Phonics and Reading at St. Leonard’s

As a school we are committed to continually raising standards in Reading. We aim to develop each child so that they are able to read with fluency as well as develop a love of reading that will stay with them throughout their lives. Being able to read is the most important skill children will learn during their early schooling. Our aim is to ensure the highest standards of reading and literacy for every child by providing them with the skills necessary to read with confidence, fluency and understanding. We believe that children must learn to read and read to learn. Therefore, we aim to develop children’s competence in both word reading (by teaching phonics) and comprehension to develop understanding.



At St. Leonard’s, phonic skills are taught through discrete phonic sessions in EYFS and Year 1 following The Teach Hub synthetic phonics programme. The Teach Hub Phonics sets out a detailed and systematic programme for teaching skills over six phases with the aim of pupils becoming fluent readers by age seven. It teachers all key elements of conceptual understanding, factual knowledge and the three essential skills of blending, segmenting and phoneme manipulation necessary for reading and spelling. Discrete sessions enable pupils to practice word building, word reading, dictation and phoneme manipulation exercises. This is continued into KS2 where necessary.

The Teach Hub progression document

At Home

Parents often ask how they can support their children with phonics at home. There are a range of highly informative videos about the teaching of phonics on the Oxford Owl website which are well worth watching. You can find them using the following link:

The videos include advice on:

  • How to pronounce pure sounds
  • How to blend sounds to read words
  • How to support phonics learning
  • Phonics top 10 tips

Reading Comprehension

As well as teaching the mechanics of reading through phonics, we aim to develop key comprehension skills to enable children to become more successful readers, to read to learn and to develop a lifelong love of reading. We ensure that children’s comprehension skills develop through providing high-quality discussion with the teacher, and establishing clear methods for answering a range of comprehension questions involving retrieving information, making inferences and making predictions. Children will read a range of genres and discuss and respond to a range of stories, poems and non-fiction.

We use the Literacy Shed’s ‘Reading Vipers’ in our whole class and small group teaching of reading. The Reading Vipers approach helps to develop key comprehension skills and enables the children to become more successful readers.  Each of the letters stands for one of the key areas of learning.

What are the Reading Vipers?

VIPERS is an anagram to aid the recall of the 6 reading domains which make up the UK’s reading curriculum.  They are the key areas which we feel children need to know and understand in order to improve their comprehension of texts.

VIPERS stands for:

  • Vocabulary
  • Inference
  • Prediction
  • Explanation
  • Retrieval
  • Sequence or Summarise

How can parents help?

VIPERS can be used on any text that a child is reading, as well as on pictures, picture books and even films! When any adult is listening to a child read, all they have to do is think of questions about the book/picture/film that cover all of the VIPERS, and there are great examples below of how you can create your own questions using the following question openers.

EYFS – Y2 Y3 – Y4
Vocabulary What does the word ….. mean in this sentence?

What does this word or phrase tell you about …..?

What do the words ….. and ….. suggest about the character, setting and mood?

Find one word in the text which means …..

Which word tells you that …..?

Infer Why was …..? feeling …..?

What do you think the author intended when they said …..?

How can you tell that …..?

What impression of …..? do you get from

these paragraphs?

Predict What do you think will happen next? What makes you think this?

What is happening? What do you think happened before?

Do you think ….. will happen? Yes, no or maybe?

Explain your answer using evidence from the text.

What does this paragraph suggest will happen next? What makes you think this?

Explain Who is your favourite character? Why?

Is there anything you would change about this story?

Do you like this text? What do you like about it?

The mood of the character changes throughout the text.

Find and copy the phrases which show this.

How does the author engage the reader here?

Why is the text arranged in this way?

Retrieve How many …..?

What happened to …..?

How would you describe this story/text? What genre is it? How do you know?


What happened after …..?

What was the first thing that happened in the story?

Can you summarise in a sentence the opening/middle/end of the story?

In what order do these chapter headings come in the story?

Examples of how to use the Reading Vipers

Here is a piece of text taken from Prince Cinders by Babette Cole:

Prince Cinders had three brothers who were not very nice to him at all. Although he did all the work around the house, they always wanted him to do more!  They did nothing to help him and they always teased him because he was small, scruffy, spotty and skinny. What horrible brothers they were!

One day, a dusty fairy fell out of the chimney as Prince Cinders was washing up and landed with a puff of ash all around her.  “What on earth was that?” he asked.  His heart was beating so fast in his chest.  The fairy dusted herself down and announced, “All your wishes will be granted!”

Vocabulary question: What two words has the author used as alternatives for ‘said’? What does granted mean?

Inference questions: (‘Reading between the lines’): Why does the fairy dust herself down? Why do you think this? How did Prince Cinders feel when the fairy fell out of the chimney? How do you know?

Prediction question: What do you think will happen next?

Explanation question: What do you think about Prince Cinder’s brothers? Explain why you think this.

Retrieval questions: How many brothers does Prince Cinders have? What was Prince Cinders doing when the fairy fell from the chimney?

Finally, you can find out more about the Reading Vipers here: and here:

KS1 Reading Viper Question Stems

KS2 Reading Viper Question Stems


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