As the Junior School implements the new English syllabus for K-2 this year and Years 3-6 in 2024, we maintain a strong focus on the importance of phonics and phonemic awareness.

Developing knowledge of phonics and phonemic awareness is crucial for early reading development and overall literacy skills in school. Phonics is the understanding of the relationship between sounds and letters, while phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words.

Research shows that phonics instruction is a highly effective way to teach children to read, particularly for those who struggle with reading. Phonics instruction helps children to decode words and read unfamiliar words, which is essential for reading comprehension. Phonemic awareness has been identified as a key predictor of reading success and helps children to develop word recognition, spelling and vocabulary skills.

Developing phonics and phonemic awareness at school can also support the development of writing skills. As children learn to recognise the sounds and spelling of words, they can apply this knowledge to their own writing, which can improve their spelling and overall written communication.

Effective phonics instruction typically involves explicit teaching of sound/letter relationships, and the application of these relationships to reading and writing. Phonemic awareness instruction, on the other hand, typically involves activities that help children identify and manipulate sounds in spoken words, such as rhyming and segmenting activities.

Developing knowledge of phonics and phonemic awareness is essential for early reading and writing development in school. It provides a strong foundation for literacy skills and supports children in becoming confident and successful readers and writers.

Literacy in our K-2 Classrooms

What does a daily literacy block look like?

Daily review — Fast-paced review of previously taught content and skills.

Phoneme/grapheme, blending, segmenting, reading decodable sentences, vocabulary.

Phonics — Explicit teaching and guided practice of new content:

  • Phoneme pronunciation
  • Phonemic awareness drills
  • Grapheme/handwriting
  • Word blending
  • Word building – word work
  • High frequency words.

Spelling — Segmenting words, spelling patterns, morphology.

Reading — Fluency, comprehension, whole-class groupings, pairs, independent and small, targeted groups.

Oral language — Increasing topic vocabulary and development of expressive and receptive language.

Writing — Sentence and paragraph construction and deconstruction, dictation, grammar conventions.

Literacy in our Year 3-6 Classrooms

The current English curriculum for Years 3 to 6 focuses on developing students’ literacy skills across a range of areas, including reading, writing, speaking and listening. Literacy is implemented within its own session, as well as being integrated across subject areas, and involves the following components:

Reading instruction — Students engage in explicit instruction in reading comprehension strategies, fluency and vocabulary. This can involve teacher-led instruction, small-group instruction or independent reading time.

Writing instruction — Explicit instruction of the writing process, including planning, drafting, revising and editing. Students learn how to write for a range of purposes and audiences.

Oral language — Engagement in rich discussions to develop vocabulary and listening skills by presenting ideas and information. This can involve small-group or whole-class discussions, debates and presentations.

Phonics and spelling — Explicit instruction in phonics and spelling to develop students’ knowledge of the sound/spelling system and to build their word recognition skills.

Independent reading — Students engage in independent reading, which helps to build reading stamina, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension skills. Teachers support independent reading by providing access to a range of reading materials, including fiction and non-fiction books.

Overall, literacy instruction in our Year 3 to 6 classrooms provides a balance of explicit instruction, independent practice, assessment and feedback to support our students’ literacy development across a range of subject areas. Year 3-6 teachers will dive into the draft syllabus documents as they plan our approach to the new syllabus implementation in 2024.

Heidi Shvetsoff
Head of Junior School