What is phonics?

Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skilfully. They are taught how to: recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes; identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make such as /sh/ or /ee/; and blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word. Children can then use this knowledge to ‘decode’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read.

Why teach phonics?

Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5 to 7.
Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment.
Children who have been taught phonics also tend to read more accurately than those taught using other methods, such as ‘look and say’. This includes children who find learning to read difficult, for example those who have dyslexia.

What is taught in Phase 1?
In this phase children learn to recognise sounds, begin to identify them around them and also develop their speaking and listening skills. The emphasis is to get children attuned to the sounds around them and ready to begin developing oral blending and segmenting skills.



Encourage your child to recognise sounds around them e.g. telephone, listening to the rain or wind, making animal noises, playing instruments, guessing the source of the sound (e.g. what makes the ‘bzzzzzz’ sound? A bee.)

What is taught in Phase 2?

In Phase 2, letters and their sounds are introduced one at a time. A set of letters is taught each week, in the following sequence:

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

The children will begin to learn to blend and segment to help begin reading and spelling. This will begin with simple words e.g. at, sat, pat, pin.

What is taught in Phase 3?
By Phase 3 children will be able to blend and segment words taught with letters in Phase 2.
Children will be taught a combination of constant and vowel digraphs and trigraphs.
Set 6: j, v, w, x Set 7: y, z, zz, qu
Consonant digraphs: ch, sh, th, ng
Vowel digraphs: ai, ee, igh, oa, oo (book), oo (boot), ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er
What is taught in Phase 4?
This phase consolidates phases 1, 2 and 3. Children will be able to make links between phonemes and graphemes with confidence. They will blend phonemes to read CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words and segment CVC words for spelling.
What is taught in Phase 5?
In this phase children will broaden their knowledge of letters and sounds. They will learn new graphemes and alternative pronunciations for these and graphemes they already know. They also learn about the split digraphs.



New graphemes for Reading: ay, ou, ie, ea, oy, ir, ue, aw, wh, ph, ew, oe, au, Split digraphs: a_e, e_e, i_e, o_e, u_e
Alternative pronunciations (the same letter (grapheme) can represent more than one sound (phoneme)): fin/find, hot/cold, cat/cent, got/giant, but/put, cow/blow, tie/field, eat/bread, farmer/her, hat/what, yes/by/very, chin/school/chef, out/shoulder/could/you.

In each phase, children are also introduced to tricky words. These are the words that are irregular and that can’t be read usually the ‘normal’ decoding and blending taught. This means that phonics cannot be applied to the reading and spelling of these words. All children should be able to read and spell these words independently by the end of Year 1.

What is taught in Phase 6?
During this phase children become fluent readers and increasingly accurate spellers.

This phase covers spellings and learning rules for spelling alternatives and homophones.
Children look at syllables, base words, analogy and mnemonics as aids to spelling correctly.

Children learn to add a range of suffixes to words following spelling rules.

Suffixes: – ful, -ly, -y, -ment, -ness, -ing, -ed, -s, -es, -est, -er, -tion

How can I help my child at home?

  • Talk to your child about reading and what they are reading at home and in school.
  • Make time for your child to read their school book to you and record this in their Reading Record book.
  • With all books, encourage your child to “sound out” unfamiliar words and then blend them from left to right rather than looking at the pictures to guess the word.
  • Regularly go over the phonemes (sounds) with your child so you can support them with the ones they are finding harder to remember.
  • Challenge your child to add sound buttons / lines underneath words to help them identify the sounds they need to help them to read.