Test children complete at the end of year 1. The following websites have enjoyable games for your child to play to practice their reading of alien words.

Blending and reading Fred the Frog puppet plays an important role in our Read Write Inc lessons. Fred is only able to speak in sounds, not whole words. We call this Fred Talk. For example, Fred would say m-a – t we would say mat. Fred talk helps children read unfamiliar words by pronouncing each sound in the word one at a time. Children can start blending sounds into words as soon as they know a small group of letters well. 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. The following video is an example of blending sounds with Fred.

Useful websites:


Set 1 Sounds

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