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Learning to read is one of the most important skills that your child will develop over the next few years. The more support and encouragement that you can offer your child, the more likely it is that he or she will make good progress.

At Birch Hill we start our reading journey using phonics. Phonics means learning about the different sounds in the English language, and the letters and groups of letters that represent them.  Learning sounds and letters, and knowing how to blend sounds together is a key skill in learning to read.

In our school we teach children phonics every day, from Nursery through to 2, using the systematic and structure phonics programme ‘Floppy’s Phonics’. Floppy’s Phonics is a step-by-step synthetic phonics reading scheme. It introduces the children to the letters and sounds – the alphabetic code – that will become the foundation of their reading and writing.

Initially children's listening skills are developed through the use of music, environmental sounds and rhyme. During their journey through the Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 they are taught the 44 phonemes (sounds) that make up all the sounds required for reading and spelling. These phonemes include those made by just one letter 'b as in bed' and those that are made by two 'ai as in rain or three letters 'igh as in high'. 

Children are taught the key skills of blending sounds together for reading and segmenting (breaking up) words for spelling. 

As the children grow in confidence and experience, they are introduced to alternative ways of representing the same sound, eg 'ee' can be represented as 'ee, as in bee', 'ea as in tea', 'e-e as in theme' and 'e as in we'. They also learn when to apply simple spelling rules and use verbs in the correct tense. 

We ensure that our teaching of phonics is rigorous, structured and enjoyable. In Reception to Year 2, children have discrete, daily phonics sessions where they are introduced to new phonemes, explore, practise and revise previous learning and have plenty of opportunities to apply the knowledge they have. 

We use a range of multisensory strategies to enthuse and engage the children, including the use of interactive whiteboards, magnetic letters, grapheme tiles, speaking and listening, and practical activities. Children work with pace and are encouraged to apply their knowledge across the whole curriculum.

Children use carefully chosen reading books during their phonics lessons, and they have reading books that they take home and bring into school that are matched to the sounds and letters they’ve been learning.

Floppy’s Phonics features the familiar characters from the Oxford Reading Tree series. It includes the characters of Floppy the dog, Biff, Chip and Kipper and their family and friends, which engages children fully for the phonics teaching and learning, vocabulary enrichment and language comprehension.

You can find out more about phonics, and how to help children at home, here (this link takes you to the publisher of the Floppy's Phonics series).