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“Literature should jolt the senses, making us feel alive. In school, we only have time to read books that bite and sting… if the books that we read do not wake us with a blow to the head, what’s the point in reading? A book must be the axe, which smashes the frozen sea within us. Literature in the classroom should have that extra bite – to surprise, challenge, delight and create wonder as well as the inexplicable charm of rhythmic and memorable language. We should read, explore and perform…”

Pie Corbett

Reading and Writing at Abacus Belsize Primary School

Reading and writing are a crucial part of our curriculum at Abacus and underpins all that we do. By the end of Year Six we intend our children to have developed a love of writing and to be able to express their thoughts and ideas clearly and creatively. We are dedicated to enabling our pupils to become lifelong readers and we believe reading is key for academic success.

"We do phonics every day and it’s fun when we learn a new sound of the day." - Reception pupil.

ImageWe intend to create writers who can re-read, edit and improve their own writing, and enable pupils to be able to confidently use the essential skills of grammar, punctuation and spelling. Writers are readers who ‘magpie’ words, phrases and ideas from their class texts and independent reading materials. We set high expectations for all our children to take pride in their work alongside allowing their imaginations to flourish.  

Pupils will make excellent progress from their own personal starting points. By the end of Year Six they will be able to write clearly and accurately and adapt their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences. Our pupils will acquire a wide vocabulary and have a strong command of the written word. Most importantly, they will develop a love of writing and be well-equipped for the rest of their education. Children will freely express themselves through writing in English and other curriculum areas and will look forward to extended writing sessions where their put their skills to work.

At abacus we believe that phonics is the key to reading and reading is the key to all learning!

By the end of year 6, children at Abacus are competent readers who can recommend books to their peers, have a thirst for reading a range of genres and participate in discussions about books. Children will have the skills to evaluate an author’s use of language and the impact this can have on the reader and will use this in their writing.  Children will read books to enhance their knowledge and understanding of all subjects on the curriculum and communicate their research to a wider audience. Children will have a deep love of reading and will look forward to tackling new books as they move to secondary school.


We are following the 'Little Wandle: Letters and Sounds' phonics scheme.

Through the English Hubs Programme, seven key features have been identified as characterising phonics teaching in highly successful schools, no matter which validated programme is being used. These are:

  • direct teaching in frequent, short bursts
  • consistency of approach
  • secure, systematic progression in phonics learning
  • maintaining pace of learning
  • providing repeated practice
  • application of phonics using matched decodable books
  • early identification of children at risk of falling behind, linked to the provision of effective keep-up support. 

Children are taught single sounds from reception and build upon their knowledge throughout early years and into year 1. Children are encourages to learn the sounds using flashcards with their associated 'catch-phrases', sound out and blend words using sound buttons or pointing fingers before moving onto reading simple sentences and more complex words. Alongside this, children are taught 'tricky words' which are words that do not have easily identifiable phonics and therefore cannot be decoded (the, no, go, yes). Children are taught the correct letter formation using rhymes and these are practised in phonics small group sessions in reception- encouraging children to form letters correctly from day 1. 

Phonics is taught daily in reception and year 1. Children have a 15-30 minute session in the morning. Each session follows the following pattern: revisit and review, teach and practise and practise and apply. 

Revisit and Review

  • flashcard GPC's (grapheme phoneme correspondence- which letters are used (grapheme) to represent which sounds (phoneme)
  • review words
  • tricky words

Teach and Practise

  • new GPC and catch phrase
  • oral blending (adult sounds out a word for the children to listen to and blend together)
  • new words (using the new sound/s)
  • example definitions and sentences (introducing new vocabulary)
  • new tricky word

Practise and Apply

  • read the sentence
  • read the tricky words
  • writing practise

Long-term planning is split into terms with 5 weeks of teaching and an assessment week to check children's progress and to ensure they are keeping up with the phonics programme. If a child is struggling with the pace of the sessions, they will receive additional 1:1 or small group 'keep up' sessions to accelerate their progress. They will not complete a separate phonics programme but will receive additional support to close the gap and support the whole-class teaching.

Reception Progression map:

Year 1 Progression map:

Please find attached below some more examples of planning documents and helpful resources to print at home.



Abacus uses the Little Wandle assessment for tracking children's phonic progress. Every six weeks, children are assessed on content with a small 1:1 quiz which identifies which sounds they have secured and how they apply these when reading. In addition to this, children read key 'tricky words' (sight words). This data is used to set 'daily keep up' groups which ensure that children have short, sharp interventions to boost their phonics acquisition. Children continue to learn along with their peers and have small group or 1:1 support to help close the gap. This is closely monitored by our phonics and early reading lead. Children in KS2 who need additional support take part in 'rapid keep-up' sessions.

At the end of phonics sessions, children have the opportunity to 'apply what they know' by writing words, phrases and sentences. 

Early reading sessions in years reception and year 1 are delivered by class teachers and trained teaching assistants. Teachers read with each group at least weekly on a rota. Reading books are linked to their phonics learning, ensuring that each book they read is phonetically decodable. Children read the same book for the week with a decodable, comprehension and prosody session. Children then take this book home to read with parents and  consolidate their reading for the week.

Children who are not reading at age-related-expectations will have additional 1:1 reading sessions and may take an easier phonetically-decodable book home to develop confidence and success in reading. 

THRIVE-ing in Phonics

"We do phonics every day and it’s fun when we learn a new sound of the day." - Reception pupil.

"Our teachers help us to remember our sounds. We have lots of adults in Reception who teach us to read." - Reception pupil.

"When we do phonics, the pictures on the cards help us to remember. The queen helps me to remember the ‘qu’ sound." - Reception pupil.

Decodable Readers

Alongside daily phonics sessions, children have small-group reading sessions three times weekly. These are decodable texts (do not contain words or sounds that the children are yet to learn) and closely match the sounds and words learned. These are then sent home on a Friday for your child to continue reading at home. As they will have read these multiple times at school, you may find that your child can read these with increasing fluency. This is brilliant and the purpose of these books. We also send home 'free-choice' and 'banded' books alongside these so that children are still challenged and engaged with reading at home. Some children may have an additional decodable reader to support and enhance their 'keep up' sessions. Please see the reading section of the website for further information.

Each of these reading sessions follows the same format.

  • Day 1: decoding
  • Day 2: prosody
  • Day 3: comprehension

Please see below an example of a reading pack we have created to match these three stages. These closely follow our school guided reading packs in key stage 1 and ensure that all children are supported and challenged in their reading session, regardless of the adult leading the session or the group they are in. 


How to help your child with phonics at home

Reading at home is vitally important as children are developing their fluency. Little Wandle have produced some excellent video links for parents which you will find below. These include how to correctly pronounce sounds from reception and year 1.

In addition to this, all of the Little Wandle lessons are uploaded and available on youtube. These follow the lessons in class exactly. If your child is absent from school or struggling with specific sounds, these are great 20 minute lessons that you could access at home.