What is Phonics?
Phonics is the study of sounds and is considered the best way to teach children to read and write. Children are taught to read and write by directly linking the sounds in words (phonemes) to the letters used to represent them (graphemes). At Ash Green Community Primary School, we have developed our own bespoke planning and resources, which directly follow the DfE ‘Letters and Sounds’ document. In every classroom from Nursery to Year 2, you will find the same pictorial reference displayed for each sound which is accompanied by its own physical action and short, snappy saying – these can be found on our website under the ‘Ash Green Actions’ tab.
Our approach to the teaching of Phonics is very multisensory and caters to all learners by involving a visual, kinaesthetic and auditory point of reference for each sound taught. These points of reference have been transferred to our supporting flash cards and sound mats and are used consistently within the classroom. Reading is the key to all learning and we try our best to ensure that all children enter KS2 with a good foundation in this area.
The DfE ‘Letters and Sounds’ document breaks down the teaching of Phonics into six phases which are detailed below:
- Phase 1 – Teaches children to listen to and make basic sounds.
- Phase 2 – Teaches children most letters of the alphabet and how to use them to read and spell simple CVC words e.g. cat, dog, mat, bin.
- Phase 3 – Teaches children the remaining letters of the alphabet and introduces digraphs (two letters that make one sound) and trigraphs (three letters to make one sound).
- Phase 4 – Teaches children to use the sounds they have already been taught and how to read and spell these within longer words with two syllables e.g. CCVC words and CVCC words. No new sounds are taught within this phase.
- Phase 5 – Teaches children more new digraphs, trigraphs and introduces split digraph sounds e.g. a_e, e_e, i_e. Children will learn about alternative pronunciation of sounds.
- Phase 6 – Teaches children more complex spelling rules and steps away from ‘sounding out’ as an attempt at unfamiliar words.
Throughout each of the Phonics phases, tricky words will be taught. Tricky words cannot be sounded out and must just be remembered.
Adjacent consonants - Two or three consonants next to each other that represent different sounds. For example, bl in black. Notice here that bl makes the two different sounds b and l, whereas ck makes the single sound ck.
Blending - Blending involves merging the sounds in a word together in order to pronounce it. This is important for reading. For example, j-a-m blended together reads the word jam.
Consonant - The letters of the alphabet (apart from the vowels a, e, i, o and u).
Consonant digraph - A digraph that is made up of two consonants (sh in shop).
CVC words - An abbreviation for consonant-vowel-consonant. This is a simple way of indicating the order of the graphemes in words. For example, it (VC), cat (CVC), bench (CVCC).
Digraph - A grapheme made up of two letters that makes one sound (sh in fish).
Grapheme - A grapheme is simply a way of writing down a phoneme. A grapheme can be one letter (s), two letters (ir), three letters (igh) or four letters in length (ough).
Grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) - Knowing your GPCs means being able to hear a phoneme and knowing what grapheme to use to represent it. This is helpful for spelling. Conversely, it also means seeing a grapheme and knowing the phoneme that relates to it, which is important for reading.
Phoneme - The smallest unit of sound in a word. There are around 44 phonemes in English and they are represented by graphemes in writing. Phonemes are usually shown as symbols between two forward slashes. For example, /b/ or /ch/.
Segmenting - Segmenting involves breaking up a word that you hear into its sounds. This helps with spelling because if you know what graphemes represent the sounds in the word, you can write it! For example, the word jam is segmented into the sounds j-a-m.
Split digraph - A digraph that is split between a consonant (a-e in make). A split digraph usually changes the sound of the first vowel. For example, compare the pronunciation between hug and huge.
Tricky words - Words that are commonly used in English, but they have complex spelling patterns which make them difficult to read and write. For example, said, of and was. These words cannot be sounded out and must be learnt.
Trigraph - A grapheme made up of three letters that makes one sound (igh in high).
Vowel - The letters a, e, i, o and u.
Vowel digraph - A digraph that is made up of two vowels (ea in sea).
Detailed Guide to Phonics:
Tricky Words for each Phase: