What is phonics?

  • A method of teaching children to connect the letters of the alphabet to the sounds that they make and blend them for reading.
  • 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. 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

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.

Phonemes should be said as a pure, clean sound. The video below shows you 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 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

.      –    .

Which phonics programmes do we use?

We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme to deliver daily discrete phonics lessons in the Early Years Foundation Stage (Nursery and Reception) and Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2), enabling children to decode words efficiently. This is continued into Key Stage 2 (Years 3–6) where necessary, with children joining the relevant phase phonics lessons. 

There is a phonics lesson in every Nursery, Reception and Year 1 class five times each week. Year 2 pupils may well access catch up sessions if there of some aspects of the phonics learning and application that they have found more challenging. Opportunities for children to extend their knowledge is incorporated into planning for all other areas of learning. 

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.