Carl Pattison is the Early Reading Lead advisor for the Flying High Trust (an Academy Trust of multiple schools in Nottinghamshire). Carl summarised the findings of the Reading Leaders:
Summary: After Reading Leaders reflected on the ‘surprises‘ following implementation of No Nonsense Phonics and/or Phonics International, it was clear that practitioners’ own beliefs were held back by previous experiences.
Their own beliefs about what children can achieve could, in some way, hold the children back. By implementing the No Nonsense Phonics programme, teachers and leaders feel they have lifted the lid on what can be achieved. Children constantly surprise practitioners and importantly, achieve far more than ever thought possible.
Each half-term, Reading Leaders from the Flying High Trust (FHT) schools, and a small selection of other schools, implementing the No Nonsense Phonics programme, come together for a virtual network meeting. The network offers leaders the opportunity to learn more about the programme from the author, Debbie Hepplewhite, to describe their findings and to work collaboratively to share best practice. The FHT Early Reading Lead, Carl Pattison, organises and leads the event as he has a particular responsibility for supporting schools to implement the No Nonsense Phonics programme well.
The Flying High Trust first implemented No Nonsense Phonics in a primary school back in January 2021 and there are now over twenty schools in the FHT implementing the programme. These include infant, junior and primary schools. The majority of schools are in their second year of using the programme, however, a small number of schools are only in their second term of implementation.
Carl’s notes following the meeting:
During the virtual meeting, leaders were asked to share their biggest surprises. Here are some examples of those shared. It’s important to note that everyone shared positive surprises:
- Vocabulary development: Leaders from numerous schools expressed their surprise by the children’s ability to deal with the challenging vocabulary in the programme. Most went on to say that the children’s motivation to learn new vocabulary stems from the numerous discussions and reading during lessons using the No Nonsense Phonics Skills (NNPS) Pupil Books. One leader noted how parents could not believe the vocabulary knowledge their children display and admitted that they were apprehensive at first about the children rising to the challenge. The leaders from numerous schools shared examples of children taking the new vocabulary and applying it in their writing across a range of curriculum areas.
- Adjacent consonants: Most schools previously used Letters and Sounds (DfES, 2007). As a result of this, teachers think that children will not be able to read words with adjacent consonants until later in Reception. The leaders reported their surprise, however, that children were able to tackle longer words in the first term due to repeated exposure of the challenging material in the programme. The NNPS Pupil Books include rich, cumulative word banks so children are exposed to a wide range of words to read routinely (for decoding practice and for learning new meanings) and not just simple, three letter, CVC words. By their seventh session, for example, children have read scan, spins, pant and snip. Importantly, they also become confident at recognising capital letters (as these are introduced alongside their lower-case letters and as code for the same sounds) and therefore the children can read words like CRACK!
- Alternative graphemes: Most phonics programmes focus on the ‘simple’ alphabetic code at first (systematically introducing all the phonemes but mainly with only one spelling for each phoneme). No Nonsense Phonics, however, quickly introduces Reception children to some alternative graphemes (letters and letter groups) for a given phoneme (sound). The example shared was for the /k/ sound – and others mentioned the range of code covered at an early stage for the /ai/ and /oa/ sounds. They were surprised at how well the children managed the early introduction of spelling alternatives (different ways to spell the same sound). One leader also mentioned that children soon began to ask, “Which one is it? Is it c, k or ck?” when spelling in the very first NNPS Pupil Book.
- A love of reading: Numerous leaders shared how their children noticeably love reading more and can’t wait to read alongside the teacher. They feel that the ‘Mini Story’ sessions (plain, cumulative texts provided throughout the NNPS Pupil Books) have really supported this. There was an agreement that improved reading and love of reading stemmed from the children’s accelerated reading ability and confidence from using the No Nonsense Phonics programme.
- Lesson content and routines: The NNPS Pupil Books pack a lot into every lesson and with a wonderful balance of reading, spelling and writing content. Teachers have been apprehensive about ‘getting through’ the content in a session. The leaders reported, however, that children deal with the lessons and routines well and they cannot believe how much practice every child gets in a session. Numerous leaders also reported that their children loved the routines and were surprised at how children know the lesson structure so well and so quickly. This has built a sense of confidence and efficiency, as instructions to children can be kept to a minimum.
Debbie: Thank you to Carl for this description of ‘surprises’ from the Reading Leaders, and also for organising the half-termly meetings to share findings and continue with everyone’s professional development.
See HERE for the overview of hard copy resources including the No Nonsense Phonics resources and the additional resources which serve both the No Nonsense Phonics Skills series and the first half of the Phonics International programme. You can also see our series of Phonics Reading Books which complement both programmes.
Teachers make lovely comments (feedback) to us all the time which we truly appreciate. This is an example when a teacher contacted David to order some more No Nonsense Phonics Skills Pupil Books for the school: “Firstly, I would like to say how much our staff and pupils have embraced our new phonic scheme and through their hard-work and dedication and this fantastic resource, we have seen a huge impact on our pupils confidence in reading, so thank you.” (Hannah Stimson, Reading Lead and Year 1 Teacher, Blue Bell Hill Primary School, Nottingham)
I would like to add that I’m very aware we are a ‘team’ and the dedication and hard-work mentioned here does make a real difference, supported by the design of our materials. Thank you all.