Phonics and Early Reading

What is Phonics?

Phonics is a method for teaching the sounds and spelling patterns of the English language and is taught every day, and throughout the day, at school.

  • it is the knowledge of letters and the sounds they make
  • It gives us the skills of blending those 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 reading goal for our children.

How is Phonics taught?

We are currently in the process of adopting the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds (Revised) programme as our systematic approach to the teaching of phonics across the Partnership. Previously, we used the DfE resource, "Letters and Sounds" as the basis for all phonics teaching at Woolsery school and a mixture of Jolly Phonics and other providers at Buckland Brewer and Parkham. L

ittle Wandle Letters and Sounds provides for clear, systematic sythetic teaching of the sounds (phonemes) and spelling patterns (graphemes) to support the children's development in early reading. This is introduced to our children in Preschool with Phase 1 and is built on successively as they move through Reception and Key Stage 1. For the few children who are still not secure in their phonic knowledge at the end of Key Stage 1, we are able to continue offering a Phonics programme to meet their needs.

The Six 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. At Woolsery Primary, we used Remote Learning extensively during the Covid Lockdown to develop parental skills in this area and ensure parents are aware of and are using this correct pronunciation. Once school fully reopens, we will continue this programme, either through face to face or virtual searning session.

The pronunciation of the consonant phonemes can be grouped:

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

As the 44 phonemes are, unfortunately, not spelt 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 a set of High Frequency Words, or HFWs.

Some words are decodable which children can use their phonic knowledge to blend sounds in order to read them, e.g. "then", "they"

Some words are tricky words which are not phonetically decodable and have to be learned by sight, e.g. "said"

Phase 1

Children explore sounds and words and develop an awareness of rhyme, rhythm and alliteration.

These are ongoing 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.

In Sunflowers Preschool, the children can take home a nursery rhyme a week with resources to help them act out and remember the rhyme.

Phase 2

Children are introduced to at least 19 letters and corresponding sounds in Phase 2. These Letter Progression sets are:

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

They begin to read and spell simple three letter consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words (e.g. "sat", "pin"). They also begin to read High Frequency Words (e.g. "go", "to", "and", "the").

Phase 3

Children learn one grapheme (how the 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 High Frequency Words (HFWs)

throughout Phases 3, 4 and 5 children will also be using pseudo or "alien" words. This is good practise for segmenting and blending sounds and will prepare Year 1 children for the phonics screening check, which is the name given to the Government's annual test of children at the end of Year 1.

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 indivisual 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, children will 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 adjascent consonants, such as "trap", "string" and "flask". They will also be able to read and spell some polysyllabic words (words with more than one syllable)

The purpose of this Phase is for chidlren 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" as in sea, bread and break.

Graphemes: ay, ou, ie, ea, oy, it, ue, aw, wh, ph, ew, oe, au, a-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 and beyond

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

  1. Reading the words automatically if they are very familiar;
  2. Decoding them quickly and silently because their sounding and blending routine is now well established;
  3. Decoding them aloud
  4. 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)
  • Root words - find its base word (e.g. Smiling = smile + ing)
  • Analogy - use words that are already known 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)

Links with other areas

Our strategy for the teaching of Writing is intrinsically linked to other areas of the English curriculum: