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Phonics and Reading Schemes


What is phonics?

Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skilfully. They are taught how to:

  1. recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes;
  2. identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make - such as ‘sh’ or ‘oa’; and
  3. blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word.

Children can then use this knowledge to ‘de-code’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read.

Why phonics?

Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5 to 7.

Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment. Children who have been taught phonics also tend to read more accurately than those taught using other methods, such as ‘look and say’. This includes children who find learning to read difficult, for example those who have dyslexia.

Did you know . . .   

A phoneme is the sound a letter or a group of letters make (there are 44).    A grapheme is what the phoneme looks like (it could be represented in more than one way e.g.  ai  ey  ay).   A digraph is when two letters come together to make a phoneme (‘oa’ as in boat).   A trigraph is when three letters come together to make one phoneme (‘igh’ as in high).   A split digraph is when a vowel digraph is split by a consonant letter (e.g. ‘ae’ in make).    Segmenting consists of breaking words down into phonemes to spell. Blending consists of building words from phonemes to read.

How do we teach phonics at Adel? 

In school we follow the Letters and Sounds programme.  Letters and Sounds is a phonics resource published by the Department for Education and Skills which consists of six phases. Discreet phonics sessions are taught daily and are fun and multi-sensory to appeal to the different learning styles. We use Jolly Phonics to help the children learn the first 42 sounds via songs and actions.


Phase 1 concentrates on developing children's speaking and listening skills. The aim is to get children attuned to the sounds around them and ready to begin developing oral blending and segmenting skills.

Phase 2 The purpose of this phase is to teach at least 19 letters, and move children on from oral blending and segmentation to blending and segmenting with letters. By the end of the phase many children should be able to read some VC (vowel, consonant e.g. at) and CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant e.g. cat)  words and to spell them. They will also learn to read some high-frequency ‘tricky’ words: the, to, go, no.  They will be introduced to reading simple captions.

Phase 3The purpose of this phase is to teach another 25 graphemes, most of them comprising of two letters e.g. ‘oa’ and ‘ar’, so the children can represent each phoneme by a grapheme. Children also continue to practise blending and segmenting when reading and spelling words and captions.  They will learn letter names, learn to read some more tricky words and also begin to learn to spell some of these words.

Phase 4 The purpose of this phase is to consolidate children’s knowledge of graphemes in reading and spelling words containing adjacent consonants and polysyllabic words. These words have consonant clusters at the beginning (spot, trip), or at the end (tent, damp) or at the beginning and end (trust, spend)! They also read polysyllabic words (sandwich).

Phase 5 The purpose of this phase is for children to broaden their knowledge of graphemes and phonemes for use in reading and spelling. They will learn new graphemes and alternative pronunciations for these.

Phase 6 During this phase, children become fluent readers and increasingly accurate spellers. They focus on spellings and learning rules for spelling alternatives. They will be reading longer and less familiar texts independently and with increasing fluency. The shift from learning to read to reading to learn takes place and children read for information and for pleasure.

 Phonics Screening Check 

The National Phonics Screening Check is a quick and easy check of your child’s phonics knowledge. It helps school confirm whether your child has made the expected progress and helps teachers identify which children need extra help with phonic decoding.  It is for Year 1 children and it takes place in the Summer term. The check contains a mix of real words and ‘non-words’ (or ‘nonsense words’). The purpose of including nonsense words is to check that the child knows the sounds and can blend them together to read the words. They will be new to all pupils, so there won’t be a bias to those with a good vocabulary knowledge or visual memory of words. Children who have not met the standard in Year 1 will retake the check in Year 2.  

A few points to remember!

*It must always be remembered that phonics is the step up to word recognition. Automatic reading of all words – decodable and tricky – is the ultimate goal.

*To become successful readers, children must understand what they read. They need to learn a range of comprehension strategies and should be encouraged to reflect upon their own understanding and learning.

*Phonics works best when children are given plenty of encouragement to read and enjoy books.  Parents play a very important part in helping with this. Try to make time to read with your child every day. Grandparents and older brothers or sisters can help too. Encourage your child to blend the sounds all the way through a word.

*It is important to articulate the phonemes correctly (please look at the link below).  In the phases 1 and 2 we home in on the sounds letters make, not their names.

*Your child will be given phonics tasks to do at home. Please support your child in learning their phoneme-grapheme correspondences and key words.

*A systematic approach to phonics is a great way to learn how to read BUT it is not the only way.

Don’t forget learning should be fun for both your child and you!!





Picture 1
Picture 1

Articulation of Phonemes

A useful video clip showing the correct 'pure' pronounciation of phonemes (units of sound).

Picture 1

Reading at Adel

Children have many opportunities for reading in school which include: shared reading in the daily English session, reading lessons as a whole class, reading a class read where every child has a copy of the same book, RIC (retrieval, interpret, author's choice) picture activities, ERIC (everyone reading in class) sessions and individual reading. As well as these scheduled opportunities to read in class, each classroom has a dedicated reading area to encourage reading for enjoyment. This area promotes a love of reading and encourages children to be actively involved in writing book reviews and selecting books for themselves and their peers to enjoy. Throughout the week (often as part of Guided Reading or in early years and KS1, ‘free time’) children will have the opportunity to access this area.


Shared reading

In KS1 and KS2, children will have opportunities to read frequently during whole class English lessons. This may involve reading together as a class from the board or reading/sharing a range of texts. In addition to this, every class in KS1 and 2 has a class reading book, meaning each child has their own copy of the same book and they are encouraged to read alongside the teacher or independently to the class. This text may be aimed at a slightly higher level than the children are able to read independently, but with the support of the class teacher, children are able to access the text and extend their reading ability and comprehension. Class reads are often used as key texts in whole class reading lessons. In Reception, towards the end of the school year, children participate in shared/group reading activities to prepare them for guided reading in KS1.


RIC (Whole Class reading lessons) 

As part of the new national curriculum, RIC lessons are held in KS1 and KS2. These sessions are taught as whole class reading lessons that focus on teaching specific comprehension strategies that are outlined in the new national curriculum. RIC focuses on the three most important skills of children’s comprehension. RIC stands for: Retrieval of information in a text, interpretation of a text and understanding/explaining the author’s Choice. Other key comprehension skills that are taught in these lessons include performing, inference, viewpoint and review. In RIC/whole class reading lessons, these skills are explicitly taught just like key concepts in maths would be taught. Whole class reading lessons require children to answer written questions and consequently prepare children for the KS1 and KS2 SATS. These sessions focus on a range of different sources including passages from a book, pictures from a book and videos. These will often be taught as whole class sessions or may be in the form of starter activities before a lesson. Children who still need support with their decoding skills will also have additional reading sessions throughout the week. 


Individual Reading

In EYFS and KS1 children read independently (often with an adult) on a frequent basis. In Key Stage Two, children who need more individual support will receive help on a one to one or small group basis.

In Key Stage One and EYFS, children access the ‘Oxford Reading Tree’ scheme of work, which include a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts. Once children are secure readers they then access extended chapter books suitable for their reading level. Children take home schoolbooks suited to their ability twice a week and are encouraged to also take home books from our class libraries.


In Key Stage Two, spelling forms an integral part of english teaching. The focus is on children making accurate spelling choices and applying these to their work. Children who require further support with their spelling/phonics are able to access a range of intervention groups suitable for their individual needs.


Parental Involvement

At the start of the school year, your child’s class teacher will have informed you about classroom routines for each class with regards to reading books/reading homework activities. We emphasise the need for parents to take an active role in their child’s education, supporting the developing reader and encouraging open lines of communication through reading diaries and planners.

Letter and Sounds 2007 document (still relevant in schools)