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Phonics Information

We all know that reading is a key skill essential for all aspects of everyday life including independent learning and the world of work. At Redby Academy we believe it should be at the centre of children’s learning with our ultimate aim being to ensure every single child learns to read as quickly as possible. We want your child to love reading and to want to read for themselves. In order to achieve this, as a school, we have adopted the Letters and Sounds Phonics Resource to form the basis of our Early Reading Programme.


What is Letters and Sounds?

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 and aiming for them to become fluent readers by age seven.


The phonic approach encourages us to directly link letters (graphemes) to sounds (phonemes), and to teach children pure sounds like ahbk when encountering the alphabet. Children therefore learn how to put sounds represented by letters or letter groups (like ch or igh) together to read words in a more straightforward way.


The relationship between the letter(s) and the sound is called a letter-sound correspondence, also known as a grapheme-phoneme correspondence (or GPC).


How do children learn to read using Letters and Sounds?

The information below outlines the letter-sound correspondences children will learn in different phases. ‘Tricky words’ are introduced at each phase. These words are common and useful for early reading and writing, but children won’t be able to decode them following the phonic rules taught up to that point. Alongside these, we also focus on reading (and writing) the ‘high frequency words’ for each phase. These are often words which occur most frequently in written material and have little meaning on their own, but they do contribute a great deal to the meaning of a sentence. You can help your child learn all of these by reading aloud together on a regular, repeated basis.


Phase 1 Letters and Sounds

Approx age: 3–4 | Nursery/Reception
Phase 1 supports children developing speaking and listening skills and linking of sounds and letters. Activities are divided into seven groups:

  • environmental sounds
  • instrumental sounds
  • body percussion
  • rhythm and rhyme
  • alliteration
  • voice sounds
  • oral blending and segmenting

Children should be encouraged to enjoy books from as early an age as possible. However, the focus of this phase is on listening to and repeating sounds, rather than on directly reading words. You will notice many early childhood books contain rhyming words; recognising and suggesting rhyming couplets is a crucial part of learning to read as it enables children to differentiate between the rhythm within words. In turn, this helps their spoken language and fluency. At this stage, alliteration is typically initial sound recognition. Playing games such as ‘I Spy’ significantly improves a child’s ability to hear the initial sound in words and is the first step towards them being able to spell independently. Generally, oral segmenting and blending will be fairly secure before beginning Phase 2. A child must be able to blend sounds they hear in order to progress to blending sounds they read. Playing games such as ‘Robot Talk’ can greatly develop this skill; ask your child to find objects by blending a word you have segmented e.g. “Can you bring me the p...e...n…?” and your child should say “pen”.



Phase 2 Letters and Sounds

Approx age: 4–5 | Nursery/First term of Reception
Phase 2 introduces simple letter-sound correspondences. As each set of letters is introduced, children are encouraged to use their new knowledge to sound out and blend words. For example, they will learn to blend the sounds sat to make the word sat. These will be introduced in as early as Nursery if we feel the children are ready.  It is typical that children will learn a new sound each day; some groups may spend longer on each sound to embed knowledge and understanding. Phase 2 also introduces the ‘tricky words’ which are taught to the children as words that can’t be sounded out; the expectation is that these words are read from sight. Each Phase 2 phonics lesson will also incorporate a recap session, where previously taught sounds and tricky words will be revisited, as well as including the blending and practise of reading simple CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words. Use of pictures to support comprehension is very important at this stage; children learn to decode words but must also understand what they have read. Matching words and simple sentences to pictures clarifies their understanding and ensures they aren’t just decoding.


Set 1:
s, a, t, p
at, a, sat, pat, tap, sap, as


Set 2:
i – it, is, sit, pit, tip
n – an, in, nip, pan, nap
m – am, man, mat, map, Tim
d – dad, and, sad, dim, Sid


Set 3:
g – tag, gag, sag, gas, pig
o – got, on, not, top, dog
c – can, cot, cop, cap, cod
k – kid, kit, Kim, Ken


Set 4:
ck – kick, sack, dock, sick, pocket
e – get, pet, ten, net, pen
u – up, mum, run, mug, cup
r – rip, ram, rat, rocket, carrot


Set 5:
h – had, him, his, hot, hut
b – but, big, back, bed, bus
f, ff – of, if, off, fit, fog, puff
l, ll – let, leg, lot, bell, doll
ss – less, hiss, mass, mess, boss


Phase 2 tricky words: the, to, no, go, I, into

Phase 2 high frequency words: a, had, an, back, as, and, at, get, if, big, in, him, is, his, it, not, of, got, off, up, on, mum, can, but, dad, put



Phase 3 Letters and Sounds

Approx. age: 4–5 | Reception
In Phase 3, children build on the letter-sound correspondences learned in Phase 2. They learn consonant digraphs (sounds made up of two letters together such as ‘ch’ or ‘ll’) and long vowel sounds (such as ‘igh’ or ‘ai’). Typically, children are taught to remember a digraph as ‘two letters, one sound’, and a trigraph as ‘three letters, one sound’. As they learn these new sounds, they will segment by saying the digraph or trigraph as one sound; asking your child to tell you how many sounds are in a given word will help embed this new knowledge. Comprehension is still extremely important; once children have decoded simple sentences, they will be asked questions about what they have read to check their understanding. 


Set 6:
j – jet, jam, jog, Jan
v – van, vet, velvet
w – wig, will, web
x – fox, box, six

Set 7:
y – yes, yet, yell
z – zip, zig-zag
zz – buzz, jazz
qu – quit, quick, liquid


Consonant digraphs:
ch – chip, chat, rich
sh – shop, shed, fish
th – thin, moth, that
ng – ring, thing, song


Vowel digraphs and trigraphs:
ai – rain, tail, aim
ee – bee, leek, see
igh – high, sigh, might
oa – boat, toad, foal
oo – boot, food, moon
oo – book, wood, foot
ar – park, art, car
or – for, torn, fork
ur – hurt, fur, surf
ow – cow, owl, town
oi – coin, boil, oil
ear – dear, shear, year
air – fair, pair, hair
ure – sure, pure, manure
er – dinner, summer, letter


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

Phase 3 high frequency words: will, see, that, for, this, now, then, down, them, look, with, too



Phase 4 Letters and Sounds

Approx. age: 4–5 | Reception
Children will consolidate their knowledge during this phase and they will learn to read and spell words which have adjacent consonants (for example, trap, strong, milk and crept).


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

Phase 4 high frequency words: went, it’s, from, little, just, help


Phase 5 Letters and Sounds

Approx. age: 5–6 | Year 1
Children will learn some new graphemes for reading. They will also be taught alternative pronunciations for known graphemes. For example, they have already learned ow as in cow and will now learn ow as in blow. In addition, they will learn alternative spellings for known phonemes. For example, the sound /igh/ has been learned as the grapheme igh as in ‘night’, but can also be spelled y, ie, and i-e.


New graphemes for reading:
ay – day, play, crayon
ou – cloud, sound, about
ie – pie, tie, cried
ea – sea, meat, read
oy – toy, enjoy, boy
ir – bird, shirt, first
ue – blue, true, glue
aw – paw, claw, yawn
wh – wheel, whisper, when
ph – photo, dolphin, alphabet
ew – new, crew, flew
oe – toe, foe, tomatoes
au – Paul, launch, haul
a-e – make, game, snake
e-e – these, Eve, extreme
i-e – like, time, slide
o-e – home, bone, pole
u-e – rule, June, flute


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

Phase 5 high frequency words: (note that some of the words that were tricky in earlier phases become fully decodable in Phase Five) don’t, day, old, made, I’m, came, by, make, time, here, saw, house, very, about, put, your



Phase 6 Letters and sounds

Approx. age: 6–7 | Year 2
In Phase 6 children will read with increasing fluency. They will have learned most of the common letter-sound correspondences and can read familiar words automatically without needing to sound out and blend.


Children will work on spelling, including prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters, and so on. They have many opportunities across the timetable to apply their phonics knowledge and skills.


For more detailed information regarding each phase, visit the Letters and Sounds website.


How will my child be taught to read?

We start by teaching Phonics to the children in the Foundation Stage. This means that they learn how to ‘read’ the sounds in words and how those sounds can be written down. This is essential for reading, but it also helps children learn to spell effectively. We teach the children fun ways of remembering these sounds and letters by using simple sounds and rhymes taken from an additional Phonics Scheme: Ruth Miskin’s Read Write Inc.


The children also practise reading (and spelling) the ‘tricky words’ from each Phase. They practise their reading with books that match the phonics and the ‘tricky words’ they know. They start thinking that they can read and this greatly increases their confidence, therefore repetition, familiarity and re-visiting books is vital.


Teachers read to the children, too, so the children are familiar with a wide range of stories, poetry and information (non-fiction) books. Children will also regularly take home additional books that they have chosen themselves (not matched to their Phonics level) to ‘share’ with parents, replicating this at home. They learn many more words this way and it also helps with the development of their writing skills.

How long will it take to learn to read well?

In particular, you should notice quite a significant difference in your child’s reading ability as they progress through the Reception year. It is usual that children enter Reception not recognising sounds at all, having only focused on Phase 1 but by the end of the year, often their love for reading becomes apparent as they develop the skill to read more independently. 


In the summer term of Year 1, all children sit the standardised National Phonics Screening Check. If children are reading at the expected standard, they will pass without difficulty. From this, teachers can then identify those children who need further formal regular phonics teaching on entry to Year 2 and relevant intervention will be put into place. It is the expectation that during Year 1, and at varying timescales, children should be able to read aloud books that are at the right level for his or her age. Around this time, each child will then access our whole school online reading programme: Renaissance Reader. All books are levelled by coloured bands, recorded on each child’s personal ‘bookshelf’ and provide stimulus to assess children’s understanding of what they have read. As children progress, they will read books from the next coloured band.


By the end of Year 2, they should be reading fluently and silently, progressing to more advanced ‘chapter books.’ It is the expectation that children can read all ‘tricky words’ and ‘high frequency’ words with fluency by this point.


Year 1 high frequency words: the, a, do, to, today, of, said, says, are, were, was, is, his, has, I, you, your, they, be, he, me, she, we, no, go, so, by, my, here, there, where, love, come, some, one, once, ask, friend, school, put, push, pull, full, house, our

Year 2 high frequency words: gold, hold, told, every, great, break, steak, pretty, beautiful, after, fast, last, past, father, class, grass, pass, door, floor, poor, because, find, kind, mind, behind, child, children, wild, climb, most, only, both, old, cold, clothes, busy, people, water, again, half, money, Mr, Mrs, parents, Christmas, everybody, even, plant, path, bath, hour, move, prove, improve, sure, sugar, eye, could, should, would, who, whole, any, many


How do I know the teaching will be good?

All the staff have been trained to teach reading in the appropriate way. Regular monitoring of teaching is carried out where the Reading Lead and Senior Leaders observe other teachers teaching to make sure that the children are learning how we want them to learn and are making the relevant progress.


How can I help my child learn to read?

You will be invited to a parent reading session so that we can explain how we teach reading. Please come and support your child as we would very much like you to know how to help. This could include work such as helping your child to sound out the letters in words and then to ‘blend’ the sounds together to make a whole word. Please try not to refer to the letters by their names but refer to them by their sounds. Help your child to focus on the sounds. Here is some guidance about the correct pronunciation of sounds:

These first sounds should all be stretched slightly. Try to avoid saying uh after each one:

 e.g. /mm/ not muh, /ss/ not suh, /ff/ not fuh.

m – mmmmmmountain (keep lips pressed together hard)
s – sssssnake (keep teeth together and hiss – unvoiced)
n – nnnnnnet (keep tongue behind teeth)
f – ffffflower (keep teeth on bottom lip and force air out sharply – unvoiced)
l – llllleg (keep pointed curled tongue behind teeth).
r – rrrrrrobot (say rrr as if you are growling)
v – vvvvvvulture (keep teeth on bottom lip and force air out gently)
z – zzzzzzig zzzzzag (keep teeth together and make a buzzing sound)
th – thhhhank you ( stick out tongue and breathe out sharply)
sh – shhhh (make a shhh noise as though you are telling somebody to be quiet!) ng – thinnnnngg on a strinnnngg (curl your tongue at the back of your throat) nk – I think I stink (make a piggy oink noise without the oi! nk nk nk)

These next sounds cannot be stretched. Make the sound as short as possible avoiding
uh at the end of the sound:
t – (tick tongue behind the teeth – unvoiced)
p – (make distinctive p with lips – unvoiced)
k – (make sharp click at back of throat)
c – as above
h – (say h as you breathe sharply out – unvoiced)
ch – (make a short sneezing sound)
x – (say a sharp c and add s – unvoiced)

You will find it is harder to avoid saying uh at the end of these sounds.

d – (tap tongue behind the teeth).
g – (make soft sound in throat).
b –(make a short, strong b with lips).
j – (push lips forward).
y – (keep edges of tongue against teeth). w – (keep lips tightly pursed).
qu – (keep lips pursed as you say cw – unvoiced).


The short vowels should be kept short and sharp:
a: a-a-a (open mouth wide as if to take a bite of an apple).
e: e-e-e (release mouth slightly from a position).
i: i-i-i (make a sharp sound at the back of the throat – smile). o: o–o-o (push out lips, make the mouth into o shape).
u: u-u-u (make a sound in the throat).

The long vowel sounds are all stretchy sounds ay: ay may I play
ee: ee what do you see?
igh: fly high
ow: blow the snow oo: poo at the zoo oo: look at a book ar: start the car or: shut the door air: that’s not fair
ir: whirl and twirl ou: shout it out oy: toy for a boy


Further ‘Reading Prompts for Parents’ can be found on the inside page of your child’s Home-School diary.


Please contact your child’s teacher for any other enquires regarding phonics or the teaching or reading at Redby Academy.