Read Write Inc Phonics (RWI) is a systematic approach to teaching literacy; the focus on structure, repetition and embedding positive behaviours for learning enables children to learn to read rapidly and with accuracy and fluency. Comprehension, writing, grammar, spelling, vocabulary and handwriting are an integral part of the programme. The partner work, role-play and drama keep children engaged and help them to develop their confidence as speakers and writers.
The RWI training ensures that practice across the school is consistent and that everyone has a shared understanding of how to teach reading and writing. In the weekly meetings with the Reading Lead, staff are coached to ensure that everyone is teaching as effectively and consistently as possible. The summary lesson plans for teaching the sounds provide a clear structure for each lesson. Additional teaching materials and support videos are available to teachers on the Oxford Owl website.
Throughout the programme children learn the English alphabetic code: 150+ graphemes that represent the 44 speech sounds. Children begin by learning the sound and the letter, or groups of letters that represent them, in three sets of Speed Sounds Lessons. They learn one way to read the sounds and then blend these sounds into words; they then learn to read the sounds with alternative graphemes. Simple mnemonics help children to remember the letter-sound correspondences; this learning is taught and consolidated every day. High frequency words that are not phonetically regular are taught as ‘Tricky’ words or ‘Red’ words. Once children have learnt the Set 1 Speed Sounds and can blend words with these sounds, they move on to Sound Blending Books, Red Ditty Books and Get Writing! Red Ditty Books. They are then taught the Set 2 Sounds and continue to review Set 1 Speed Sounds and blending. Once children have progressed through the different colours of story and writing books they can move on to RWI Literacy and RWI Spelling.
The Phonics books are closely matched to children’s increasing knowledge of phonics and ‘tricky’ words so that early on they can experience success. The introduction to the Storybooks prompts ‘thinking out loud’ and discussion to help children comprehend what they are reading. Teachers read the books aloud and discuss other stories with similar themes to build up background knowledge ready for the next Storybook.
The stories are read three times. On the first read, children focus on accurate word reading and then as they re-read the stories, their fluency increases. The repeated readings of the texts supports children’s fluency and decoding skills.
Children learn to:
- read new sounds
- sound out the names of the characters and unfamiliar words
- understand the meanings of new words
- read the story (first read)
Children learn to:
- read the words in the story speedily
- track the story and ‘jump in’ when the teacher hesitates
- read the story with increasing fluency
Children learn to:
- predict the outcome, after listening to the story introduction
- discuss and compare key moments in the story
- read the story in a story teller voice (third read)
- answer questions about the story
- read the same story at home
- build background knowledge, ready to read the next Storybook.
As with the reading, the alphabetic code is embedded first, so that children can write simple words and then build on their success. Children begin by writing at the level of their spelling knowledge, using the sounds and the ‘tricky’ words they have learnt. This knowledge is rapidly built on, which enables the children to write more complex words and adventurous vocabulary that they have encountered in their reading. Children have the opportunity to write every day; they rehearse out loud what they want to write before composing, until they are confident to write independently. Their ideas, vocabulary and grammar are developed step by step by drawing on their own experiences and talking about the stories they have read. They also practise handwriting every day for 5-10 mins in the correct handwriting position (see below).
Children learn to:
- develop a confident handwriting style
- spell common words with common graphemes and suffixes
- spell common words with unusual graphemes
- write prepared sentences with correct spelling and punctuation
Regular handwriting slots of 5-10 minutes are planned every day. Children learn how to sit in the perfect handwriting position and they are taught to use the correct letter formation to build their skills of joining letters speedily and legibly. The same mnemonics, learnt in the Speed Sounds Set 1, help children to visualise the letter or join before they write it down.
Handwriting lessons are in three stages:
First the teacher demonstrates how to write the letter, talking through the stages of the letter formation using the mnemonic. This is repeated a few times, using partner talk to repeat the mental checklist. The children then practise the letter formation without the visual support. In the final review stage, the teacher writes the letter on the board making one error, drawing on children’s common errors. Children identify the error and then tell their partners their ‘two best bits’ and ‘one fix’. The children then practise again.
Children are never asked to copy letters or words as their attention should be on their own formation of letters and joins.
When the handwriting signal is given, children will automatically go to the taught handwriting position:
- feet flat on the floor
- bottom at the back of the chair
- body one fist from the table
- shoulders down and relaxed
- back leaning forward slightly
- left/right hand holding the page
- left/right hand ready in a tri-pod grip
There are three handwriting stages:
These lessons are taught while the children read Red, Green, Purple, Pink and Orange Storybooks.
Stage 1a: Children practise correct letter formation.
- ‘Around’ letters: c a o d g q
- ‘Down’ letters: l t b p k h i j m n r u y
- ‘Curly’ letters: e f s
- ‘Zig Zag’ letters: v w z x
Stage 1b: Children learn the relative size of the letters and where to place the letters on the writing line.
- Some small letters are called ‘boat letters’: a c e i m n o r s u v w x z
- Letters that are written below the line are called ‘water letters’: g j p q y
- Tall letters are called ‘sun letters’: b d h k l t f
On lined paper, the teacher draws the sun, boat and water in the correct position on the lines and then demonstrates where to start writing the letter, while recalling the checklist as they write. The teacher then asks the children to TTYP and ask, “What size is each letter?” Children then practise.
These lessons are taught while the children read Yellow, Blue and Grey Storybooks. Children learn a style of writing that will lead to joined-up writing.
These lessons are also taught while the children read Yellow, Blue and Grey Storybooks. Children learn two basic joins: the arm join (diagonal) and the washing line join (horizontal) and the variables for each join.
There are three types of story time in RWI phonics:
- The linked texts read to the children in the phonics lessons
Share a linked text with the children after every Storybook; these prepare the children to read their next Storybook, e.g. before reading ‘Black Hat Bob’, the children listen to a story about pirates.
- The teachers’ own story times which are timetabled every day
- RWI Storytime and Poetry Time
This is a twice-termly resource which provides ideas to develop fairy stories and poetry. These activities are to develop oral language and comprehension only; they are not writing activities. The six short stories and six poems for Reception and Year 1, with teaching notes, audio versions and artwork, can be found online.
READING AT HOME
Every child takes home a text that they have chosen and that they will be able to access independently. However, we do encourage children to read a wide, rich and varied range of texts both independently and with support from their grown-ups at home.
Children in RWI phonics groups take home a RWI Storybook that is matched to their phonic knowledge.
They should take home one of the following, at least every two days:
- The last RWI Storybook that they have read.
- An earlier RWI Storybook
- A RWI ‘Book Bag Book’ that matches the last Storybook that they have read, as well as a picture book that they know well.
Information for parents and Read Write Inc Phonics resources are available on both the Ruth Miskin and Oxford Owl websites, including electronic Speed Sounds slide shows, Storybooks and practice sheets, Ditty sheets and parents’ video guides, which include a sound pronunciation guide.