Phonics and Reading

What is phonics?

A glossary

Here is some of the technical vocabulary explained:

  • Phoneme: the smallest unit of speech sound that you can hear e.g sh/i/p
  • Grapheme: the written representation of each sound
  • Digraph: 2 letters making 1 sound e.g sh
  • Trigraph: 3 letters making 1 sound e,g igh
  • Blend (ing):  to say and ‘push’ individual sounds together to pronounce a word e.g s-n-a-p
  • Segment(ing):  to split up a word into its individual phonemes in order to spell
  • CVC word: consonant – vowel – consonant e.g cat
  • CCVC word: consonant – consonant -vowel – consonant e.g pram
  • Tricky word: a word that cannot be sounded out, also called ‘common exception words’  e.g said
  • Suffix(es): a unit of letters such as ‘ed’ /’ing’ that are added to a word to change its meaning e.g play/played

Words are made up from small units of sound called phonemes. Phonics teaches children to be able to listen carefully and identify the phonemes that make up each word. The teaching of phonics begins with the recognition of individual letter sounds and then the application in reading and writing.

Phonics is taught throughout the school to develop the children’s ability to decode words. This is done through stand alone sessions every day, based on a combination of the Jolly phonics scheme and Letters and Sounds. The children rehearse and practice skills, combined with opportunities to apply their phonic knowledge during reading. Children are regularly assessed to establish their level of phonic knowledge and are grouped accordingly so that they can access the structured system and build upon their current skill level.

Letters and Sounds is the government programme for teaching phonics and high frequency words. It is split into 6 phases:

Phase 1

This paves the way for systematic learning of phonics and starts in nursery. Teachers plan activities that will help children to listen attentively to sounds around them (‘environmental sounds’) such as the sounds of their toys and animals. Children learn rhymes, keep rhythms and start to relate letters sounds to words e,g ‘b’ for bag.

Phase 2

Children learn 19 phonemes and the graphemes that represent them. Your child will be taught how to correctly pronounce the sounds to make blending easier. Try to avoid saying ‘buh’/’cuh’ for example but encourage them to say the pure sound. They build 3 letter words (CVC) by orally blending (sound talking) e.g when you sound out c-a-t they can tell you the word is cat. They also begin to orally segment CVC words e.g when you say mum they can pick out the sounds m-u-m. Spelling is harder than reading. During this phase they will use lots of alternatives to pencil and paper such as magnetic letters, writing in sand, using paint.

Set 1: s a t p    Set 2: I n m d      Set 3: g o c k        Set 4: ck e u r         Set 5: h b f,ff l,ll ss

They will also learn to read 5 tricky words:

the   to    I    no   go

Phase 3

Children learn all 44 phonemes and blend and segment sounds to read and write words.

Set 6:  j  v  w  z     Set 7:  y    z,zz    qu

Consonant digraphs: ch  sh  th  ng

Vowel digraphs: ai  ee  igh  oa  oo  ar  or  ur  ow  oi  ear  air  ure  er

They will also learn to read 12 more tricky words:

he   she   we    be   me    was

my    you    her    they    all   are

Phase 4

Children continue to practise previously learned phonemes and graphemes in order to read and write:

CVCC words: e.g tent, damp, toast

CCVC words: e,gswim, cream, plum

They blend consonants together to read more difficult words e.g  grab, plank, drum

14 more tricky words are added too:

some   come   one   said   do   so   were   when   have   there   out   like   little   what

Phase 5

Children learn how to spell letter sounds in more than one way e.g rain, day, make. They also learn alternative pronunciations of the same grapheme e.g up, unicorn

ay   ou   ie  oe  ea  oy  ir  ue

au  aw  wh  ph  ew  ey

a_e     e_e     i_e      o_e      u_e

The tricky words for this phase are:

oh   their   people   Mr   Mrs

looked   called   asked   could

Phase 6

Children learn to develop strategies for spelling longer words e.g turned, beautiful, shopping. They learn how words change when you add certain letters, There are 12 suffixes taught:

_ s        _es         _ing       _ed      _er    _est

_y     _en     _ful    _ly    _ment    _ness


What you can do to help

Phonics at Home
There are many good websites and apps to help support phonic learning at home. Here are some:

At Lessness Heath Primary School we use book bands for guided reading.  This consists of eleven colour bandings, including some scheme books and some high ‘quality real’ books, that provide a progressive structure for guided reading books in the Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage One.