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Phonics and Early Reading

Early Reading at Sacred Heart

From when children enter us in either Nursery and Reception, they begin their journey into being able to read fluently for themselves. This is called Phonics. Children begin learning rhymes and awareness of spoken and environmental sound before eventually learning sounds (phonemes), written sounds (graphemes) and putting these together to be able to read words and sentences. Our aim is enable all children to read for themselves as quickly as possible as this enables them to access a wider range of knowledge independently. In line with statutory requirements, all children complete the Year 1 Phonics Check and receive continued, targeted support until they pass this check. Children who require additional support with phonics also receive targeted intervention to help close the gap with their peers. The value of Early Reading is paramount to all our children at our school and we believe that parents/carers also play a vital role in helping our children progress in their ability to read for themselves.


Letters and Sounds

To help us teach Phonics in our school, we have adopted the Department for Education's 'Letters and Sounds' Programme. 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 3 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.


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 (eg 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). 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.


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 the phase.


Phase 6 (Spelling)

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...

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

-s   -es   -ing   -ed

-er   -est   -y   -en

-ful   -ly   -ment   -ness


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