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At Hilltop, learning to read and reading for pleasure it is at the heart of everything we do. Developing children’s enjoyment of reading helps to grow a range of skills that children will use and need in their future lives. Reading for pleasure can benefit a child’s education, social and cognitive development, their wellbeing, and their mental health. Reading also enables pupils both to acquire knowledge and to build on what they already know.

Children have the opportunity to read a variety of different texts, both fiction and non- fiction, throughout their time at Hilltop. All classes read daily, for at least 10 minutes, as part of their DEAR time (Drop Everything And Read.)

Guided reading
At Hilltop, we use key reading domains to teach guided reading. Each lesson follows one of our reading domains. These are the key areas which children need to know and understand in order to improve their comprehension of texts. Reading is taught three times a week in each class (starting in term 2 for Year One.)

KS1 – Define, Retrieve, Summarise, Infer and Predict.

KS2 – Define, Retrieve, Summarise, Infer, Predict, Relate,

Explore and Compare.

Reading at Home
Although the children are provided with an opportunity to read at school, it is vital that they read at home. The expectation is that all children read for a minimum of 10 minutes 5 times per week. The more often children read at home, the better it is for their development. Every time a child reads at home, the expectation is that their reading record book is signed. All children who read at least 5 times a week are celebrated in a weekly assembly. From these children, one is chosen by the teacher as a Star Reader and the rest have their name put into a weekly raffle for their class. Both of these children are awarded with a prize book of their choice.

Reading Books – Phonics books, Accelerated Reader and MyOn
Children in EYFS and KS1 are given a decodable phonics book, linking to the phonics phase they are studying in class. Once their fluency, ability and comprehension of what they have read develops sufficiently, they will then move on to Accelerated Reader. Red Phonics folders will sent home weekly with a parent sheet linked to that week’s phonics and a small mini book, for them to keep, to embed this further.

As a school who really promote reading, we also use Accelerated Reader to encourage, motivate and track our students reading ability. This programme generates reading ages for all of our children who use it (those with a reading age of 6 years or more), enables them to take comprehension quizzes after every book that they have read, ensuring that they have taken in what they have read.  It also gives them a ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development – a reading level range) that they can choose a variety of texts within this level to guarantee that they are challenged at all times. This is to promote reading for pleasure, giving children their free choice of books.

To complement Accelerated Reader, each child also has access to MYON. This is a programme that has a selection of thousands of online books that are linked directly to Accelerated Reader. Children can listen to texts being read aloud as well as reading them independently at their own pace. They have access to over 7000 e-books, both fiction and non-fiction that cover a wide range of topics.


Children learning phonics in school, are given a decodable phonics book, linking to the phonics phase they are studying. Red Phonics folders will be sent home weekly with a parent sheet for phonemes/rules linked to that week and a small mini book to embed this further. This is to support children and families with saying the sounds correctly, using the correct action, forming letter shapes and learning tricky words.

Twinkl Phonics

At Hilltop Primary Academy we follow the Twinkl Phonics programme. This is a phonics resource recognised by the Department for Education. Twinkl Phonics is a fully comprehensive, synthetic phonics teaching programme designed to be used with children from Nursery to Year 2. Delivered through stories and adventures of Kit, Sam and the Twinkl Phonics family, the scheme builds and develops the skills and understanding children need to become effective, independent readers and writers.

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Level 1

Level 1 of Twinkl Phonics concentrates on developing children’s speaking and listening skills and lays the foundations for all future phonic work.

Level 1 is divided into seven aspects:

A1 – Environmental
A2 – Instrumental sounds
A3 – Body Percussion
A4 – Rhythm and rhyme
A5 – Alliteration
A6 – Voice sounds
A7 – Oral blending and segmenting.

Each aspect contains three strands:

  • Tuning in to sounds (auditory discrimination)
  • Listening and remembering sounds (auditory memory and sequencing)
  • Talking about sounds (developing vocabulary and language comprehension)

Level 2

In Level 2, letters and their sounds (phonemes) are introduced one at a time.

A set of letters is taught each week, in the following sequence:
Set 1s, a, t, p
Set 2: i, n, m, d
Set 3: g, o, c, k
Set 4: ck, e, u, r
Set 5: h, b, f, ff, l, ll, ss

Children are taught that words are constructed from phonemes and that the sound they make are represented by graphemes. Children learn to blend them together to read simple words and segment them to support spelling simple words such as ‘sad’, ‘hot’, ‘mess’.

Level 3

New graphemes are introduced one at a time in the following sequence:

Set 6: j, v, w, x
Set 7: y, z, zz, qu
Consonant digraphs: ch, sh, th, ng
Vowel digraphs: ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er

Level 4

In Level 4, no new graphemes are introduced. The main aim of this level is to consolidate the children’s knowledge learnt previously and apply this into two syllable and polysyllable words such as ‘sandpit’, ‘windmill’ and ‘lunchbox’. There is also an emphasis on teaching words which have adjacent consonants, such as ‘strap’, ‘start’, ‘pumpkin’ and ‘monster’.

Level 5

In Level 5 children will be taught some new graphemes and alternative pronunciations for these graphemes and graphemes they already know. They will begin to learn to choose the appropriate grapheme when spelling. For example, children will already know /ai/ as in ‘rain’, but now they will be introduced to /ay/ as in ‘day’ and /a-e/ as in ‘make’. Alternative pronunciations for graphemes will also be introduced, e.g. /ea / in ‘tea’, ‘head’ and ‘break’.

Digraphs: wh, ph, ay, ou, ie, ea, oy, ir, ue, aw, ew, oe, au
Split digraphs: a_e, e_e, i_e, o_e, u_e


Phonics – Phonics teaches children to listen to and identify the sounds that make up words. This helps them to read and write words.

Blend – Saying the individual sounds that make up a word and then merging or blending the sounds together to say the word – used when reading.

Segment – This is the opposite of blending. Splitting a word up into individual sounds – used when spelling and writing.

Vowel – The letters a, e, i, o, u.

Consonant – Most letters of the alphabet (excluding the vowels: a,e,i,o,u).

CVC words – Abbreviation used for consonant-vowel-consonant words, used to describe the order of sounds. Some examples of CVC words are: cat, pen, top, chat (because ch makes one sound).

Other similar abbreviations include:
VC words: on, is, it
CCVC words: trap and black
CVCC words: milk and fast

Phoneme –  A single sound that can be made by one or more letters – e.g. s, k, z, oo, ph, igh.

Grapheme – Written letters or a group of letters which represent one single sound (phoneme) e.g. a, l, sh, air, ck.

Digraph – Two letters which together make one sound e.g. ee, oa, ea, ch, ay. There are different types of digraph:
• Vowel digraph: a digraph in which at least one of the letters is a vowel, for example; boat or day.
• Consonant digraph: two consonants which can go together, for example shop or thin.
• Split digraph (previously called magic e): two letters, which work as a pair to make one sound, but are separated within the word e.g. a-e, e-e, i-e, o-e, u-e. For example cake or pine.

Trigraph – Three letters which go together make one sound e.g. ear, air, igh, dge, tch.

Pure sound – Pronouncing each letter sound clearly and distinctly without adding additional sounds to the end e.g. ‘f’ not ‘fuh.’ Top Tip – It is tricky to say some sounds without the ‘uh’ sound at the end – like b, d, v and g! Try to emphasise the main letter sound when talking about these letter sounds. Some are easier to say by dragging the sound out e.g. ffffff rather than ‘fuh’ or mmmmmm rather than ‘muh.’

Tricky words – Words that are difficult to sound out e.g. said, the, because.

Year 1 Phonics Screening Check

What is the phonics screening check?
The phonics screening check was introduced in 2012 to all Year 1 pupils in England. It is a short, statutory assessment and is designed to give and parents/carers information about children’s progress in phonics. It helps to identify whether they need additional support to ensure they are on track to become a fluent reader who can enjoy reading for pleasure and for learning.

When will the phonics screening take place?
The check will take place June 12th 2023.

How does the check work?
The check normally takes 5-10 minutes and is designed not to be stressful for your child. The phonics screening check contains 40 words divided into two sections of 20 words. Both sections contain a mixture of real words and pseudo-(nonsense/ alien) words. The nonsense words will be shown with a picture of an alien.

Why are there Pseudo Words/ nonsense words / alien words?
The nonsense words are important as they cannot be read using the children’s vocabulary or from memory. The children have to use their phonic knowledge and decoding skills to read the words and this is a fair way to assess all children’s ability to decode and read words.

Phonics at Home

Tips for teaching your child the sounds
It is important for a child to learn lower case or small letters rather than capital letters at first. Most early books and games use lower case letters and your child will learn these first at school. Obviously, you should use a capital letter when required, such as at the beginning of the child’s name, e.g. Paul. Or for a place, e.g. Gravesend.

When you talk about letters to your child, remember to use the letter sounds: a buh cuh duh e … rather than the alphabet names of the letters: ay bee see dee ee. The reason for this is that sounding out words is practically impossible if you use the alphabet names. E.g. cat, would sound like: see ay tee.

Useful Websites

Phonics Play
This is a very popular website we use regularly in our phonics lessons. The children will be familiar with the website and its games. Some of our favourite games are:

  • Flashcards
  • Buried Treasure
  • Dragons Den
  • Picnic on Pluto
  • Reading Robot

Mr. Thorne Does Phonics
If you are unsure how to correctly pronounce any of the sounds go to Mr. Thorne Does Phonics on YouTube where you can watch videos of Mr. Thorne or his friend Geraldine the Giraffe teach the sound and discuss words including it.

Can be watched on the Cbeebies channel or accessed via It involves interactive videos that children can watch and it allows them to practise sound recognition and blending.

ICT Games

BBC Bitesize

Both websites offer a great range of activities and games to support grapheme, phoneme recognition, blending and segmenting.


At Hilltop Primary Academy, we aim to develop confident and able writers who are able to produce well structured, detailed writing in which the meaning is made clear and engages the interest of the reader.

Across the school, each year group focuses their literacy lessons around a variety of age appropriate, core texts. By studying and exploring the texts in a variety of exciting and creative ways, the children learn how different genres are created and use these skills to develop extended pieces of independent work; often across a range of curriculum subjects. The children are then taught (from year 1) to read, edit and improve their writing, learning to identify errors and areas where their sentences could be improved.

Whilst exploring texts in detail and learning about different genres, the children are taught the grammar, punctuation and spelling expectations that are required for their year group. Our children are taught these skills in a variety of ways that allow the children to explore and apply grammar rules in their writing. For every piece of extended writing the children complete, they are taught the specific punctuation and grammar skills that are then applied to work they are completing.

At Hilltop, we follow the Twinkl spelling scheme, starting in Year One. Throughout Key Stage One, this directly links with our Twinkl phonics scheme.

As well as learning to develop the skills needed for writing extended pieces, our strive for excellence drives our high expectations of presentation, with children taught to write, following the Nelson handwriting scheme, aiming to earn a pen license.

Relevant websites: