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 the word 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 can blend them together in order to read words, the sooner they can read for understanding, purpose and pleasure.
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. For example, t, sh (digraph) and 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
a e i o u ai ee igh oa oo oo ar ur or er ow oi air ear
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.
Phonemes should be said as a pure, clean sound. The video below shows you how to pronounce the sounds correctly.
Segmenting and blending are reversible key phonic skills.
Segmenting (‘chopping’, ‘robot arms’) consists of breaking words down into their separate phonemes e.g. spell =
s p e ll.
Blending consists of building words from their separate phonemes e.g. 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
. – .
We use Letters and Sounds to teach phonics. There is a phonics lesson in every Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 class four times each week. Opportunities for children 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 their year groups. This ensures that everyone makes good progress.
In Key Stage 2 (Years 3–6), 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 individuals and groups of children to work 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.
You can find out more by viewing the files below.