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Phonics & Reading

Phonics (and Reading)


Phonics at St John’s, “The teaching of phonics is a strength of the school and most pupils reach the level required by the end of Year 1. Positive relationships and high expectations ensure that pupils develop the skills of segmenting and blending. This ensures that most pupils in key stage 1 can read unknown words accurately and quickly become fluent and keen readers.”   (Ofsted, December 2018)


At St. John’s CE Primary School, we follow the systematic sequential phonics programme, ‘Letters and Sounds’ with support form the Jolly Phonics Programme.  Phonics is taught on a daily basis throughout the EYFS and KS1 and as appropriate, in KS2.


Letters and Sounds is a phonics resource published by the Department for Education and Skills in 2007. It aims to build children's speaking and listening skills in their own right as well as to prepare children for learning to read by developing their phonic knowledge and skills. It sets out a detailed and systematic programme for teaching phonic skills for children starting by the age of five, with the aim of them becoming fluent readers by age seven.


Phonics teaching is started in Early Years, beginning at Phase 1.


In Phase 1, activities are divided into seven aspects, including environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body sounds, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and finally oral blending and segmenting. Hence, Phase 1 has an emphasis on developing children’s speaking and listening skills and lays a foundation for the phonic work, which starts in Phase 2.


In Phase 2, 19 letters of the alphabet and their sounds are introduced one at a time. They learn to segment words into their separate sounds and begin to read simple captions. The letters and their sounds are taught in sets:

Set 1: s, a, t, p

Set 2: i, n, m, d

Set 3: g, o, c, k

Set 4: ck, e, u, r

Set 5: h, b, f, ff, l, ll, ss


Children then move on to Phase 3, 4 and then Phase 5. Below are some links that demonstrate the correct pronunciations of each of the sounds for all the different phases, which may be useful.

The remaining 7 letters of the alphabet are covered, one sound for each. Graphemes such as ch, oo, th representing the remaining phonemes not covered by single letters are also taught.

On completion of this phase, children will have learnt the "simple code", i.e. one grapheme for each phoneme in the English language.

No new grapheme-phoneme correspondences are taught in this phase. Children learn to blend and segment longer words with adjacent consonants, e.g. swim, clap and jump.

Now, we move on to the "complex code". Children learn more graphemes for the phonemes, which they already know, plus different ways of pronouncing the graphemes they already know.

In these phases, children will be use different (technical) vocabulary, which they will become fluent in.

Technical Language – explained


Phoneme: Phonemes are the smallest unit of speech-sounds which make up a word. If you change a phoneme in a word, you would change its meaning. For example, there are three phonemes in the word sit /s/-/i/-/t/. If you change the phoneme /s/ for /f/, you have a new word, fit. If you change the phoneme /t/ in fit for a /sh/, you have a new word, fish - /f/-/i/-/sh/.


Grapheme: Graphemes are the written representation of sounds.


Diagraph: two letters that make one sound, e.g. ‘ee’, ‘oo’, ‘ai’, etc.


Split diagraph: two letters than make one sound, but are split between a consonant (a_e, e_e, i_e, o_e and u_e), e.g. make, these, bike, home, tune


Trigraph: three letters that make one sound, e.g. ‘igh’, ‘air’, ‘ear’, ‘ure’


CVC word: A consonant-vowel-consonant word, such as cat, pin or top. You may also come across the abbreviation CCVC for consonant-consonant-vowel-consonant words such as clap and from. Also CVCC for words such as mask and belt.


In Year 1, during the first part of the summer term, there is a National Phonics Screening Check to assess whether children are secure in their phonics knowledge.


This screening includes real and nonsense words that comprise sounds from across the phases. A picture of an alien is presented next to certain words to make it very clear it is a nonsense, made-up word. Regardless of whether the word is a real one or not, children need to segment and blend the sounds to say the final word read.


After Year 1, Year 2 children who are secure in all these five phases move on to Phase 6. This is where children work on spelling, including prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters etc.


If you have any further questions about Phonics please do net hesitate to contact your child’s class teacher.

Trust Link

St John's CE Primary School is a member of the Berkshire Schools Trust.