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Terrington St Clement Community School

A traditional school with traditional values

Parent Information Phonics

In EYFS we aim to develop the full potential of all our children as confident, literate readers and writers. If children are to develop as competent readers and writers, it is vitally important that they have a secure understanding of the letter sounds and spelling system of the English language. Phonic skills need to be developed in a systematic way, based on a stage approach.

Below you will find further information about phonics and some fun ideas for practising phonics at home.

What is phonics?

Phonics is the name most used to describe how children are taught to read and write in learning settings today. It concentrates on teaching the main sounds in English, not just the alphabet.

When phonics is usually taught and what we do at school

Phonics is usually introduced in Reception and continued until the end of Year 2. For our nursery-aged children it is about giving them a good start – through play and experiences, helping to prepare them for their reception year, and exposing them to what is to come. So we help them to explore and experiment with sounds (part of Phase 1). We do introduce the children to letters and most importantly we help them to recognise the sound the letter makes but there is no pressure for them to know these at this stage. As a first step, children need to be able to hear sounds in spoken words and then replicate them orally.

As children move into their reception year we begin to differentiate between sounds and become familiar with rhyme, rhythm and alliteration all part of Phase 1 before moving onto Phase 2. For this group of children we will normally have a phonics session each day and follow the six phase programme, introduced by the government called Letters & Sounds. We use Jolly Phonics to help teach phonics.

The Letters and Sounds programme focuses on securing word recognition skills, essential for children to decode (read) and encode (spell) words accurately and language comprehension.  It is structured into six incremental phases.

  • Phase 1 - Activities are divided into seven aspects, including environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body sounds, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and finally children are introduced to oral blending and segmenting.
  • Phase 2 - Children learn 19 letters of the alphabet and one sound for each. They start to blend and segment sounds to make simple words.
  • Phase 3 - Children learn the remaining 7 letters of the alphabet with one sound for each. They also begin to learn graphemes that have 2 letters for each sound (e.g. th or ch) or 3 letters for each sound (e.g. igh or air).
  • Phase 4 - 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.
  • Phase 5 - Children learn more graphemes for the phonemes which they already know, plus different ways of pronouncing the graphemes they already know.
  • Phase 6 - Children continue to work on spelling, including prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters etc. As well as letters and sounds the children are introduced to tricky words – ones that do not follow phonic rules and to read and write words, captions and sentences.
  • Phase 6+ - Children develop their knowledge about the history of spelling and the English language. They are taught a range of strategies and approaches to help improve and practise spelling.

Progression and Delivery

Using reliable assessments of children’s developing knowledge and skills we judge the rate at which the children are able to progress through the phases and adapt the pace accordingly.  The children are encouraged to apply their phonics skills through daily shared/guided reading and writing and as opportunities arise across the curriculum throughout the day. 

During the autumn term we work on Phase 1 and begin Phase 2. By autumn half term we start our phonics groups. Children are groups across Oranges and Lemons classes and each group works on phonics teaching and activities related to their stage in learning and development of phonics skills. Usually at this point we have phase 1 and phase 2/3 groups. It is important to remember that boundaries between the phases should not be seen as fixed and it is possible that some children will be introduced to the next phase graphemes before being secure at the phase before. 

Spring term sees some children working more securely within Phase 3 now with others still working within Phase 2. Some children in Phase 2 will still be consolidating their ability to tune into sounds (auditory discrimination), listen and remember sounds (auditory memory and sequencing) and talk about sounds (developing vocabulary and language comprehension).

We use phonic progress tracking sheets to provide an overview of children’s progress through the phonic phases. Regular monitoring of the tracking sheet allows us to ensure that all children are making expected progress, including children in the most vulnerable groups. This is also used to identify children who are not making expected progress and therefore early intervention can be put in place.

Some phonics terminology

There are 44 phonemes (sounds) that need to be learnt.  Once children have an understanding of these initial sounds, they can begin to use this knowledge to segment and blend. Some words in English have an irregular spelling and cannot be read by blending, such as “said”, “was” and “one”. Unfortunately many of these are common words. The irregular parts have to be remembered. These are called the tricky words.

Phoneme - the smallest unit of sound

Grapheme - the sound written down

Grapheme - is matching sounds with the letters that represent them

Blending - joining the sounds together to form a word

Segmenting - chopping the sounds up so it can be spelled

CVC word - a word made up of a consonant - vowel - consonant e.g. cat

Digraph - two letters that make one sound eg. th, ng, ee, oa

Trigraph – three letters that make one sound eg. igh, ure

Tricky words

Set 1 – the, I, no, go, to, into

Set 2 – he, she, me, my, they, was, her, all, we, be, you, are

If you are unsure about anything or have any questions please come and see us.