Ashbourne Hilltop
Primary and Nursery School

with ERS Provision

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In order to read successfully, children need two skills; phonics and language comprehension.  They need to be able to decode by blending the sounds in word read to them and they need to be able to understand what the words mean and the context in which it appears.


Phonics is a means to an end.  The sooner that children can recognise the sounds (phonemes), the letters (graphemes) that represent them and blend them together in order to read words, the sooner they can read for understanding, purpose and pleasure.  


What is Phonics?



  • Is a method of teaching children to connect the letters of the alphabet to the sounds that they make and blend them for reading.
  • Is a method of teaching children to identify the individual sounds (phonemes) within words and segment them for spelling.


The Sounds


In English speech sounds are represented by the 26 letters of the alphabet.  These letters and combinations of these letters make 44 sounds.


There are about 144 different ways to spell these sounds!


Speech sounds are called phonemes.  These are the smallest unit of sounds within words.

The letters, or groups of letters which represent phonemes, are called graphemes.

Phonemes can be represented by graphemes of one, two or three letters:


t      sh (digraph)     igh (trigraph)


Consonant digraphs are made up of two consonants that make one sound:

sh   ch   th   ck   ng   ll   ss   ff   wr   wh   kn   gn


Vowel digraphs are made up of two vowels or a vowel and a consonant that makes one sound:

oo   ee   oa   ow   ou   or   ar   er   ue   oi   ai


Vowel trigraphs are made up of vowels and consonants that make one sound:


igh   air   ear


The 44 Phonemes

Vowel phonemes

a   e   i   o   u   ai   ee   igh   oa   oo   oo   ar   ur   or   er   ow   oi   air   ear


Consonant phonemes

b   d   f   g   h   j   k   l   m   n   p   r   ng   s   t   v   w   wh   y   z   th   th   ch   sh   zh


It is very important that these phonemes are articulated precisely and accurately.


Phones should be said as a pure, clean sound.  The link below will take you to an excellent example of how to pronounce the sounds correctly.


Segmenting and Blending:


Segmenting and blending are reversible key phonic skills.


Segmenting ('chopping', 'robot arms') consists of breaking words down into their separate phonemes to spell; s p e ll.

Blending consists of building words from their separate phonemes s p e ll spell.




Decoding  is the process of blending each phoneme in a word, in order to read the whole word.


c   a   t

'   '   '

ch   ea   p

.     -    .


Which programmes do we use?


We use Letters and Sounds to teach phonics.  There is a phonics lesson in every Nursery, Reception and Key Stage 1 class four times each week.  Opportunities to extend their knowledge is incorporated into planning for all other areas of learning.  In Year 1 and 2, the children are taught according to their prior knowledge in sets across they year groups.  This ensures that everyone makes good progress.


In Key Stage 2, there are sometimes children who still need to work on their recognition and use of pure sounds.  In this case, time is spent with both individual and groups of children working on these




Dedicated time is allocated for teaching and investigating spelling weekly within literacy lessons as well as word level work linking to a related text in the main literacy session.