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Literacy: Symbols, Phonics and Words

Reading at Kingsley

At Kingsley we value reading, in all its forms!  Children develop their skills in reading and recording in many different ways and we foster a love of  sharing literature - for pleasure, leisure, learning and wellbeing. 


Interpreting Symbolic Information

Reading and recording (writing) skills are developed using systems appropriate to pupil’s levels of development and sensory needs. Children ‘read’ and record using a range of systems and media; such as placing and interpreting objects of association, reading and recording using symbols (Picture Communication Symbols from Mayer Johnson are used), pictures and photos. Structured teaching of a symbol vocabulary is often necessary to help children develop functional skills.

For some children a focus on reading traditional text is not appropriate at a particular stage in their development. For some of these children symbol systems will form the basis of their functional reading and writing and this mode is taught systematically to be a functional system.

Other children will use symbols to support their reading/ or to allow curricular access and a level of independence, whilst learning to read traditional text, which may be a long process and pupils may not  attain fluent & functional reading skills for some time.


Approaches based on Colourful Semantics are utilised to support symbol based recording for many children, in addition to the benefits in developing receptive and expressive language.


Reading of Traditional Text

It is acknowledged that our pupils learn to read in many different ways, staff observe and use this information to inform teaching and learning.

As a rough indication, Phonics (Level 1) is felt to be appropriate for pupils who have reached K6 in their reading and language strands. Teachers should always be alert to children who are not scoring these levels, but who may be showing reading skills, particularly those with profound and multiple barriers to learning (PMBL)





Phonics is taught (when appropriate) using a synthetic phonics approach. We have adopted Twinkl Phonics, to form the spine of our reading teaching, providing a cohesive, whole school approach and a progressive, consistent phonics curriculum.


Reading books follow the same progression as the phonic scheme, so that children encounter texts that are fully decodable. Twinkl’s linked Rhino readers are used as our core reading scheme supported by Twinkl minibooks. We recognise that our pupils may need more opportunities to apply their phonic knowledge. As such we have matched other phonically decodable schemes (Follyfoot farm, & Project X) to correlate to Twinkl phonics progression.



Whole word reading: 

The Whole Word method of reading instructs learners to recognise words as whole units without breaking them down into sounds or letter groupings. It focuses on the word as the minimum unit of meaning and therefore the essential base element of reading. For many of our pupils, particularly those with ASD, this is a particularly powerful approach and may be their primary learning tool. This preference is acknowledged and used to support individuals learning. These pupils are also introduced to synthetic phonics to provide them with strategies to decode new vocabulary.