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Phonics Teaching

What is Phonics?

  • It is the knowledge of letters and the sounds they make.
  • It gives us the skills of blending these sounds together to read words.
  • Through it we learn the skills of segmenting the sounds in a word and choosing the correct letters needed to spell it.
  • Phonics is the step up to word recognition. To be able to automatically read all words, both decodable and tricky ones, is the ultimate goal for all our children.



How is Phonics taught?

We have a systematic approach to the teaching of phonics at Heap Bridge. We use the ‘Letters and Sounds’ materials to support the children’s development in phonics. This is introduced to our children in Reception and is then consistently built upon throughout Years 1 and 2. Where additional support or catch up is required, further discrete teaching of phonics may happen with small groups in KS2.

Children are assessed regularly and groupings are altered accordingly. In Years 1 and 2 children bring home spellings to practise linked to the phase and week they are currently working on.

The 6 Phonic Phases

There are 44 phonemes (sounds) that the children learn throughout the Letters and Sounds Programme.

Correct pronunciation of phonemes is very important in helping children read and spell correctly.

The pronunciation of the consonant phonemes can be grouped:

  1. f  l  m  n  r  s  z  v  sh  th zh
  2. c  p  t  ch  h (short, soft)
  3. b  d  g  w  qu  y  j

As the 44 phonemes are unfortunately not  spelled in just one way, the children are gradually introduced to more alternative spellings as they progress through the Letters and Sounds Programme.

High Frequency Words
These are common words that are useful for children to learn to read and spell. As children progress through the phases of Letters and Sounds they are introduced to sets of HFWs.
Some words are decodable which children can blend to read e.g. then. Some are tricky words e.g. said, which are not phonically decodable and are learned by sight.

Phase 1

Children explore sounds and words and develop awareness of rhyme, rhythm and alliteration. They learn how to orally blend sounds and distinguish different sounds in words.

These are on-going skills and it is very important that children are exposed to a rich variety of language from an early age. This can be through conversation, nursery rhymes, stories, and games.

Phase 2

Children are introduced to at least 19 letters and corresponding sounds.

  • 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 begin to read and spell simple 3 letter words eg sat, pin. They also begin to read High Frequency words.

Phase 3

Children learn one grapheme (how a phoneme is written) for a further 25 phonemes. These include consonant and vowel digraphs (e.g. ch, ng, ai, oa) and trigraphs (e.g. igh, air). They read and spell HFWs.

Throughout Phase 3, 4 and 5 children will also be using ‘alien’ words, this is good practise for segmenting and blending sounds and will prepare Year 1 children for the phonics screening.

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

Consonant digraphs: ch  sh  th  ng

Letter Progression:

  • Set 6 -  j  v  w  x
  • Set 7 - y  z  zz  qu

Phase 4

Children read and spell words containing consonant clusters. These are 2 or more consonants, but when put together, each can be heard as individual phonemes e.g. cl dr sk mp nd. Words containing these are known as CCVC and CVCC words. e.g. black, strip, chest).
Towards the end of Phase 4 they will also begin to work with compound words such as lunchbox, pondweed and handstand.

Phase 5

Children entering Phase 5 will already be able to read and spell words with adjacent consonants, such as trap, string and flask. They will also be able to read and spell some polysyllabic words.
The purpose of this phase is for children to broaden their knowledge of graphemes and phonemes for use in reading and spelling.
In Phase 5, children will learn alternative graphemes and phonemes. For example, they already know ai as in rain, but now they will be introduced to ay as in day and a-e as in make.
Alternative pronunciations for graphemes will also be introduced, e.g. ea in tea, head and break.

ay, ou, ie, ea, oy, ir, ue, aw, wh, ph, ew, oe, au, a-e, e-e, i-e, o-e, u-e.
Alternative graphemes for:
i, o, c, g, u, ow, ie, ea, er,           a, y, ch, ou

Phase 6

Phase 6 and beyond

Children should now be able to read hundreds of words, doing this in four ways:

  • Reading the words automatically if they are very familiar;
  • Decoding them quickly and silently because their sounding and blending routine is now well established;
  • Decoding them aloud.
  • The shift from learning to read to reading to learn takes place and children read for information and for pleasure.

Strategies for learning spellings

  • Syllables - break it into smaller bits to remember (e.g. Sep-tem-ber)
  • Base words - find its base word (e.g. Smiling = smile +ing,
  • Analogy - Use words that I already know to help (e.g. could: would, should)
  • Mnemonics - make up a sentence to help remember it (e.g. could – O U Lucky Duck; people – people eat orange peel like elephants)