Phonics at St Wilfrid's

What is phonics?

Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skillfully. They are taught how to:

  1. recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes;
  2. identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make - such as ‘sh’ or ‘oa’; and
  3. blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word.

Children can then use this knowledge to ‘de-code’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read.

At St Wilfrid's we follow the 'Letters and Sounds' programme for teaching phonics and we use resources from 'Jolly Phonics', 'Read, Write Inc' and 'Phonics Play'.  

For reading, we use Oxford Reading Tree, Usborne Early Readers and other books that are banded into colour levels. 

Phonics is taught daily in Reception and Year 1. In Year 2 they continue to build on their phonics knowledge as they develop their increasing spelling knowledge and skills on a daily basis.


Letters and Sounds

'Letters & Sounds' is the government programme for teaching phonics and high frequency words.

It is split into 6 Phases:

Phase 1: Children learn rhymes. Keep rhythms and start to relate letter sounds to (starting in Nursery) words. E.g. b for bag.

Phase 2: Children learn initial letter sounds and build three letter words.

Phase 3: Children learn all 44 phonemes and blend sounds to read and write words.

Phase 4: Children blend consonants together to read difficult words e.g. blue, grab.

Phase 5: Children learn how to spell letter sounds in more than one way e.g. rain, day, make.

Phase 6: Children learn how to spell word specific spellings. E.g. turned, beautiful, shopping.

The aim of this page is to give you a clear picture of how we approach the teaching of phonics and word recognition and how, as a parent or carer, you can support and encourage your child at home. 

Here's some of the technical vocabulary explained.

Blend(ing) - to draw individual sounds together to pronounce a word, e.g. s-n-a-p

CVC - Consonant - Vowel - Consonant (cat)

CCVC - Consonant - Consonant - Vowel - Consonant (pram)

Grapheme - Written representation of the sounds

Phoneme - Smallest unit of speech sounds sh/i/p 

Segment(ing) - to split up a word into its individual phonemes in order to spell it

Suffix(es) - a unit of letters such as 'ed' 'ing' that are added to a word to change its meaning e.g. play'ed'


Phase 1

This paves the way for systematic learning of phonics and usually starts in nursery or playgroup.

Teachers plan activities that will help children to listen attentively to sounds around them, such as the sounds of their toys and to sounds in spoken language.

Teachers teach a wide range of nursery rhymes and songs. They read good books to and with the children.

This helps to increase the number of words they know - their vocabulary - and helps them talk confidently about books.

Things to try at home:

  • Play games like 'I Spy'
  • Sing songs and rhymes together
  • Share books together

Phase 2

In Phase 2, they will also be taught the phonemes (sounds) for a number of letters (graphemes).

Your child will be taught how to pronounce the sounds (phonemes) correctly to make blending easier. Try to avoid saying 'buh', 'cuh' encourage your child to say the pure sound.

s   a   t   p   i   n   m   d  

g   o   c   k   ck   e   u   r  

h   b   f   ff   l   ll   ss      

and be able to read 5 tricky words...

the   to   I   no   go

They should be able to orally blend (sound talk) cvc words e.g. when you sound out c-a-t, they can tell you the word is cat, and also 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 (e.g. magnetic letters, writing in sand, using paint).


Phase 3

The purpose of this phase is to teach 25 graphemes (letters), most of them comprising of two letters (e.g. oa) so the children can represent each of the 42 phonemes (sounds). One sound can be represented by a number of different graphemes according to the word it appears in and different graphemes can represent more than one sound.  Your child will continue to blend and segment for reading and spelling (e.g. pool).

j   v   w   x   y   z   zz   qu   ch

jug   van   wig   box   yes   zip   buzz   quit   rich

sh   th   ng   ai   igh   oa   oo   oo   ar

shop   moth   king   rain   high   loaf   look   moon   park

or   ur   ow   oi   ear   air   ure   er

port   burn   town   boil   hear   pair   pure   hotter

and 12 more tricky words to read...

he   she   we   me   be   was

my   you   her   they   all   are

They should now, also be able to spell the 5 tricky words from Phase 2.


Phase 4

In Phase 4, children continue to practice previously learned graphemenes and phonemes and learn how to read and write:

CVCC words: tent, damp, toast, chimp

For example, in the word 'toast',

t = consonant, oa = vowel, s = consonant, t = consonant.

and CCVC words: swim, plum, sport, cream, spoon

For example, in the word 'cream',

c = consonant r = consonant ea = vowel, m = consonant.

and 14 more tricky words are added too...

some   come   one   said   do   so   were

when   have   there   out   like   little   what

The children should now be able to write the Phase 3 tricky words. During Phase 4, sounds with adjacent consonants or initials and final blends are taught e.g. bl, dr, sc, ft, so. These can be sounded out but recognising them quickly makes for a stronger reader.


Phase 5

The purpose of this phase is for children to broaden their knowledge of graphemes and phonemes for use in reading and spelling.

ay   ou   ie   oe   ea   oy   ir   ue

play   soup   tried   goes   heat   boy   shirt   value/blue

au   aw   wh   ph   ew   ey

author   lawn   when/who   Phillip   blew   honey

a_e   e_e   i_e   o_e   u_e

same   these   pine   bone   cube

They will learn new graphemes and alternative pronunciations for these and graphemes they already know, where relevant. E.g. the phoneme 'a' can have alternative phonemes: hat/acorn/was/also.

'Y' can have alternative phonemes: yes/by/gym/very.

There are many alternatives which the children will investigate during this phase.


Phase 6

In Phase 6, the focus is on learning spelling rules for word endings or suffixes.

They learn how words change when you add certain letters. There are 12 different suffixes taught...

-s   -es   -ing   -ed

-er   -est   -y   -en

-ful   -ly   -ment   -ness

The children are also expected to be able to read and write the 'next 200 commons words'.


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