What is phonics?
Phonics is a quick and skilful method used in primary schools in the UK today and is a vital part of English learning. It is a method that teaches children how sounds can be blended together to make words and at St.Thomas’ CE Primary School, our aim is to teach young children how to read words fluently and simultaneously provide them with a good underpinning of spelling rules. Research states that if phonics is taught in a structured and consistent way – it is currently the most efficient way of teaching children how to read. Throughout phonics you are taught how to:
- recognise sounds that individual letters make,
- recognise that different sounds can be made by using different combinations of letters such as /ng/ or /th/
- segmenting words into these sounds for example: th-i-ng.
- blending these sounds together from left to right to read the word.
What scheme do we follow?
Here at St.Thomas’ CE Primary School we teach Phonics using the ‘Letters and Sounds’ programme with the planning support from Phonics Play which is underpinned by ‘Letters and Sounds’. In Letters and Sounds there are six phases.
Phase 1: Phonics begins by building children’s speaking and listening skills which is done at Nursery, pre-school level. Children are taught sounds, environmental and instrumental, and explore body percussion (e.g. clapping). They learn rhythm and rhyme, alliteration and also start to orally blend and segment (e.g. hearing that c-a-t makes ‘cat’.
Phase 2: This is when children are introduced to phonemes (the sounds that letters make). There are 44 sounds in total and some are made up of two letters. Hopefully, by the end of Phase 2 children are able to read some consonant –vowel- consonant words (e.g. sat) and may also spell them out, Tricky words such as ‘the’ and ‘go’ are also learnt at this phase.
Phase 3: In this phase children are now introduced to the remaining, more difficult, phonemes such as /ch/ and /ow/ and more tricky words including ‘was’, ‘my’ and ‘you’. By the end of Phase 3 children should be able to say the sound for all, if not most, Phase 2 and 3 graphemes and will be blending words made from these graphemes.
Phase 4: Before children begin this phase they should be confident with each phoneme as no more are taught at this phase. This is the phase that really concentrates on reading and spelling CVCC words (e.g. bump, milk, bent), high frequency words, sentences and more tricky words. Also, at this stage, some words might be read without needing to sound them out. Children should also be able to write every letter.
Phase 5: Phase 5 normally takes children the whole of Year 1. This is where children continue to explore digraphs (two letters that make a single sound) and trigraphs (three letters that make a single sound). They begin to notice that some of these, like the diagraph ‘ow’, can make different sounds in different words (cow and show) and also one sound can have alternative spellings for example, rain and pay (ai and ay make the same sound). They will start to choose the right graphemes when spelling and will learn more tricky words.
Phase 6: This phase takes place in Year 2, where we continue supporting children to read by fostering their phonic knowledge but also begin to teach spelling rules, such as silent letters (knight, knock). The aim is for children to become fluent readers.
Activity sheets to develop each of the phonic phases
Please refer to the additional Phonic sound mats for each phase that highlight the graphemes taught at each point.
In each phase, there is a collection of tricky words that do not follow the phonics approach and can only be taught by recognising the part of the word that is tricky and then learning to know them by sight.
Phase 1 to 4 are usually taught in Nursery and Reception which then as we approach Year 1, we work through Phase 5 and then Phase 6 ,which is more focused on spelling rules, as you move in to Year 2. However, these phases can change depending on the children’s progress and the teachers at our school adapt their planning accordingly which may mean that children may still require this support in reading beyond the age of 7.
How can I support my child at home?
There are many websites and documents listed below that can help you to support your child’s phonic journey throughout school. However, it is still just as important to allow your child to love reading and to read for pleasure. Make time for your child to read books to you and allow them to see you enjoying reading yourself.
A few things that grown-ups can do to support the early reading development of their child is to encourage children to ‘sound out’ unknown and unfamiliar words, teaching them to use their blending and segmenting skills. You could identify phonemes (sounds) they are learning at school and continue to support your child and help them with the ones they struggle with. Encouraging children to add sound buttons (sausage and beans) to words to help them segment the sound, identify them and then blend them together to make the word will reinforce the way we teach them at school and will allow them more time to practise at this.
Alphablocks is fantastic for getting children recognising sounds.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7faYbILI1s – Split Diagraphs (Phase 5)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QwrkowksKk Phase 3 Digraphs and Trigraphs
Phonics Screening Check
The phonics screening check is carried out by teachers in the summer term of Year 1 and is a way to assess a child’s phonic skills that they have learnt through Reception and Year 1. The check is made up of 40 words, a mixture of nonsense words that can be decoded using their phonics and real words.
You can find more information at:
If you need further guidance on the teaching of phonics here at St.Thomas’ CE Primary School or have any questions, please feel free to contact Miss Bolton on Year2@st-thomas-kidsgrove.staffs.sch.uk.