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St Theresa's RC Primary School

Phonics

At St. Theresa’s RC Primary School, we strive to develop the children into confident speakers, readers and writers. We want them to develop a passion for life-long success in literacy and that passion begins with the teaching of phonics in the Early Years Foundation Stage (Nursery and Reception).

We follow the Letters and Sounds synthetic phonics scheme at our school.  Below is some important information relating to phonics, and how it is taught in school.  We run phonics workshops for parents throughout the year – upcoming dates are published in our weekly newsletter. 

Why Synthetic Phonics?

“Synthetic phonics offers the vast majority of young children the best and most direct route to becoming skilled readers and writers.”  Sir Jim Rose, Rose Review of Reading 2006.

Synthetic phonics is simply the ability to convert a letter or letter group into sounds that are then blended together into a word.

Phonics consists of:

  • Identifying sounds in spoken words.
  • Recognising the common spellings of each phoneme.
  • Blending phonemes into words for reading.
  • Segmenting words into phonemes for spelling.
  • Although there are 26 letters in the English alphabet, there are 44 speech sounds.

Some important definitions:

  • Phoneme: This is the smallest unit of sound in a word. 
  • Grapheme: These are the letters that represent the phoneme

A phoneme is what you hear and a grapheme is what you see. And remember, the number of phonemes in a word is always the same as the number of graphemes in the word!

  • Digraph: A phoneme with two letters, such as: ee, ay, ow. 
  • Trigraph: A phoneme with three letters, such as: igh, 

When we teach phonics, we encourage the children to segment each word into individual sounds (phonemes). For example, the word “cat” has three phonemes: c-a-t. 

When the children can segment words, they are encouraged to blend the sounds together to form the word. 

As part of our daily phonics sessions, children are also taught “tricky words” These are words that cannot be segmented, such as: the, he, into. 

Phonics is taught daily in EYFS, Year 1 and Year 2. A phonics lesson is structured as follows:

Revise: The children will revise previous learning.

Teach: New phonemes or high frequency or tricky words will be taught.

Practice: The children will practice the new learning by reading and/or writing the words.

Apply: The children will apply their new learning by reading or writing sentences.

Letters and Sounds is split into 6 different phases. 

Phase 1 (Nursery)

  • Instrumental sounds
  • Body percussion
  • Rhythm and Rhyme
  • Alliteration
  • Voice sounds
  • Environmental sounds
  • Oral blending and segmenting

Phase 2 (Reception)

  • In this phase children continue practising what they have learned from phase 1, including ‘sound-talk’.
  • They are taught the phonemes (sounds) for a number of graphemes (letters).
  • Which phoneme is represented by which grapheme and that a phoneme can be represented by more than one letter, for example, /sh/ as in sh- o -p.
  • VC words (vowel consonant words such as: in, as, at)
  • CVC words (consonant vowel consonant words such as: cat, him, hat, log)

Phase 3 (Reception)

  • Teach more graphemes, most of which are made of two letters, for example: ‘oa’ as in boat.
  • Ending and segmenting a wider set of CVC words such as: fizz, chip, sheep, light.
  • Learn all letter names and begin to form them correctly read more tricky words and begin to spell some of them.
  • Read and write words in phrases and sentences.

Phase 4 (Year 1)

  • Children continue to practice previously learned graphemes and phonemes and learn how to read and write CVCC words such as: tent, damp, toast, chimp. 
  • Read and write CCVC words such as:  swim, plum, sport, cream, spoon. 
  • Read and write more tricky words and use them as part of a sentence. 

Phase 5 (Year 1)

  • The children will learn new graphemes for reading and spelling.
  • They will learn best fit spellings. For example, ai, a-e, ay all make the same sound in words
  • They will continue to read and spell tricky words.

Phase 6 (Year 2)

  • Recognising phonic irregularities and becoming more secure with less common grapheme – phoneme correspondences.
  • Applying phonic skills and knowledge to recognise and spell an increasing number of complex words.
  • Introducing and teaching the past and continuous present tense.
  • Learning about prefixes and suffixes. 

How can you help at home?

  • Play ‘I spy’
  • Play with magnetic letters, using some two-grapheme (letter) combinations.
  • Help your child learn their spellings.
  • Spot graphemes in books.
  • Praise your child for trying out words and value their use of their phonic knowledge.
  • Help your child learn the tricky words by playing online games (links below). for phonic games.  
  • Read to your child: This is vital! listening to stories and word pronunciation is key in the development of reading and comprehension. 

Please remember that children learn at different paces. The year group guidelines for each phase are just guidelines, so don’t worry if your child is slightly above or below the appropriate phase!

Useful Websites:

REMEMBER: Phonics is not the only thing needed to become a fluent reader and writer. Please continue to read with your child each night and encourage them to sound out,  re-read to check it makes sense, use pictures for clues, ask questions and talk about the book and most importantly ENJOY READING!

Should you require any further information or support with your child’s reading, please do not hesitate to contact the class teacher. Alternatively, please contact Mr. Hawkins who is our Phonics subject leader.