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Phonics and Read Write Inc.

Learning to read and write at Polehampton 

In the first instance, we teach your child how to read and write using phonics.  Phonics is a method of teaching children to read by linking sounds (phonemes) and the symbols that represent them (graphemes, or letter groups).  

Across the Infant school, we use the synthetic phonics programme Read Write Inc, developed by Ruth Miskin, to help your child learn. The programme enables children to develop decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling) skills and also has some excellent ditties to support with handwriting and letter formation.  Evidence suggests Read, Write Inc enables children to make good progress in their reading as well as develop a love of reading. 

Read, Write, Inc aims to build children's speaking and listening skills in their own right as well as to prepare children for learning to read by developing their phonic knowledge and skills. It sets out a detailed and systematic programme for teaching phonic skills for children starting by the age of five, with the aim of them becoming fluent readers by age seven.

This video, taken from the Ruth Miskin website, explains the scheme in more detail.


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What is Read Write Inc? 
When teaching your child to read, we never use letter names at this early stage.  Many schools use different phonics schemes to teach children to read; however, at Polehampton, we believe Read Write Inc Phonics is the best scheme to support your child with their early reading.  Your child will be assessed and grouped according to their phonics ability, working in small groups with a teacher or teaching assistant.   


Speed Sounds 
When teaching your child phonics, we will use the term 'speed sounds', these are individual sounds which your child will learn how to read quickly and effortlessly as they progress through Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. Your child will be regularly assessed to ensure they are reaching their full potential and will receive additional booster sessions if appropriate.   


Your child will learn a new sound every day accompanied by a handwriting rhyme which helps them to remember how to form the letter shape when writing it. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in speech, this may be one letter, or a group of two or three letters which make one sound. For example, if your child was learning the phoneme (sound) ‘a’, they would also learn the rhyme ’round the apple and down the leaf’ when they start to write their letter.  In set 1, your child will learn 44 phonemes. 

Parent Video: How to say the sounds 

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As your child learns each sound (phoneme), they are taught how to blend the sounds together to make two and three letters words (CVC words - consonant, vowel, consonant - such as the word dog).  Your child will learn how to read real and nonsense words. 

 Green Words 
Alongside this, your child will start to read 'green' words.  'Green' words are words which can be sounded out and blended like ‘dog’, ‘cat’.   

Red Words 
Having gained confidence sounding out green words, your child will be taught about ‘red' words.  As your child progresses through Reception and KS1 (Year 1 and Year 2), they will learn these 'red' words by sight. 

Red Ditties 
As your child gains confidence reading individual words, they will move onto reading sentences, then onto 'ditties'. The Red Ditty books provide a bridge between your child reading simple words/sentences and reading short stories.  Watch the video below on how to support your child with their reading book. 


Parent Video: Red Ditty Books 

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Digraphs and Trigraphs 
When the children have learnt the single sounds they begin to move on to two and three letter sounds these are called digraphs (2 letters making 1 sound like ‘ea’  in the word tea) and trigraphs (3 letters making 1 sound like ‘igh’ in the word light). Set 1 sounds include the digraphs 'ch', 'sh', 'th', 'ng, 'nk, and 'qu'. They know these as 'special friends'. 


Parent Video: Reading the digraphs with your child 


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Parent Video: Reading the Set 3 sounds and words with your child 

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Fred Talk 
At school we use a puppet called Fred the frog who can only speak in sounds, not whole words. We call this Fred Talk. For example, Fred would say d-o-g, we would say dog. Your child is taught to hear sounds and blend them together in sequence to make a word. 

 Fred Fingers 
Fred Fingers are used for spelling. Your child is taught to sound out the word they are spelling and put up the correct number of fingers for the sounds they can hear in that word. For example: m-ee-t = 3 sounds = 3 fingers. When your child starts to write words, they will be taught to use their 'Fred Fingers': 

Say the word. 

  • Hold up correct number of Fred Fingers. 

  • Palm facing you. 

  • Say the word again. 

  • Pinch the sounds. (Gently pinch each finger as you say the sound.) 

  • Write the sounds. 

  • Add sound buttons/dashes. 

Sound Buttons and Dashes 
Sound buttons are circles or spots that can be written underneath a sound to support reading.  Your child will be taught to say the sound aloud as they touch the sound button. If reading a diagraph (two letters making one sound) or trigraph (three letters making one sound), your child will know that this sound is represented by a dash underneath the letters which make the sound. See above in the word play, 'ay' is a diagraph, so has the dash underneath. 

Fred in your head 
Your child's teacher will hold up a green word (close to their chest), giving your child time to mime the sounds, and will then push the word forward as a signal for your child to say the whole word (as opposed to blending individual sounds).  This will be repeated over a period of time, until your child can say the word straight away. Your child will start off initially mouthing the sounds silently and then saying the whole word to saying the whole word straight away. 

 We start teaching the programme in your child’s Reception year and then continue until they have worked their way through the whole reading scheme, usually this is during Year One or Two. We assess all children's progress regularly, to ensure that they are receiving the appropriate teaching and reading materials for their reading ability. Where children are making less progress than we would hope, we provide one-to-one tutoring for the child in accordance with the Read, Write, Inc scheme, to help them make rapid progress in line with their peers. Daily phonics lessons (30 mins) in Key Stage 1 are taught by either teachers or Teaching Assistants who have had Read, Write, Inc phonics training; in utilising so many staff, we can ensure that groups are kept as small as possible and that the teaching the children receive is tailored to their needs. 

Children begin by learning the Set 1 sounds in a specific order. They also begin learning to blend sounds together to make words after learning the first 5 sounds, firstly through practising oral blending. Then, when they can blend independently, they progress on to reading green words.  It is important to remember that each child is individual and may be ready to progress before other children. 

Your child will start to learn set 1 sounds (and set 2 if they are ready) in Reception.  In Year 1/2, your child will continue to progress through set 1,2 and/or 3 as appropriate.  

Parent Information - Set 1

Parent Information - Set 2 and 3 (link to handout) 


As soon as children can read green words, they begin to read stories in their Read, Write, Inc sessions. Each storybook is matched to the sounds they can already read, which sets them up for success and helps to build their confidence with reading. It is through these storybooks that we teach children red words, which are irregular words that are not phonetically plausible and cannot be sounded out (Fred talked). Each storybook is taught in the same way, with children practising reading the green words in the story and also the red words, before they begin to read the book. Children will then read the book several times to help build their fluency and comprehension skills.