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Elmhurst School

An Academy of the Great Learners Trust


Phonics and Reading

Phonics and Reading Curriculum Intent

At Elmhurst, we follow the six phase program of 'Letters and Sounds' in the teaching and learning of Phonemic Awareness and Phonics.  We understand the importance of ensuring that every one of our pupils can read, regardless of their background, needs or abilities and have a relentless drive to succeed in this mission.


We have ensured that our Phonics teaching informs our 'Big Cat Collins' reading book scheme.  'Big Cat Collins' books show a culminative progression in Phonics and match closely to our 'Letters and Sounds' Phonics program.  All staff are aware of the reading stage expectations for each year group and robust assessment systems are in place to ensure we accelerate learning and respond quickly to the needs of our lowest attaining pupils.


Through prioritising budget on Early Reading and Phonics we are confident that our school is well resources and equipped for the teaching and learning of 'Letters and Sounds' and the systematic reaidng of 'Big Cat Collins' books.  We work hard to ensure that all of our children have access to stories, poems, rhymes and non-fiction to develop their vocabulary, language comprehension and love of reading.

Phonics and Reading Curriculum Content

Each year group covers several National Curriculum objectives in each strand of Reading over the course of a school year.

Phonics and Reading Curriculum Implementation

At Elmhurst phonics and reading are embedded throughout the entire curriculum.  Learners participate in dedicated daily phonics sessions in EYFS and Year 1, daily story time/class reader and reading instruction lessons (Reception to Year 6).


Phonics - Letters and Sounds

The systematic teaching of Phonics through 'Letters and Sounds' provides a solid development of our children's reading and writing skills.  For children to be able to decode new and unfamiliar words they need to be able to segment and blend the sounds (phonemes) in the words.  These skills are taught in phonics sessions throughout Early Years and in KS1.  They are also taught through other lessons in school where the children are encouraged to read independently or with a group.  During the daily phonics sessions, letters and their sounds are practiced and applied, segmenting and blending skills for reading are taught and modelled. 

The teaching of phonics is fast-paced, and filled with fun activities, such as singing, rapping, word hunting and phonics games.  Pupils also have daily Whole Class Guided Reading sessions which are planned and structured to develop all areas of reading.  A range of books are used to provide pupils with the necessary breadth of text to engage readers of all ages and abilities.  Whole Class Guided Reading is an important part of the curriculum and is used in conjunction with other approaches (such as shared reading, class texts, phonics and independent reading), and enables teachers to provide very effective support for pupil progress in reading. 

Reading Scheme - Big Cat Collins

Individually, our children are involved in reading activities with their teachers and learning support assistants.  Every child chooses reading books from our banded scheme (Big Cat Collins) each week to share at home.  Parents and children are actively encouraged to share these books together every evening, alongside their weekly library book.  Our home learning activities, linked to each Key Stage topic, also give them cross-curricular reading opportunities at home. 

Our school library is also available to pupils at break and lunchtime so that children can choose a library book to take and read at home.  The library is regularly updated through the Buckinghamshire Schools Library Service to ensure books are up-to-date and appropriate to our learners. 

At Elmhurst we celebrate and value our reading achievement at every level, and aim to provide a stimulating reading environment in which our children make good progress and develop a lifelong love of reading.   

Below you will find an example of the BIG Cat Collins Reading Instruction lessons we made available for every Letters and Sounds banding during Remote Education times:
As part of our Early Reading and Phonics offer, we provide parents in Reception and Year 1 with termly workshops. 
We set clear expectations across the school for our BIG Cat Collins Reading Scheme:

The CAFE Approach - Reading Instruction

Daily 'Reading Instruction' lessons in Years 2-6 enable us to explicitly teach children the key skills they need to read fluently and with understanding. At Elmhurst, we follow the CAFE Approach, which incorporates the four main strands of reading:


C - comprehension

A - accuracy

F - fluency

E - expand vocabulary


Short, targeted lessons allow teachers to pinpoint gaps in understanding and align teaching to the needs of the class, whilst allowing children the opportunity to practise skills at their own reading level and with books that they are able to access and enjoy.


Reading Consultations

In addition to reading instruction, the CAFE Approach also gives teachers the opportunity to have 1:1 reading consultations with every child on a regular basis. This session is focused on helping children identify their own successes and targets in their reading, whilst also providing them with personal feedback and encouragement.

Class Reader

At Elmhurst, we believe strongly in encouraging a love of reading and the exploration of a range of titles, authors and genres. At the beginning of every half term, each class explores a selection of carefully chosen titles and chooses the one they would like to hear during their daily Class Reader session. Giving ownership of this process to the children really engages their attention and allows them to hear high quality, age appropriate stories from different cultures and writers.

Page last updated: 18/06/21