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Phonics and Reading at Lower Heath

Reading and Phonics at Lower Heath CE Primary School & Nursery  


At Lower Heath, synthetic phonics is taught as the main approach to early reading. Daily phonics sessions are taught from nursery to Year 2, but for some children the teaching of phonics continues in Key Stage 2 if this is necessary. These sessions follow the government published programme of ‘Letters and Sounds’. Each session is a daily 30-minute structured lesson, where the children have the opportunity to practice reading and writing. It is a fun session with lots of speaking and listening and working with a partner.

‘Letters and Sounds’ is split into 6 phases. These are expected to be taught during the following years, however this again may vary according to the needs of the children.

Phase 1                        Nursery

Phase 2, 3, 4                Reception

Phase 4, 5, 6                Year 1

Phase 5, 6                    Year 2

 At each phase children are taught to recognise individual sounds, pairs and clusters of letters. In phonic sessions children are taught to recognise letters, understand the sound they make and then blend them together to create words. Some words, which cannot be phonetically sounded out, are taught at each phase. These are ‘tricky words’ and are taught through sight recognition.

In 2012 a statutory check was introduced in Year 1. The check assesses phonics knowledge learnt in Reception (phase 3) and in Year 1 (phase 4,5). It was developed to help identify the children who need extra help with decoding and blending before they begin Year 2.


At Lower Heath our core reading scheme is the Oxford Reading Tree, however this is supplemented with a range of schemes which will support your child in the process of learning to read. Once we are happy that your child has reached a certain level within the scheme they become 'free readers' which means that they move onto short stories and short fiction books, this can be at any point in your child's learning journey, it all depends on the individual child.


During each week, your child will be involved in a variety of reading tasks such as:

  • Reading with the teacher during guided reading
  • Reading with a teaching assistant on a one-to-one basis
  • Reading independently during our dailt reading time
  • Paired reading
  • Reading as a class or group
  • A follow-up activity, which could involve working in their Reading Journals or completing a quiz on Accelerated Reader


Please also read with your child at home and encourage them to read for pleasure.


Children take home spellings each week to learn to reinforce phonics covered in class, or they are spellings that are connected to the National Curriculum. 

Spelling tests take place on a weekly basis, again we ask you to support your child with this.


Reading VIPERS


Reading VIPERS is our new way of supporting children with their reading comprehension skills. All children will be working on VIPERS during class reading, whether it is reading as a class, in a small group, or one-to-one with an adult. It would be fantastic if parents could also be referring to VIPERS when they listen to their child read at home.


VIPERS stands for: 



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This poster is displayed in all classrooms. Up to the end of Year 2, the ‘S’ stands for ‘Sequence’. Once children move into Year 3, the ‘S’ stands for ‘Summarise’, which is a more demanding skill.


If we ensure that children are competent in all of these reading skills, we are covering all of the National Curriculum requirements and enabling them to be strong, confident readers. This acronym is just a great well of helping children and parents to remember what these vital skills are.


Question Openers

VIPERS can be used on any text that a child is reading, as well as on pictures, picture books and films! When any adult is listening to a child read, all they need to do is think of questions about the book/picture/film that cover all of the VIPERS, and there are great examples below of how you can create your own questions using the following question openers. The first document is for Reception to Year 2, and the second document is for Years 3-6: 

Below is an example of how to use VIPERS questions with a page of a picture book:

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And here is an example of how the VIPERS prompts could be used to create questions for a longer piece of text:

You very welcome to attend the reading drop-ins which take place every other Friday (see dates in the newsletter) to see the Reading VIPERS in action!

Accelerated Reader


We have now been using Accelerated Reader at Lower Heath for 12 months. It is a great way of measuring and monitoring children’s reading ages (every term), and is really helpful in tracking the progress of children who are no longer on ‘book bands’ and are considered ‘free readers’.


Children usually start to access the programme in Year 1 or 2, whenever they are ready to move away from book bands. Once they start, you will se heir reading age in their reading records (which you can compare to their actual age), and you will see a book level which should help your child to choose reading books at an appropriate level.


Below are the answers to some common questions parents have about the programme. You can also find our presentation below from when we launched the programme last year. However, if you have other queries, please just ask your child’s teacher. Our reading drop-in sessions (every other Friday morning) are also a great way to find out more about how the programme works (see our newsletter for dates).




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