What is Phonics?

A way of teaching children to read skilfully and quickly by:

  • Listening and recognising the sounds in spoken language,
  • Teaching the skill of blending (for reading) and segmenting (for spelling),
  • Teaching children to recognise the 44 phonemes in the English language.

Phonics at Sunnyfields

  • Follows a structured intensive Phonic programme called 'Letters and Sounds' through the Department of Educaton guidance,
  • Children are taught Phonics daily for about 20 - 25 minutes with additional intervention support for those who require it,
  • They always work within the phase that is appropriate for their level of learning,
  • They are assessed regularly so that their progress is tracked.

The Letters and Sounds Phases

  • 6 phases
  • Phase 1 is taught throughout the phonics programme,
  • Phase 2 - 4 is taught for reading,
  • Phase 5 is more complex with alternative pronunciation and spellings,
  • Phase 6 is basic introduction of Grammar.

Phase 1

Children are taught to:

  • Show an awareness of rhyme and alliteration,
  • Distinguish between sounds in the environment and the phonemes,
  • Explore and experiment with sounds and words,
  • Begin to orally blend and segment phonemes.

Phase 2

Children are taught:

  • Common vowels and consonants,
  • Teaches blending for reading and segmenting for writing of simple CVC words,
  • Teaches children to gain an understanding that words are made up of phonemes and that phonemes are shown in the form of graphemes.

Phase 2 letter 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
  • CVC words - s-a-t, c-a-n etc.

Phase 3

Children are taught:

  • The remainder of the alphabet - j y w v x z

  • Consonant diagraphs - two consonants that makes up a single phoneme  - sh, ch, th, ng
  • Vowel diagraphs - single phoneme made up of either two vowels or a vowel and a consonant - ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er
  • Readining and spelling a wide range of CVC words made up from the phonemes learnt in this phase, eg. R-ai-n; Ch-air

Phase 4

  • Review of all the phonemes learnt in previous phases,
  • Segmenting and blending more in detail to ensure children apply this skill during writing and reading of unfamiliar texts,
  • No new graphemes to be learnt,
  • Introduction of syllables for reading.

Phase 5

  • Learn more graphemes and phonemes,
  • For example, they already know ai as in rain, but now they will be introduced to ay as in day and a-e as in make,
  • Using alternative ways of pronouncing and spelling the graphemes corresponding to the long vowel phonemes,
  • Spelling complex words using new phonemes learnt.

New graphemes learnt are:

  • ay, ow, ie, ea, oy, ir, ue, aw, wh, ph, ew, oa, au, a-e, i-e, o-e, u-e
  • Alternative pronunciations for l, o, c, g, u, y, ch
  • Alternative spellings for ay, ie, ir, ea.

Phase 6

  • Recognising phonic irregularities and becoming more secure with less common grapheme - phoneme correspondence,
  • Applying phonic skills and knowledge to recognise and spell more complex words,
  • Introducing and teaching the past tense (ed and irregular words), adding suffixes (-s, -es, -ed, -ing, -est, etc), spelling long words, finding the difficult bits in words.


High Frequency words

  • Children also learn 'tricky' words - one they cannot decode but have to learn by sight,
  • Children from R - 2 need to learn around 300 words throughout the phonics programme.



Some definitions

  • Phoneme - smallest unit of sound in a word, eg. How many phonemes can you hear in cat?
  • Grapheme - letters that make up the phoneme. Grapheme can be 1 letter, 2 letters or more! eg. s, ai, igh
  • CVC - consonant vowel consonant word eg. cat, sun

Useful websites