English at Catshill First School and Nursery

Phonics and spelling at Catshill First School


At Catshill, we understand the importance of phonics as a skill that develops both Reading and Writing across the curriculum and this is done through carefully planned sequences of learning.  Our aim is to provide all pupils with systematic, high quality phonics and spelling sessions that develop both decoding and encoding skills through the use of Rocket Phonics (DfE validated phonics programme) in Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), Year 1 and 2. No Nonsense Spelling scheme is used throughout Key Stage Two. At Catshill, we use the Word Aware strategy to develop new vocabulary that is explicitly taught on a regular basis through Phonics, Spelling and Topic work. As part of this, pupils are taught to develop their listening and attention skills through focused tasks as well as following four key rules that show a good listener which are:- 1. Sitting quietly, 2. Sitting still, 3. Looking at the person who is talking, 4. Listening to all of the words.  These four listening rules are consistent throughout school. 

What you will see:

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

In Nursery, the children are taught through a language-rich environment where listening games and singing are part of everyday practice. Phase One activities (Rocket Phonics, DfE validated programme) are carefully planned to develop pupils’ listening skills alongside Word Aware. We also use specific Speech and Language (SALT) resources. When pupils start Reception they initially revisit Phase One to continue to develop listening skills and become familiar with their new learning environment. Daily phonics sessions are taught with a focus on blending and segmenting skills.. Alongside the teaching of phonically decodable words, pupils are taught to read ‘tricky’ words (words which do not follow a phonic pattern for example:- said, the), these are also known as Common Exception words. But we use the term ‘tricky words’.

Key Stage One

Phonics is taught daily following the lesson sequence: revisit and review, teach, practise and apply.. Year One pupils are taught alternate sounds for known graphemes. Pupils are also taught tricky words as identified in the National Curriculum; these words do not follow a phonic pattern for example:- people, beautiful. Pupils in Year One complete a Phonic Check in June of each year to assess their skills. Year Two delivers daily phonic and spelling sessions as set out for Year Two in the National Curriculum. Any pupils who did not meet the expectation for the Phonic Check in Year One are tested again in June alongside the Year One pupils. 

Lower Key Stage Two

Years Three and Four are taught two sessions weekly between twenty to thirty minutes in duration, alongside Word Aware and specific SALT resources. Spelling patterns are taught and each lesson follows a format of revise, teach, learn, practise and apply/assess.  Once pupils have been taught a specific phonic/ spelling pattern evidence of this should be through pupils’ work. Pupils are also taught tricky words as identified through the National Curriculum.  Sessions will also focus on etymology (word origins and meaning), morphology (units of meaning) and orthography (shapes of words). This is achieved through the use of dictionaries, Word Aware and topic based vocabulary. Pupils are assessed using the National Curriculum. Those who have gaps in their phonic/ spelling learning will receive planned, targeted intervention to enable them to close the gap through provision maps. 

Reading at Catshill


We feel it is important that all pupils develop a love of reading and are therefore provided with high quality resources they need in order to develop this. Reading is a life skill that needs to be taught through specific targeted skills, as well as developing enjoyment and excitement in reading. To support the development of reading we teach pupils specific skills that begin with decoding, retrieving information, interpreting texts and exploring an author’s use of language. Pupils are read to daily by the class teacher (or another adult); this can be a story, poem or information text and this is purely pleasure for reading. 

What you will see:


Pupils share a range of familiar stories, songs and rhymes daily where reading is modelled and planned for through continuous provision. Enhanced resources such as Nursery Narrative, Fun with Narrative and Concept Cat are also used to support the development of Early Reading skills. These are also taught through the daily phonics sessions and are enhanced through our home school reading system using phonic decodable books that are targeted at the pupils’ phonic level. This is closely monitored by the teacher and children are regularly heard reading within school to make both formative and summative assessments as set out through the EYFS Framework.

Year One

Pupils continue to share a range of familiar stories, songs and rhymes and develop decoding skills further through daily phonic lessons. As pupils become more confident readers they begin to develop the whole class reading approach where comprehension reading skills are explicitly taught. The lesson follows a RIC format; R is retrieval (looking for specific information), I is interpret (inference) and C choice (authors’ use of language). This takes part as a whole class teaching through discussions and learning activities.  Pupils record their work in English books. Pupils take home phonic decodable books that are targeted at their phonic level which is closely monitored by the class teacher. 

Year Two and Lower Key Stage Two 

Whole-class reading takes place, where comprehension reading skills are explicitly taught following the RIC format: Retrieval, Interpret and Choice. Once the whole class RIC has been explored, pupils are then taught one specific skill and complete independent work following this. This could be further retrieval skills, interpretation of an aspect of the book or choice (authors’ use of language). For pupils who are continuing to develop their decoding skills, phonic decodable books are to be taken home and these are closely monitored by the class teacher. Pupils who no longer rely on segmenting and blending sounds move onto star/ free readers and explore a range of authors and text types. Where necessary pupils are heard to read individually more often if they require further practise and are assessed against the skills set out in the National Curriculum.

Reading Ambassadors

Pupils in Key Stage Two take on the responsibility of reading with younger pupils during Early Bird and other planned times. They help to encourage a love of reading with our younger pupils and share their love of authors and texts. 

The School Library and reading for pleasure

Teachers use the library to borrow information texts and stories to share with the class.  Pupils are taught how to look after books in the library and how it is organised.  We also select pupils to visit our local library and invite parents to reading events in school. All classrooms have access to a class library where a range of texts are available. 

Writing at Catshill


At Catshill, we know the importance of developing pupils’ writing skills through carefully planned steps so that they can communicate their ideas and write fluently. We feel that if pupils have access to high quality reading texts that create enjoyment and a love for reading, this then enhances pupils’ writing through a language rich, exciting curriculum. The Word Aware strategy is also used alongside SALT resources to develop pupils’ understanding of vocabulary and language structures and features. 

What you will see:


As well as daily, systematic Phonic Teaching, pupils engage in writing through the process of Helicopter stories, this approach focuses on communication, verbal story-retelling and developing children’s confidence. Pupils’ writing is assessed against the EYFS Framework.

Key Stage One and Two

Pupils are taught writing using high quality texts as a starting point. Pupils have the chance to explore story-line, text purpose, characterisation, vocabulary and author’s intention. Following this, they are taught specific grammar skills linked to the text as well as genre specific writing skills for a range of imaginary and real life purposes.  

Pupils are taught new skills as identified throughout the National Curriculum, as well as consolidating skills taught in previous years. Every classroom has an English learning wall that details the current learning sequence, including a Word Aware wall that has subject/topic specific vocabulary to enrich learning and understanding of words. Our language rich classroom environments display topic words to ensure our pupils understand meanings of words in a variety of contexts and master articulating their ideas and emotions confidently. Pupils are assessed against National Curriculum as identified for each year group.  

Ensuring this is put into practice:


Any gaps in learning are quickly identified and follow-up work or interventions are planned for through our provision maps to enable pupils to close gaps in their learning.  Pupils who require more support with learning or retaining writing, reading, spelling or Phonic skills will be supported through specific targeted interventions as identified on Class Provision Maps. These are closely monitored by the class teacher and adapted as needed. Writing interventions include Jimbo fun (fine motor skills), SALT (Speech and language therapy) and Precision Teaching (targeted words to learn to read and spell at increasing speed and accuracy). English assessments are made by the class teacher for each aspect of English (Reading, Writing, Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) and recorded on Educator three times a year.

Monitoring is completed by the English Subject Leader and by the Senior Leadership Team (SLT). Staff also complete year group and cross phase moderation. The outcomes of these are shared with school staff to ensure consistency in the teaching of English and a shared vision and understanding of what English looks like at CFSN.

Recommended Reads

With such a huge variety of books available to borrow and buy, it can be difficult for parents to know which books to choose. ‘Books for Topics‘ have put together recommended books for children of all ages


We are using Letter-join to encourage the children to learn to write. Here is a video and link with further information.

Letter-join video

Letter-join newsletter