The aim of the Project READ website is to support collaboration between schools in our joint endeavour to improve reading outcomes for Derbyshire pupils. A huge 'Thank you!' to all who have contributed case studies. Use the case studies as a starting point to reflect on practice in your school with colleagues. Explore the 'Useful Links' tab for research, resources and continuous professional development (CPD) opportunities. The password to view the video clips is projectread

Learning to read – a swift start at Whitwell Primary School

About our school

Whitwell Primary is a medium sized Derbyshire Primary School with around 300 children on roll. Geographically, our position is on the very edge of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire. The village is semi-rural with a very strong community. 


In this case study we would like to share our teaching of phonics to two groups of children from Reception and Y1. The clips focus on fast-paced phonics delivery and on progression from initial sounds through to reading activities.


Phonics is taught daily for approximately 35 minutes. Assessments are made regularly. Children are re-grouped as necessary across FS2 (Reception) and KS1. 4 classes of children are split into 7/8 teaching groups.


(GPCs=grapheme-phoneme correspondences.)
Filming took place at the end of September 2018. Two groups of children from Reception and Y1 were filmed. Throughout, both Becky and Gemma give the children lots of praise. The sessions are pacey and lively. If any phonemes are pronounced incorrectly, these are noticed and a correct pronunciation is modelled and reinforced. 

Please note: All the clips have been edited to highlight particular skills. They do not reflect a complete teaching sequence but are intended to showcase good practice.

Group 1 (Reception and Y1) was led by Becky, the Class Teacher.  The Reception children have been learning Set 1 Speed Sounds for just over 3 weeks. Here is a summary of the activities in the session. A new speed sound is introduced using pure sounds and that sound is used for oral blending. Children are shown how to write that sound. Speed sounds are practised using flashcards. Then, children read word cards, first of all reading together and then reading in their heads. Letter formation is recapped before children practise handwriting. Here are 3 clips from that session.

Group 1 Clip 1 Introducing ‘b’ (1 min 31 secs): Becky introduces a new grapheme-phoneme correspondence (GPC) /b/. The children practise oral blending. Becky reinforces the pure sound as needed.
Group 1 Clip 2 Practising blending to read (3 mins 26 secs):  Becky uses ‘Fred Talk’ and oral blending to read words using the GPCs the children have already learnt, including the new GPC, ‘b’. Finally, in this clip, the children are challenged to read words ‘in their head’ without sound buttons. 
Group 1 Clip 3 Demonstrating how to write ‘b’ (2 mins 54 secs) Becky demonstrates how to write the lower case letter ‘b’ using a picture and a rhyme. Later in the session, following reading activities, Becky demonstrates letter formation of ‘b’ again and prepares the children to practise writing the letter ‘b’ in their books.

Group 2 (Y1) was led by Gemma, a Teaching Assistant. Here is a summary of the activities in the session. Children practise the speed sounds they already know. They practise holding the words in their heads. Children identify real words and alien words. Then they practise some tricky words. These are sorted by sounds. Finally, the children take part in a teacher-led guided reading session. They read in pairs using ‘sticks of power’ to support each other. Here are 3 clips from that session. 

Group 2 Clip 1 Introducing ‘oo’ (1 min 47 secs) Gemma introduces a new GPC, ‘oo’. Then, children practise the speed sounds they already know along with ‘oo’. Finally, in this clip, the children practise reading words containing ‘oo’.
Group 2 Clip 2 Practising blending to read (2 mins 32 secs) Gemma uses flashcards with alien words and pictures of aliens so the children can practice reading non-words. Then, Gemma uses flashcards of real words (with ‘Fred’ on her head to indicate that this is ‘Fred talk’). The children read in their heads then say the word aloud. Finally, in this clip, Gemma introduces two ‘tricky’ words and the children practise speed reading those alongside tricky words on the wall.
Group 3 Clip 3 Teacher-led guided reading (2 mins 18 secs) Gemma models and encourages early blending to read with one pupil. The children read ‘tricky’ words quickly. Gemma makes the most of the book introduction in order to talk about the word ‘gleefully’ to develop vocabulary. Then, the children read in pairs. In the final part of this clip, Gemma asks questions to develop comprehension skills.


1. All of our KS1 and EYFS staff have improved subject knowledge and confidence in delivery.

2. All staff in school can see the impact of phonics in school and many are happy to ‘stand-in’ if a group needs a lead.

3. More Y2 children now do guided reading and have finished all the phases of phonics teaching.

4. Children enjoy the fast-paced sessions and enjoy sharing their learning.

5. Regular learning walks have shown confident delivery and good outcomes for the children.

Next steps

1. High quality teaching to continue
2. Phonics can be developed in lower KS2 as an intervention, with Teaching Assistants to lead.
3. Develop more of the comprehension aspects of reading, particularly for lower ability children.


Sarah Tomlinson- English Co-ordinator and Deputy Headteacher

Additional information

Would you like to take part in a phonics project in your school? Project Phonics EYFS - Year 2 is a collaborative CPD opportunity for primary school clusters in Derbyshire. This opportunity builds on the robust foundations of Project READ to enable schools not involved in the original project to participate in similar, collaborative school improvement projects. Participating schools work in partnership with Derbyshire's Teaching, Learning and Assessment Consultants and with Specialist Leaders of Education from Derbyshire's Teaching Schools. Contact for more information.

1. Becky-Introducing 'b'. Password for all clips: projectread
2. Becky-Practising blending to read
3. Becky-Demonstrating how to write 'b'
4. Gemma-Introducing 'oo'
5. Gemma-Alien, tricky and real words
6. Gemma-Reading
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