Learning to read can be daunting for parents and children alike. Simply understanding the jargon and terminology involved with learning and teaching synthetic phonics can be a minefield. There’s a huge number of resources available to help children learn to read online and via phonic schemes. The vast majority of them use the same underlying structure in order to introduce sounds, segmenting, blending and word reading. Read Write Inc is one of the larger independent schemes in the UK used to teach children step by step how to learn phonics and develop confidence in reading. Below you’ll find an outline of the resources, book levels, and strategies available from Read Write Inc and explanations of their use in helping children learn to read flashcards, words and sentences.
You can view some of the Read Write Inc flashcards, books and resources designed to help parents teach their children to read step by step at home here. Buy Read Write Inc Flashcards.
What is Read Write Inc?
Read Write Inc is a collection of resources designed to help children develop an understanding of how to use phonic skills to sound out, blend and have confidence in their reading. The resources are divided into a number of coloured manuals and books based around the Read Write Inc levels.
The reading books from Read Write Inc, along with the Ditty Books, flashcards and various other resources are presented in a clear font aiding good letter formation. Parents and carers of children frequently ask how to best teach phonics to their children. With a wealth of phonics schemes available it’s not always easy to answer. Certain phonics resources were approved or endorsed as quality products a few years back as part of the DfE’s Rose Review. Since then, this list has grown enormously to offer a range of different styles and phonic approaches across a number of schemes. Example schemes are:
Read Write Inc has similarities with all of these schemes mentioned above. They all feature sets or groups of letters that are introduced in a certain order to systematically familiarise children with their phonic sounds. First the schemes will introduce single sounds (such as S A T) and then, once the children gain confidence, they’ll move onto two and three-letter clusters of sounds known as “digraphs” (eg. oi, ai, ee) and “trigraphs” (eg. igh, air).
Read Write Inc reading books contain the above progression of phonetic letters and blends introduced over the Read Write Inc Levels. Within each of the Read Write Inc books there is usually a page or two identifying the Green and Red words covered in the book. We’ll talk more about those Green and Red Read Write Inc words later and how they help to understand more about how to teach phonics in stages.
Phonics Step-by-Step: How does Read Write Inc Work?
Everything about synthetic phonics schemes like Read Write Inc is designed to enable teachers, parents, carers and students to learn how to teach phonics step by step. The next few sections will give a little more info about the strategies used to teach phonics in Read Write Inc. I’ve tried to give a brief explanation of the Read Write Inc. phonics materials including the flashcards and storybooks below. I will not explain the general handbook here as it’s too complicated to give clear details on and it is best suited to teachers and those delivering the entire RWI scheme.
How to use the Read Write Inc Flashcards
In order to help a child learn their phonics step by step, Read Write Inc resources have a collection of flashcards that can be introduced alongside the introduction sequence. Each of the flashcards is designed to allow a child to attempt saying the sounds that are represented by a single letter or group of letters. Children are encouraged to sound out the words featured on the RWI flashcards using their voices and pure sounds. For example, sounding out d-o-g, ch-i-p, or sh-ee-t.
Often within the Read Write Inc scheme these simple phonics sounds are referred to as speed sounds. The general idea is these sounds and words that contain them are easy, or “speedy”, to read by sounding out and blending. Knowing the individual speed sound is not enough for children to fluently read, to do this children have to develop the ability to blend. This process, within a school setting, is commonly referred to as sound blending. Read Write Inc flashcard resources are supported by activities that allow children to practice sound blending in a step by step manner while slowly increasing the number of speed sounds included.
How the Read Write Inc Storybooks work
Read Write Inc story books are based around three levels (or stages) of reading. They are designed to build on the Read Write Inc flashcards. They do this by introducing children to two short stories in Level 1 books using speed sounds. Having two short stories within a book allows children to vary the story they’re reading night upon night and allows them a chance to pause.
As children develop confidence they can move on to Level 2 books containing longer Read Write Inc stories and slightly more challenging words. Finally, monster children are ready to progress to Level 3 books, they will encounter one longer story with extended sentences and comprehension questions. By this most of the reading will be about developing reading stamina and the ability to consolidate speed sound knowledge. The more the children practice once at this level, the more fluent they will become as readers. Whilst Read Write Inc books serve an important purpose in helping children learn how to read, they are no substitute for reading widely across a range of different books, schemes and genres. Once children are confident, I would highly suggest you start to diversify their reading across books from your local library.
More tips on how to teach phonics step by step
The Read Write Inc scheme continues to support teaching and learning phonics step by step by explaining the concept of pure sounds. Now, pure sounds are not exclusive to Read Write Inc and they are covered and featured in most of the DfE suggested phonic schemes like those mentioned earlier on. Essentially a pure sound is a sound, or group of sounds said clearly. This is referred to in speech and language development terms as not using a “schwa”. For example, in the case of the sound for the letter “s”, children should be encouraged to say “sss” not “suh”. These clean, pure sounds are the main feature of synthetic phonics schemes like Read Write Inc and they aid the reading, writing and spelling processes. Some sounds are very tricky to say without a schwa, such as those for the letters Q, W, Y, J, B, D, and G. They all require practise to get close to being pure, particularly if you have an accent or dialect.
What’s a bouncy or stretchy Read Write Inc sound?
Different letters produce a certain speed of sound when pronounced. In the case of the letter “s” mentioned in the last section you could say it continuously using a voiced breath… “sssssssss”. This is referred to as a stretchy sound as you could essentially stretch it out as long as you could using a voiced breath. The speed sounds that do not lend themselves to a longer voiced breath are referred to as bouncy sounds. These bouncy sounds are by definition sounds that a child would say, and complete, quickly before “bouncing” on to the next sound in a word. Examples of the bouncy sounds in Read Write Inc would be t, a, b, d, c/k etc.
These stretchy and bouncy sounds can be illustrated in a simple word using speed sounds such as dog:
All of these pure, bouncy and stretchy sounds contribute to clear sound out and blending of words. The more clearly the words are said, the better the chance of a child hearing the final word they’re attempting to read. Within a Read Write Inc context it is often referred to as Fred Talk. Sounds odd, we know, but Fred..i is a frog. He is used in many schools using Read Write Inc resources. The children essentially learn to say the sounds like a frog bouncing from sound to sound. It’s remarkably similar to the robotic speech activity referred to as Robot Talk in the Letters and Sounds synthetic phonics scheme used in some schools. Whether using Fred talk or Robot Talk, teachers will use these characters as a way to engage the children in saying their sounds correctly.
What are the Read Write Inc resources available at home to help children learn phonics?
Nearly all of the resources for Read Write Inc that are mentioned in this article are available directly from the Ruth Miskin website or via common outlets online like Amazon. When parents and carers are using the strategies to teach phonics at home it’s important to note that the books also contain green words and red words. I’ll explain a little more about why bees are included below, but essentially they are sets of words that are either easy to sound out using speed sounds or words that do not use any known phonetic spelling strategies (ie. traditional “tricky words” and “high frequency” words).
Getting used to green words and red words.
Green words make up the majority of the words encountered in read write Inc phonics resources. Why? Well, this is mainly because the green words feature words that consist of the speed sounds mentioned earlier that are easy to blend. The green words are the core basis for developing confidence in phonics.
Alongside the majority of the Green words introduced during the Read Write Inc scheme are the Red Words. These Red Words contain words that cannot be worked out using standard phonetic segmenting and blending techniques. These words ultimately inform the first word bank of spelling that most EYFS, Year 1 and Year 2 children will need to learn via sight recognition. Ie. learn by memory. There are less Red Words, but they’re used frequently within sentence work and their phonic skills develop over the years. Examples of these tricky Red Words include said, you, they, what and the.
The Read Write Inc books contain many of the strategies to teach phonics mentioned above throughout. This allows teachers, parents, carers and the children themselves to revise their phonic skills while developing a joy for reading. The resources, books, letter formation guides and step by step resources from Read Write Inc provide young learners with a foundation on which to build confident reading. Whether using this scheme or not, it is essential that children read widely outside phonic schemes when ready to develop a love of reading.