Blackhorse Early Reading Strategy (Reception - Year 1)


Our Intent for your child: At Blackhorse we are determined that all children will learn to read fluently as a result of making the very best start with their reading in Reception and Year 1.


Rationale: All children learn to read through decoding (phonics).  Therefore in Reception and Year 1 children will be taught daily phonics lessons to enable them to learn phonemes (sounds) and to blend these in order to decode words quickly and fluently. 



At Blackhorse we use Letters and Sounds as our systematic synthetics phonics program (SSP). 



When children first start school they are taught to listen to sounds in the environment, they are exposed to rhyming stories and activities, they are encouraged to speak and listen to others.  This is called phase 1 of our phonics teaching and will continue throughout the Reception year.


Once children are full time they begin to be taught some phonemes (sounds).  During daily phonics sessions they will be taught sets 1-5 sounds.  There will be 4 new sounds each week.  This is called phase 2.


Once children have completed phase 2 teaching, we assess the children’s ability to recognise the phonemes, read the phonemes and to orally blend using these, for example c-a-t is cat. 


Children then learn the final initial sounds, further digraphs (2 letters making 1 sound, for example sh) and vowel digraphs (for example ai).  This is called phase 3.


Later in the year children will be taught to blend adjacent consonants, for example l-a-n-d or s-l-i-p. This is called phase 4.


By the end of Reception it is our intention that all children will be secure at recognising and blending with phase 3 phonemes (sounds).


Year 1

At the beginning of Year 1 children will be assessed on their phoneme recognition from Reception.  We will spend the first 3 weeks covering phase 3 phonemes again to ensure that children have recalled these from the end of the following year.


We will then teach phase 5, which involves children learning alternative vowel digraphs, eg ea.  We will also teach split digraphs, eg a-e (as in came)


Children will be regularly assessed throughout the year and we will give extra support to children who need more practise to learn the phonemes.  We will also send home phonemes which your child needs extra support with so that you can practise with them too.


Reading (decoding)

Children will be taught to apply their phonics by decoding, in order to read books.


In Reception, children will initially bring home books with no words.  This enables children to practise discussing the book with parents, without needing to decode words.


Children will then begin to bring home decodable readers (phonics books).  These books will be phonemes (sounds) that your child has already been taught and is secure in.  Children will practise the book at school before it comes home.  It is important that children reread the book throughout the week at home because this enables them to become more fluent as they begin to recognise the words without needing to decode and also will ensure they feel successful.


Children will continue to read decodable books in Year 1.  Again these will be sounds that your child is already secure with.  Children may bring home a book with a sound that they are not yet secure at, that they learnt previously.


Whole class reading (decoding)

In Year 1 we will additionally teach whole class reading sessions 3 times a week.  The book used for these sessions will be fully decodable and will have sounds the children are learning that week in school.  The teacher will use a range of strategies to support children to decode the words.  This will enable children to apply the phonemes they have been taught in phonics, later in the day. 


Individual reading (decoding)

Children will read individually at least once a week to an adult in school.  Children who need extra support with decoding will also read to either the class teacher 3x a week or to a member of our reading intervention team.  This will ensure children are further supported in developing decoding skills.  It is vital that all children continue to practise their phonics book 5x a week at home as this enables them to become fluent with these phonemes.  For this reason, most children will have their phonics book changed once a week.


All of the strategies above will ensure that children learn to decode speedily and fluently. 



Children need to decode and read words at 95% accuracy in order to be secure with the phonemes they are reading.  We assess children’s reading of 100 words in a book and children who get 5 or less errors are secure.  Children will then move onto books with a different set of sounds.


Children will be formally assessed in phonics and reading at least once each half term to see if they have progressed and need to move onto books which support a new phase (eg moving from phase 4 to phase 5 books).


Reading for meaning

We teach reading for meaning (comprehension and understanding of the text) separately from phonics and decoding in Reception and Year 1.  This is because when children are focussing on decoding texts, they do not have enough space left over in their brains to understand what is happening in the text.


We therefore teach this skill during our daily story time sessions.  Children are read aloud to daily and the teacher will model:

  • think alouds  - what they are thinking as they read
  • retrieval – finding answers within the text, eg what was the girl’s  name? It says her name is Cinnamon
  • inference – answering questions by digging deeper, eg why was the girl sad? I think the girl is sad because she can’t talk and that would make me feel sad
  • vocabulary – identify new and challenging vocabulary in the text, explain what it means and how I know,  forexample, frustrated.  It says the girl was frustrated that she could not talk.  I think this means she felt cross that she couldn’t talk.  Model what this emotion would look like facially to support children to remember


Fab 5

We know that children thrive on repetition.  Therefore at Blackhorse in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 we have a ‘fab 5’ books each half term.  These books will include a story, non-fiction and poem.  We will read these books to the class weekly, one per day.  This means that by the end of each half term, children will be able to recognise the structure of the story, layout of the information book, repetitive words and phrases, new vocabulary, and events.  This gives children the ability to use this in their own discussions about books.





The impact of our early reading strategy will ensure that children learn to recognise phonemes speedily and use these to decode words fluently.  This fluency will ensure that children are able to master the decoding skill and become confident fluent readers.