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At Appleton Wiske, we teach reading and phonics through hands-on activities following ‘Letters and Sounds’. There are six phases of ‘Letters and Sounds’ taught from EYFS to Year 2.

What is a phoneme?

It is the smallest unit of sound. At first it will equate with a single letter sound but later on will include digraphs, trigraphs and quadgraphs.

What is a grapheme?

A grapheme is a letter or a number of letters that represent a sound (phoneme) in a word. Another way to explain it is to say that a grapheme is a letter or letters that spell a sound in a word. E.g. ee ea ey (tree, sea, key) all make the same phoneme but are spelt and written differently.

What is a digraph?

This is when two letters make a phoneme. E.g. ai makes the sound in train.

What is a trigraph?

This is when three letters make a phoneme. E.g. igh makes the sound in light.

What is a quadgraph?

This is when four letters make a phoneme. E.g. eigh makes the sound in sleigh.

What are high frequency words?

High frequency words are those that recur frequently in much of the written material young children read and that they need when they write. They are also known as ‘common words’.

What are CVC words?

CVC stands for consonant-vowel-consonant, so a word such as hat, pin and pot are CVC words. In phase 4 we talk about CCVC words such as trip and flap.

What is blending?

Blending is the process that is involved in bringing the sounds together to make a word or a syllable and is how b a t becomes bat. To learn to read well children must be able to smoothly blend sounds together. Blending sounds fluidly helps to improve fluency when reading. Blending is more difficult to do with longer words so learning how to blend accurately from an early age is imperative. Showing your child how to blend is important. Model how to ‘push’ sounds smoothly together without stopping at each individual sound.

What is segmenting?

Segmenting is a skill used in spelling. In order to spell the word cat, it is necessary to segment the word into its constituent sounds: c a t. Children will enjoy spelling if it feels like fun and if they feel good about themselves as spellers. We need, therefore, to be playful and positive in our approach – noticing and praising what children cando as well as helping them to correct their mistakes.

What are tricky words?

Tricky words are words that cannot be ‘sounded out’ but need to be learned by heart. They do not fit into the usual spelling patterns. In order to read simple sentences, it is necessary for children to know some words that have unusual or untaught spellings. When teaching these words we start with the sounds already known in the word and then focus on the ‘tricky’ part.

Tricky words are introduced in each phase as follows:

Phase 2: the to I no go into

Phase 3: he she me we be was you they all are my her

Phase 4: said have like so do come some were there little one when out what

Phase 5: oh their people Mr Mrs looked could asked called

Phases 1-6 of Letters and Sounds

Phase 1

Phase 1 of Letters and Sounds concentrates on developing children’s speaking and listening skil

ls and lays the foundations for the phonic work which starts in Phase 2. The emphasis during Phase 1 is to get children attuned to the sounds around them and ready to begin developing oral blending and segmenting skills.

Phase 2

In Phase 2, letters and their sounds are introduced one at a time. Sets of letters are taught in the following sequence:

Set1: s,a,t,p  Set2: i,n,m,d  Set3: g,o,c,k  Set4: ck,e,u,r  Set5: h, b, f, ff, l, ll, ss

The children will begin to learn to blend and segment to begin reading and spelling. This will begin with simple words.


Phase 3

By the time they reach Phase 3, children will already be able to blend and segment words containing the 19 letters taught in Phase 2.

During Phase 3, twenty-five new graphemes are introduced (one at a time).

Set 6: j, v, w, x

Set 7: y, z, zz, qu

Consonant digraphs: ch, sh, th, ng

Vowel digraphs: ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er

Phase 4

By Phase 4 children will be able to represent each of 42 phonemes with a grapheme. They will blend phonemes to read CCVC and CVCC words and segment these words for spelling. They will also be able to read two syllable words that are simple. They will be able to read all the tricky words learnt so far and will be able to spell some of them. This phase consolidates all the children have learnt in the previous phases.

Phase 5

Children will be taught new graphemes and alternative pronunciations for these graphemes and graphemes they already know. They will begin to learn to choose the appropriate grapheme when spelling. The children will be automatically decoding a large number of words for reading by this point.

ay day oy boy wh when a-e make
ou out ir girl ph photo e-e these
ie tie ue blue ew new i-e like
ea eat aw saw oe toe o-e home
au Paul u-e rule

Phase 6

In phase 6 children will be reading longer and less familiar texts independently and fluently. It is crucial that at this point children are now reading to learn and reading for pleasure.  Children should be able to read the 300 high frequency words. At this point it is important that comprehension strategies are developed so that children clarify meaning, ask and answer questions about the texts they are reading, construct mental images during reading and summarise what they have read. In spelling children are introduced to the adding of suffixes and how to spell longer words. Throughout the phase children are encouraged to develop strategies for learning spellings.

Syllables To learn a word by listening to how many syllables there are so it can be broken into smaller bits. (e.g. Sep-tem-ber)
Base Words To learn a word by finding its base word. (e.g. jumping- base word jump +ing
Analogy To learn a word use a word that is already learnt. (e.g. could, would, should)
Mnemonics To learn a word by making up a sentence to help remember them. (e.g. could – Oh U Lucky Duck; people -people eat orange peel like elephants
Homophones Homophones are words that sound the same but have different spellings/meanings. For example sail/sale, see/sea.

What can I do at home?

A great way to engage children at home with phonics is to play games. Matching pairs, snap, sorting words or letters can all be ways to help teach your children. If you have a computer at home then below is a list of websites that have fun interactive games for children to play.

Useful website letters and sounds games: