Phonics and Reading


Phonics is an effective way to ‘unlock’ words and help children make progress with reading and spelling. The aim with phonics is that children can recognise and process the letters and sounds through a word so fluently that word recognition becomes automatic.

Rocket Phonics

There is a clear, systematic approach to the teaching of phonics at Netherbrook Primary School. It is taught every day in Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 and these phonic lessons last for 30 minutes. The school follows the Ofsted validated Rocket Phonics Scheme.

We adopt a teaching sequence of: Review, teach, practice and apply. Children are taught in whole class sessions and receive smaller group support where required.

They begin by listening to and distinguishing between a range of sounds and soon progress to learning the sounds that each letter makes. After this, the children begin to build up CVC (consonant/vowel/consonant) and CCVC words. Next, they start to learn what happens when two letters are put together eg. ch, th. They also learn the alternative spellings and pronunciations of a wide range of sounds.

There are six overlapping phonics phases.

Below is a summary based on the Rocket Phonics Scheme:

  • Phase 1: Phonic Knowledge and Skills. (Nursery/Reception): Activities are divided into seven aspects, including environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body sounds, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and finally oral blending and segmenting.
  • Phase 2 (Reception): Learning 19 letters of the alphabet and one sound for each. Blending sounds together to make words. Segmenting words into their separate sounds. Beginning to read simple captions.
  • Phase 3 (Reception): The remaining seven letters of the alphabet, one sound for each. Graphemes such as ch, oo, th representing the remaining phonemes not covered by single letters. Reading captions, sentences and questions. On completion of this phase, children will have learnt the 'simple code', ie. one grapheme for each phoneme in the English language.
  • Phase 4 (Reception): No new grapheme-phoneme correspondences are taught in this phase. Children learn to blend and segment longer words with adjacent consonants, eg. swim, clap, jump.
  • Phase 5 (Throughout Year 1): Now we move on to the 'complex code'. Children learn more graphemes for the phonemes which they already know, plus different ways of pronouncing the graphemes they already know.
  • Phase 6 (Throughout Year 2 and beyond): Working on spelling, including prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters etc.

Parent’s guide to Rocket Phonics and VIPERS

  • Vipers
    Key Stage 1 – In this key stage pupils engage in 30 minute daily Target Reader Practice lessons. These lessons provide focused reading practice on small groups of letter-sounds.
  • All the books that pupils use are fully decodable, which means they only contain letter-sounds and ‘tricky’ words that the children have been taught in class. (‘Tricky’ words are also called ‘common exception words’ and include words like he, she, they and were that don’t follow phonics rules.)
  • These books feature a page of questions at the back of each book, linked to reading domains, that can be also be used to check the child’s understanding.
  • Key Stage 2 – In this key stage, pupils engage in ‘Reading VIPERS’ sessions, which are taught to improve the pupils’ skills across all areas of reading. These sessions are 30 minute daily reading lessons teaching a range of reading skills linked to the ‘Reading Domains’.

Parents' Guide to the English Alphabetic Code from Rocket Phonics

The key reading domains and how they are covered in the VIPERS programme

KS1 Reading Domain Reference VIPER
1a draw on knowledge of vocabulary to understand texts Vocabulary
1b identify/ explain key aspects of fiction and non-fiction, such as characters, events, titles and information. Retrieve and Explain
1c identify and explain the sequences of events in texts Sequence
1d make inferences from the text Infer
1e predict what might happen on the basis of what has been read so far Predict
KS2 Reading Domain Reference VIPER
2a Give/explain the meaning of words in context Vocabulary
2b retrieve and record information/ identify key details from fiction and non/fiction Retrieve
2c summarise main ideas from more than one paragraph Summarise
2d make inferences from the text/ explain and justify inferences with evidence from the text Infer
2e predict what might happen from details stated or implied Predict
2f identify/explain how information/ narrative content is related and contributes to meaning as a whole Explain
2g identify/explain how meaning is enhanced through choice of words and phrases Explain
2h make comparisons within a text Explain

Rising Stars

Reading at Netherbrook


Emerging Readers (Early Years and Years 1 and 2)

Reading at Netherbrook starts with Rocket Phonics Reader Scheme. These books are part of our overall phonics programme and are specifically matched to our younger children’s phase of phonics development. There are a wide range of these books for children in Reception and KS1 to read and enjoy – both in classrooms and at home.

Developing Readers (Year 2 to Year 4)

After children have completed our Rocket Phonics Reader Scheme, they graduate on to our Stages Books. These books have been ‘book banded’ to allow us to use a variety of different books all pitched at the same level. This was introduced in 2017. Books in school are grouped into colour bands, and children select from a range of fiction and non-fiction books within the book banding.

At Netherbrook, we use a range of books including, Oxford Reading Tree, and Project X as part of our reading scheme. The children’s enjoyment and enthusiasm for reading has improved as a result.

Secure Readers (Year 4 to Year 6)

As children move up through the school and the colour bands, we challenge and support reading with a range of high quality reader books. They have access to age appropriate texts that increase in difficulty and length. These books are more grown up and diverse and are all written by well-established children’s authors.

The School Library

Children throughout the school from Nursery through to Year 6, have access to our wonderful school library. Here they can browse books and take them home to read on top of their reading scheme books. This enables us to ensure that all children have exciting and challenging books to read all of the time.

Dudley Library Services

Within each of our 'topics' for each year group, the children access focus books of both fiction and non-fiction genres. The Schools Library Service also offers a broad selection of books for classes to use in school.

Reading at Home (for Parents and Carers)

Children love sharing books at home. When you listen to your child read at home, it is important to listen to them read, initially helping them to decode the words (sounding the words out, using the pictures to help them, or the context of the sentence). It is also important to ask children questions about what they have read, to deepen understanding.

Five Steps to Success

  1. Create a routine. It is hard to find the perfect moment to sit down and enjoy reading together. If you can, get into a routine of reading at the same time each day. Reading together at bedtime is a popular choice, but you may find early morning or after school sessions are more successful if your child is too tired in the evening.
  2. Make time to read little and often. Reading together doesn’t have to take a long time; just ten minutes a day makes a positive impact.
  3. Reading environment. Learning to read can be hard and it feels even harder if there are distractions at home. Try to find a quiet space – no TV, no siblings or pets making noise.
  4. Get comfortable. Get settled and think about whether you are both sitting in a good position to see the text and that you can support as necessary during the reading session. Your main role is to check accuracy of reading/decoding.
  5. Praise after reading. It’s important to offer encouragement whilst your child is reading but try and praise your child for at least one achievement after reading. This ends on a positive note and helps your child look forward to the next session.

Using Your Child’s Reading Record

  • Positive praise: rewarding comments can be directed to your child and help raise their self-esteem and morale. Eg. excellent concentration Ben.
  • Tracking progress: make a note of new vocabulary that your child finds and any key achievements. Eg. Helen was interested in new words ‘bustle’ and ‘hustle’ – we checked the meanings in the dictionary or Emily remembered to pause at full stops.
  • Communicating with the teacher: a brief note in the reading record is an effective way to communicate with your child’s class teacher. Eg. Rachel only read a few pages today as she was feeling unwell.
  • Noting difficult words: if your child finds a word difficult, make a list and practise reading these words with your child every time you write in the reading record.
  • Tracking a variety of skills: it can be hard to avoid repetition and to think of different things to write. Try to comment on fluency, accuracy, comprehension, stamina, expression, engagement, vocabulary, grammar and punctuation.