Phonics

At Bishop Bridgeman the children in EYFS and Key Stage 1 take part in a 20 minute phonics session each day. We follow the synthetic phonics approach, using the ‘Letters and Sounds’ programme. It’s an approach to teaching phonics in which individual letters or letter sounds are blended to form groups of letters or sounds, and those groups are then blended to form complete words.The daily phonics sessions are intended to be fun and lively, involving lots of speaking, listening and games. The focus is on children’s active participation. They learn to use their phonic knowledge for reading and writing activities and in their independent play.

Letters and Sounds is divided into six phases, with each phase building gradually upon previous learning. Children have time to practise and expand their ability to read and spell words. They are also taught to read and spell ‘tricky words’ – words with spellings that are unusual or that children have not yet been taught. These include the words ‘to’, ‘was’, ‘said’ and ‘the’ – you can’t really break the sounds down for such words so it’s better to just learn them.

There are six phases of letters and sounds taught up to Year 2. Many children will cover Phase 1 in pre-school settings, phases 2, 3 and 4 are taught in Reception and consolidated in Year 1. Children are then taught phase 5 in Year 1 and phase 6 in Year 2.

What do all the technical words mean?

What is a phoneme?

It is the smallest unit of sound and a piece of terminology that children like to use and should be taught.  At first it will equate with a letter sound but later on will include the digraphs.  For example `rain’ has three phonemes, / r  / ai  / n.

What is a grapheme?

A grapheme is a letter or a number of letters that represent a sound (phoneme) in a word. Another way to explain it is to say that a grapheme is a letter or letters that spell a sound in a word. E.g. /ee/,/ ea/, /ey/ all make the same phoneme but are spelt differently.

What is a digraph?

This is when two or more letters come together to make a phoneme. /oa/ makes the sound in boat.

What is blending?

Blending is the process that is involved in bringing the sounds together to make a word or a syllable and is how /c/  /a/  /t/  becomes cat.

To learn to read well children must be able to fluently blend sounds together. Blending sounds smoothly helps to improve fluency when reading. Blending is more difficult to do with longer words so learning how to blend with accuracy from an early age is crucial. Showing your child how to blend is important. Model how to put sounds smoothly together without stopping at each individual sound.

What is segmenting?

Segmenting is a skill used in spelling. In order to spell the word cat, it is necessary to segment the word into its individual sounds; c-a-t.

Children often understand segmenting as ‘chopping’ a word. Before writing a word young children need time to think about it, say the word several times, ‘chop’ the word and then write it. Once children have written the same word several times they won’t need to use these steps as frequently.

Children will enjoy spelling if it feels like fun and if they feel good about themselves as spellers. We need, therefore, to be playful and positive in our approach – noticing and praising what children can do as well as helping them to correct their mistakes.

What are tricky words?

Tricky words are words that cannot be ‘sounded-out’ but simply need to be learnt. They don’t fit into the typical spelling patterns. Examples of these words are attached to each phase. 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 CVC words?

CVC stands for consonant- vowel- consonant (cat, dog, hat). In phase 4 we talk about CCVC words such as clip, stop.

 

More about each phase...

Phase 1

Phase 1 of Letters and Sounds concentrates on developing children's speaking and listening skills and is the basis for the phonic work which starts in Phase 2. The emphasis during Phase 1 is to get children attuned to the sounds around them and ready to begin developing oral blending and segmenting skills.

Phase 2

In Phase 2, letters and their sounds are introduced one at a time.  A set of letters is taught each week, in the following sequence:

Set 1 : s,a,t,p
Set 2: i,n,m,d
Set 3: g,o,c,k
Set 4: ck,e,u,r
Set 5: h, b, f, ff, l, ll, ss

The children will begin to learn to blend and segment to begin reading and spelling.  This will begin with simple words.

Tricky words introduced in Phase 2

the

to

I

go

into

no

 

Phase 3

By the time they reach Phase 3, children will already be able to blend and segment words containing the 19 letters taught in Phase 2.

Over the twelve weeks which Phase 3 is expected to last, twenty-five new graphemes are introduced (one at a time).

Set 6 : j,v,w,x
Set 7: y,z,zz,qu
Consonant digraphs: ch, sh, th, ng
Vowel digraphs: ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er

Tricky words introduced in Phase 3:

we

me

be

was

no

go

my

you

they

her

all

are

 

Phase 4

By Phase 4 children will be able to represent each of 42 phonemes with a grapheme.  They will blend phonemes to read CCVC and CVCC words and segment these words for spelling.  They will also be able to read two syllable words that are simple.  They will be able to read all the tricky words learnt so far and will be able to spell some of them.

This phase consolidates all the children have learnt in the previous phases.

Tricky words introduced in Phase 4:

said

so

she

he

have

like

some

come

were

there

little

one

they

all

are

do

when

out

what

my

her

 

 

 

By this point children would be expected to be reading CVC words at speed along with the tricky words from the previous phases.  It is important that children are taught that blending is only necessary when a word is unfamiliar.

Phase 5

Children will be taught new graphemes and alternative pronunciations for these graphemes and graphemes they already know.  They will begin to learn to choose the appropriate grapheme when spelling.  The children will be automatically decoding a large number of words for reading by this point.

Tricky words introduced in Phase 5:

oh

their

people

Mr

Mrs

looked

called

asked

 

 

 

 

water

where

who

again

thought

through

work

mouse

many

laughed

because

different

any

eyes

friends

once

please

 

New graphemes for reading

ay (day)

oy (boy)

wh (when)

a-e (make)

ou (out)

ir (girl)

ph (photo)

e-e (these)

ie (tie)

ue (blue)

ew (new)

i-e (like)

ea (eat)

aw (saw)

oe (toe)

o-e (home)

 

 

au (Paul)

u-e (rule)

During this phase children will begin reading words fluently and no longer be blending and segmenting familiar words. The real focus throughout the phase is to not only learn the new graphemes for reading but also to learn to read words with alternative pronunciations.  Children also will need to learn alternative spellings for each phoneme.

Phase 6

In phase 6 children will be reading longer and less familiar texts independently and fluently.  It is crucial that at this point children are now reading to learn and reading for fun. It is also important that comprehension strategies are developed so that children clarify meaning, ask and answer questions about the texts they are reading, make mental images during reading and summarise what they have read. In spelling children are introduced to the adding of suffixes and how to spell longer words.  Throughout the phase children are encouraged to develop strategies for learning spellings.

Supporting your child at home...