Early reading and phonics

At Maryport Church of England Primary School we have recently introduced Read Write Inc. as our inclusive synthetic phonic programme to teach our children to read, to write and to spell. We have adopted this as our whole school approach as the programme facilitates a graduated and tailored approach to learning basic sounds and letter formation before advancing to more complex sounds and reading for comprehension.  The programme moves with integrity from learning to read to reading to learn.

R.W.I sessions occur each day as the continuity and pace of the programme is key to accelerating the progress of children’s reading development. This method of phonics teaching is both systematic and repetitive in order to embed learning; the programme also offers plenty of opportunities for fun based, interactive learning using drama, role play and props to engage with and to enjoy texts and stories. The children work in small groups according to their confidence and competence. These groups are reconfigured on a regular basis in order to match the pace and the progress of each child; this reconfiguration also allows Class Teachers to identify where 1:1 interventions may be required in order to meet the expectations of both the Phonics Check and the end of Key Stage 1.


Aims and Objectives

The overarching objectives of the RWI programme are to teach pupils to:

  • apply the skill of blending phonemes in order to read words.
  • segment words into their constituent phonemes in order to spell words.
  • learn that blending and segmenting words are reversible processes.
  • read high frequency words that do not conform to regular phonic patterns.
  • read texts and words that are within their phonic capabilities as early as possible.
  • decode texts effortlessly so that their focus can be used on reading to learn (comprehension)
  • spell effortlessly so that their focus can be directed towards the composition of their writing



Teaching and Learning Style

The core principles of the programme are;

  • Praise – Pupils learn quickly in a positive climate.
  • Pace – Good pace is essential to the lesson.
  • Purpose – Every part of the lesson has a specific purpose.
  • Passion –It is the energy, enthusiasm and passion that teachers invest into lessons that bring the teaching and learning to life!
  • Participation - A strong feature of R.W.I. lessons is partner work; partners ‘teaching’ each other (based on research which states that we learn 70% of what we talk about with our partner and 90% of what we teach).


Nonsense words (Alien words) 

As well as learning to read and to blend real words, the children meet “Nonsense words.” These words present an opportunity to assess a child’s ability to decode using phonics. Children who can read non-words should have the skills to decode almost any unfamiliar word. Nonsense words will also feature in the Year One Phonics Screening check in the summer term.

What is the Phonics Screening Check?

The national Phonics Screening Check was introduced in 2012 to all Year 1 pupils. It is a short, statutory assessment to ensure that children are making sufficient progress in the phonics skills to read words and are on track to become fluent readers who can enjoy reading for pleasure and for learning.

Parent Information

As we move onto the RWI phonics programme, parents will no doubt have a number of questions regarding the organisation of reading. In anticipation of this, please see below –

Why are the children in different groups for phonics?

All of the children participating in RWI are regularly assessed and their progress carefully monitored. After each assessment period we will reorganise the groups as necessary to ensure each child is in the correct grouping to learn the next set of sounds they need to become a fluent reader. All children will pick up phonics at slightly different rates, the important thing is that they are constantly making progress. If we feel a child is not making the progress we would expect, then we will give them extra 1:1 support in order that they keep up with their peers.


What is ‘Fred Talk’?  

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.




What are ‘speed sounds’?

In Read Write inc phonics the individual sounds are called ‘speed sounds’ – because we want your child to read them effortlessly. Set 1 sounds are the initial letter sounds. They are taught in the following order.


Set 1 speed sounds

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


When writing the letter sounds the children use a picture and a phrase to help form the letters correctly.


e.g. M – maisie, mountain, mountain


(See letter formation chart for all the set 1 letter sound formation charactrs)

Set 2 speed sounds

ay, ee, igh, ow, oo, oo,ar, or, air, ir, ou, oy

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
  • We call these 2/3 letter sounds that go together ‘special friends’


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 (fred talk) s-p-r-ay = spray.



Vowel sound

Set 2 Speed Sound Rhyme

Green words (decodable)


ay: may I play

day play say may way spray


ee: what can you see?

See been seen sleep three green


igh: fly high

high might light bright night fright


ow: blow the snow

snow slow know show blow low


oo: poo at the zoo

too zoo food pool moon spoon


oo: look at a book

took shook cook foot look book


ar: start the car

star part hard sharp car start


or: shut the door

sort short snort horse sport fork


air: that’s not fair

fair stair hair air lair chair


ir: whirl and twirl

girl third whirl twirl dirt bird


ou: shout it out

out mouth round found loud shout


oy: toy for a boy

toy boy enjoy


Set 3 speed sounds

a-e, ea, i-e, o-e, u-e, aw, are, ur, ow, oi, ai, e, oa, ew,er, ire, ear, ure


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.


Vowel sound

Set 3 Speed Sound Rhyme

Green words (decodable)


a-e: make a cake

shake make cake name same late date


ea: cup of tea

real please dream seat cream


i-e: nice smile

hide shine white nice time like smile


o-e: phone home

hope home phone spoke note broke


u-e: huge brute

tune use June  huge brute


aw: yawn at dawn

saw paw yawn law dawn crawl


are: care and share

share dare scare square bare


ur: nurse with a purse

burn turn spurt nurse purse hurt


ow: brown cow

how now down brown town cow


oi: spoil the boy

join coin voice


ai: snail in the rain

snail paid tail paint train rain 


e: he me she we

he me she we be


oa: goat in a boat

goat boat road throat toast coat


ew: chew the stew

chew new flew blew drew grew


er: better letter

never better weather proper corner after


ire: fire fire

fire hire wire bonfire inspire conspire 


oar: hear with your ear

hear fear dear near ear


ure: sure it’s pure

Pure sure cure picture mixture creature future


Click the link below to hear how to pronounce the sounds correctly.




What is ‘word time’?

As soon as children have learnt a few initial letter sounds they begin to learn to blend the sounds together to read real words in a Word Time session. Each word time session involves oral blending of known sounds before they are shown the words written down on green cards. Children practice Fred talking the words until they become able to read them on sight. Children who are becoming excellent at reading single words are introduced to reading whole sentences. Once children are confident reading the short sentences they are challenged to use their developing phonic knowledge to write a sentence.


See link below for word time example.




Reading books have changed – why?

Children will first be introduced to ‘Ditty books’ when they successfully begin to read single words. The short vowels should be kept short and sharp:

Children use sound-blending (Fred Talk) to read short ditties. They will bring these home once they have read and discussed the book in class. The purpose of bringing home a book they can already read is to celebrate this achievement with you. Praise them for this success!

Within all the books children will have red and green words to learn to help them to become speedy readers. Red words are words that are not easily decodable and challenge words to extend children’s vocabulary. Green words are linked to the sounds they have been learning and are easily decodable.


https://www.sir-francis-hill.lincs.sch.uk/page/4e51f04b4b6549ceb3ce8e67b417fb70/pic/0d5187a96cb74392840c001d8bc03ce7/full_width/check/       https://www.sir-francis-hill.lincs.sch.uk/page/4e51f04b4b6549ceb3ce8e67b417fb70/pic/56fe67d705b94c8585e854b8c4de6ff2/full_width/check/


Dots and dashes represent the sound each letter makes.

Once your child has been introduced and taught these words in school we will send them home for you to continue practising with your child.


Once children can read the first set of Speed Sounds and can read the Ditties, they will start to bring home the Storybooks. These books have a text with a strong phonic structure which is perfectly matched to the sounds your child is currently practising. The language is natural and fluent and each story has a clear shape. Humour is a strong feature - children want to read the books again and again. The Storybooks will be brought home once children have completed all the work associated with this book. There are instructions in every book for you to follow.

Order of Story books: Children will hopefully follow the order listed below. The expectation is that all children will leave Year One as confident speedy readers, ready to take on the challenges of Year Two. However, some children may need extra support and your teacher will talk to you about this. 



Year Group Expectations

Green Words in Books

Red Ditty 1-10


Click here to help your child

Green 1-10


Click here to help your child

Purple 1-10


Click here to help your child

Pink 1-10

Reception/Year One

Click here to help your child

Orange 1-12

Year One

Click here to help your child

Yellow 1-10

Year One

Click here to help your child

Blue 1-10

Year One

Click here to help your child

Grey 1-13

Year One

Click here to help your child


It is important that you continue to read stories, non-fiction and poems to your child as this will help them hear the structure of texts and build up their vocabulary bank.

Ruth Miskin, the founder of Read Write Inc, had complied a selection of short videos that give lots more information and examples. They are really worth watching - Click the link below to find out more about


  • Saying sounds correctly
  • Linking sounds to letters
  • Two letters, one sound
  • Practise, practise, practise
  • Putting sounds together to read simple words
  • Tricky words
  • Reading books
  • Using pictures
  • Writing letters
  • Read to your child as much as you can





Please see your child’s teacher for any further information you may need with regards to reading.


Reading Progression




Book Spines

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