In April 2021, the government published a revised core criteria for effective systematic synthetic phonics teaching programmes and launched a new process to validate complete systematic synthetic phonics teaching programmes. The aim of this process was that, by ensuring high-quality phonics teaching, improvements in literacy will:
give all children a solid base upon which to build as they progress through school;
help children to develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information.
As a school we had already begun the process of identifying a new phonics and reading programme to improve literacy and phonics across all year groups. Through discussion with staff and other professionals, research and trialling different programmes on offer we bought into the Active Learn- Bug Club scheme for Phonics, Reading, Grammar and Spelling.
What is phonics?
Phonics involves the relationship between sounds and their spellings. The goal of phonics instruction is to teach children the most common sound-spelling relationships so that they can decode, or sound out, words. This decoding ability is a crucial element in reading success.
Phonics teaching is taught explicitly in our school. Each day, all children in school receive a minimum of 20 minutes direct phonics teaching where they learn about sound-spelling relationships. Within this they play fun, active, fast paced games and undertake a range of activities with opportunities to segment and blend words and apply learned grapheme-phoneme relationships to their reading and to learning phonics rules.
The school follows the Active learn- Bug Club Phonics scheme to structure the daily phonics session. Bug Club Phonics aims to build children's speaking and listening skills in their own right as well as to prepare children for learning to read by developing their phonic knowledge and skills. It sets out a detailed and systematic programme for teaching phonic skills and provides a clear skills progression across school, with the aim of children becoming fluent readers by age seven.
Bug Club Phonics combines 100% decodable books with whole-class teaching software to provide a systematic synthetic phonic programme which helps children succeed in the Phonics Screening Check.
In addition to physical books, every phonics book is available to be allocated as a tablet-friendly eBook that can be accessed from home. It includes audio narration to help with pronunciation and parent notes which can be personalised for every child.
In addition to books, Bug Club Phonics whole‑class teaching software provides a series of lesson plans, supported by whiteboard resources, eBooks and games.
Each lesson begins with a short animation which allows children to hear the sound pronounced correctly and see how each letter is formed, providing the perfect introduction to each phoneme.
The following table shows what is covered in each of Units 1–12 of Bug Club Phonics.
Each of the 12 units represents a group of letters.
Each phoneme within a group is introduced in one Phoneme Session, and each unit concludes with a Language Session, which includes teaching of associated irregular words.
Units 13–30 introduce children to alternative ways of pronouncing and spelling the graphemes they have already been taught, as well as introducing new graphemes for reading. For instance, they develop the concept that some vowel sounds can be represented in more than one way (e.g. ‘ai’, ‘ay’ and ‘a-e’ for the long ‘a’ sound) and that sometimes the same grapheme is used to represent different sounds (e.g. ‘ea’ as in ‘bead’ and ‘head’). Common silent-letter digraphs are introduced as well as the concept of root words, prefixes and suffixes. Throughout these units children learn how to tackle reading and spelling polysyllabic words by applying phonic rules.
The following table presents an overview of Bug Club Phonics Units 13 to 30.