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What is phonics?

Phonics is the system of ‘blending’ sounds together to read, and ‘segmenting’ sounds to spell. They are both complimentary and interlinking skills that are taught together. You may hear your children use some vocabulary that you are not familiar with that they have learnt in their phonics lessons.

Our phonics system

• 26 letters of the alphabet
• 44 Phonemes (smallest unit of sound)
• 140 representations



Children need to be taught correct articulation of phonemes to support their blending and segmenting.


Pronouncing phonemes

Continuing sounds

f, l, m, n, r, s, sh, v, th, z

Without voice

c, p, t, ch, h

As cleanly as possible

b, d, g, w, qu, y


Recognising the letter sounds in a word e.g. c-u-p or sh-ee-p and merging or synthesising them in the order in to pronounce the word cup and sheep.

• Children need to be able to blend (squash together) the phonemes in a word to read them
• This is a very difficult skill to master


Identifying the individual sounds in a spoken word (e.g. h-i-m, s-t-or-k) and writing down or manipulating letters for each sound (phoneme) to for the word

• Children need to be able to segment words into phonemes not letters
• Cat becomes C-a-t
• Sheep becomes sh-ee-p

A phoneme

Is the smallest unit of sound that we use in the English language. A phoneme can be made up of one letter as in the alphabet sounds – s, a, t, p, i, n etc, or two letters (a digraph) as in sh, ch, th, ay, ar, or three letters (trigraphs) as in air, ear, ure. Phonemes can not be broken down into separate sounds.

A grapheme

Is the way we spell a phoneme. A phoneme may have only one grapheme for example ‘b’. Or may have several different spellings –for example or can be spelt ‘or’ in torn, ‘aw’ in claw, ‘au’ in naughty or ore in more. The children will initially be introduced to one common grapheme for each phoneme, but as they progress through the school they will taught the less common spelling alternatives and encouraged to try and choose the correct grapheme for a particular word they are trying to spell.

Consonant blends

Are made up of two or three phonemes blended together quite quickly as we learn to read. Examples are sc, sm, bl, pr, str

Short Vowel Sounds

Are the vowels saying their sound as ‘a’ in c a t.

Long Vowel Sounds

Are the vowels saying their name as ‘ay’ in day, ‘oa’ in boat or ‘igh’ in night.

How do we teach Phonics at our school?

Phonics lessons are taught daily for approximately 20 minutes. We use a mixture of different resources and teaching styles to engage and motivate the children, including magnetic boards and letters, whiteboards and pens, games, flashcards and actions on our Interactive whiteboards. We have phonic based guided reading books for teachers to use with groups when teaching reading and there are some phonic based home readers in all book boxes.

How can you help your child?

Children working in Foundation use the Basic Codepdf buttonof phonemes to help them identify the correct spelling patterns (graphemes) when writing. During year 1 and year two they will move onto using the Advanced Codepdf button which shows them an increased range of different spelling patterns for each sound. It will be useful to revise the phonemes your child has learnt that week at school and also later to go over some from previous weeks to reinforce their learning. It is also very beneficial to point out some phonemes when reading at home with your child, particularly those recently learnt. Phonics homework is sent home from Reception weekly to practise. Please help your child practise recognition of these as this is another important skill to master.

Helping with Phonicspdf button

Our Read Write Inc. page.

Useful web-sites

BBC web-sites have a great range of activities

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/wordsandpictures/longvow/poems/fpoem.shtml external

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/wordsandpictures/phonics/index.shtml external

This web site has information for parents and is split into phases – Your child’s class teacher can let you know which phase your child is working on.

http://www.phonicsplay.co.uk/ external

http://www.topmarks.co.uk/Interactive.aspx?cat=40 external


There is also a useful parent handbook to support phonics teaching in school that can found herepdf button.