We use a multisensory approach to teaching phonics in Reception. Children learn phonics by singing, moving, touching, painting and playing games as well as looking, listening and talking.
‘Letters and Sounds’ is a systematic phonics programme for teaching phonic skills and outlines the order in which ‘sounds’ should be introduced to young children. It is divided into Phases 1-6. Children will usually be working within Phase 3 by the end of their first year in school. The teaching of ‘Letters and Sounds’ is supplemented with actions from Jolly Phonics. In Reception and in Key Stage 1 phonics is taught everyday and strategies are put in place for children that may need some additional support.
Phonics is important for children to become effective readers, but it is not an end in itself. Our children are taught phonics as part of a language rich curriculum, so that they develop their wider reading skills at the same time.
Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way - starting with the easiest sounds, progressing through to the most complex - it’s the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It’s particularly helpful for children aged 5–7.
Our reading books are colour coded into ability bands using the Book Band system, to teach and support reading.
Information about Phonics for parents from the DfE can be downloaded here
What Are Phonics Phases?
Phases are the way the Letters and Sounds Programme is broken down to teach sounds in a certain order.
At the same time whole words that cannot be broken down easily, (we call these “tricky words”) are taught to the children.
Activities are divided into seven aspects, including environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body sounds, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and finally oral blending and segmenting.These activities continue throughout phase two too.
The children take part in activities that will help them to listen attentively to sounds around them, such as the sounds of their toys, environmental sounds and musical sounds as well as sounds in spoken language.They will learn rhymes and talk about words that rhyme e.g house and mouse. They will begin learning how to 'sound talk' e.g d-o-g =dog. The separate sounds( phonemes) are spoken aloud, in order, all through the word and are then merged together into the whole word. The merging together is called blending and is a vital skill for reading.
Children will also learn to do this the other way around e.g. dog = d – o - g. The whole word is spoken aloud and then broken up into its sounds (phonemes) in order, all through the word. This is called segmenting and is a vital skill for spelling. This is all oral (spoken). Your child will not be expected to match the letter to the sound at this stage. The emphasis is on helping children to hear the separate sounds in words and to create spoken sounds.
Ways you can help your child at home
Find real objects around your home that have three phonemes (sounds) and practise ‘sound talk’. First, ask your child to listen, then to join in, saying:
‘I spy a m-u-g – mug.’
‘Where’s your other s-o-ck – sock?’
‘Simon says – put your hands on your n-e-ck’
‘Simon says – pick up your b-oo-k.’
(Reception) up to 6 weeks
Learning 19 letters of the alphabet and one sound for each. Blending sounds together to make words. Segmenting words into their separate sounds. Beginning to read simple captions.
In this phase children will be taught the sounds (phonemes) for a number of letters (graphemes) in the order listed below in Sets 1-5. They are taught in this order to enable children to begin building short words, blending and segmenting sounds from the very start. Children will be encouraged to use the letters they have learned to blend sounds to read CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words e.g. tap, pin, rug etc and read and spell VC words, e.g. am, at, it
Set 1: s, a, t, p
Set 2: i, n, m, d
Set 3: g, o, c, k
Set 4: ck (sick), e , u, r
Set 5: h, b, f, ff (huff), l, ll( fall), ss (fuss)
They will also learn several ‘tricky’ words: the, to, I, go, no.
Ways you can help your child at home
Check when the letters have been introduced in school by looking at the sounds in your child’s letters and sounds book.
Making short words together (blending)
Use magnetic letters to make little words together, for example, it, up, am, and, top, dig, run, met, pick. As you select the letters, say them aloud: ‘a-m – am’, ‘m-e-t – met’
Breaking words up (segmenting)
Now do it the other way around: read the word,break the word up and move the letters away,
saying: ‘met – m-e-t’.
Phase Three (Reception) up to 12 weeks
The remaining 7 letters of the alphabet, one sound for each. Graphemes such as ch, oo, th representing the remaining phonemes not covered by single letters. Reading captions, sentences and questions. On completion of this phase, children will have learnt the "simple code", i.e. one grapheme for each phoneme in the English language.
The purpose of this phase is to teach more graphemes, most of which are made of two letters, for example, ‘oa’ as in boat. The children will practise blending and segmenting a wider set of CVC words, for example, fizz, chip, sheep, light. They will learn all letter names, begin to form letters correctly and read and write words in phrases and sentences.
Set 6: j, v, w, x
Set 7: y, z, zz(fizz), qu (quack)
Set 8: ch (chin), sh (ship), th,(them) ng (strong),
Set 9: ai (rain), ee (feet), igh (night), oa (boat), oo (moon)
Set 10: ar (car), or (short), ur (nurse), ow (clown), oi (boil)
Set 11: ear(hear), air (hair), ure (sure), er (teacher)
The number of tricky words is growing. These are so important for reading and spelling:
he, she, we, me, be, was, my, you, her,they, all
Ways you can help your child at home
Sing an alphabet song together.
Continue to play with magnetic letters, using some of the two grapheme (letter) combinations:
r-ai-n = rain blending for reading
rain = r-ai-n – segmenting for spelling
b-oa-t = boat blending for reading
boat = b-oa-t – segmenting for spelling
h-ur-t = hurt blending for reading
hurt = h-ur-t – segmenting for spelling
Play ‘Pairs’, turning over two words at a time trying to find a matching pair. This is especially helpful with the tricky words:
(Reception) 4 to 6 weeks
No new grapheme-phoneme correspondences are taught in this phase. Children learn to blend and segment longer words with adjacent consonants, e.g. swim, clap, jump.
(Throughout Year 1)
Now we move on to the "complex code". Children learn more graphemes for the phonemes which they already know, plus different ways of pronouncing the graphemes they already know.
(Throughout Year 2 and beyond)
Working on spelling, including prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters etc.
What are “Tricky words”?
Tricky words are words that cannot be ‘sounded-out’ but need to be learned by heart. They don’t fit into the usual spelling patterns. In order to read simple sentences, it is necessary for children to know some words that have unusual or untaught spellings. It should be noted that, when teaching these words, it is important to always start with sounds already known in the word, then focus on the 'tricky' part.
What are High Frequency words?
High frequency (common) are words that recur frequently in much of the written material young children read and that they need when they write.
What do the Phonics terms mean?
Phoneme: The smallest unit of sound in a word, e.g. c/a/t, sh/o/p, t/ea/ch/er.
Grapheme: A letter or group of letter representing one sound, e.g. sh, igh, t.
Clip Phonemes: when teaching sounds ,always clip them short ‘mmmm’ not ‘muh’
Digraph: Two letters which together make one sound, e.g. sh, ch, ee, ph, oa.
Split digraph: Two letters, which work as a pair, split, to represent one sound, e.g. a-e as in cake, or i-e as in kite.
Trigraph: three letters which together make one sound but cannot be separated into smaller phonemes, e.g. igh as in light, ear as in heard, tch as in watch.
Segmentation: means hearing the individual phonemes within a word – for instance the word ‘cat’ consists of three phonemes: ‘c – a - t ’. In order to spell this word, a child must segment it into its component phonemes and choose a grapheme to represent each phoneme.
Blending: means merging the individual phonemes together to pronounce a word. In order to read an unfamiliar word, a child must recognise (‘sound out’) each grapheme, not each letter (e.g. ‘ c-a-t ’ ), and then merge the phonemes together to make the word.
Mnemonics: a device for memorising and recalling something, such as a hand action of a drill to remember the phoneme /d/.
Adjacent consonants: two or three letters with discrete sounds, which are blended together e.g. str, cr, tr, gr. (previously consonant clusters).
Comprehension: understanding of language whether it is spoken or written.