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Phonics and Word Lists 

Please read the Reading Policy in the policies section for more information 

What is phonics?

There has been a huge shift in the past few years in how we teach reading in UK schools. This is having a big impact and helping many children learn to read and spell. Phonics is recommended as the first strategy that children should be taught in helping them learn to read. It runs alongside other teaching methods  to help children develop all the other vital reading skills and hopefully give them a real love of reading.

So, what exactly is phonics?

Words are made up from small units of sound called phonemes. Phonics teaches children to be able to listen carefully and identify the phonemes that make up each word. This helps children to learn to read words and to spell words

In phonics lessons children are taught three main things:

GPCs

They are taught GPCs. This stands for grapheme phoneme correspondences. This simply means that they are taught all the phonemes in the English language and ways of writing them down. These sounds are taught in a particular order. The first sounds to be taught are s, a, t, p.

Blending

Children are taught to be able to blend. This is when children say the sounds that make up a word and are able to merge the sounds together until they can hear what the word is. This skill is vital in learning to read.

Segmenting

Children are also taught to segment. This is the opposite of blending. Children are able to say a word and then break it up into the phonemes that make it up. This skill is vital in being able to spell words.

What makes phonics tricky?

In some languages learning phonics is easy because each phoneme has just one grapheme to represent it. The English language is a bit more complicated than this. This is largely because England has been invaded so many times throughout its history. Each set of invaders brought new words and new sounds with them. As a result, English only has around 44 phonemes but there are around 120 graphemes or ways of writing down those 44 phonemes. Obviously we only have 26 letters in the alphabet so some graphemes are made up from more than one letter.

ch th oo ay (these are all digraphs - graphemes with two letters)

There are other graphemes that are trigraphs (made up of 3 letters) and even a few made from 4 letters.

Another slightly sticky problem is that some graphemes can represent more than one phoneme. For example ch makes very different sounds in these three words: chip, school, chef.

So why bother learning phonics?

In the past people argued that because the English language is so tricky, there was no point teaching children phonics. Now, most people agree that these tricky bits mean that it is even more important that we teach phonics and children learn it clearly and systematically. A written language is basically a kind of a code. Teaching phonics is just teaching children to crack that code. Children learn the simple bits first and then easily progress to get the hang of the trickier bits.

How is phonics taught?

Some people worry that phonics is taught to children when they are too young. However, those people might be surprised if they stepped into a phonics lesson. Phonics sessions are made up from games, songs and actions and these sessions only last for 15-20 minutes per day.   Children generally enjoy phonics so much that they beg their teachers to play phonics games with them at other times of the day.

Parent Phonic sheets

Phase 1 Phonics

Children working within Phase 1:

  • explore and experiment with sounds and words
  • distinguish between different sounds in the environment and phonemes
  • show awareness of rhyme and alliteration

No graphemes are intoduced at Phase 1. 

By the end of Phase 2 children should be able to:

  • Give the sound when shown any Phase 2 letter, securing first the starter letters s, a, t, p, i, n;
  • Find any Phase 2 letter, from a display, when given the sound;
  • Be able to orally blend and segment CVC words;
  • Be able to blend and segment in order to read and spell (using magnetic letters) VC words such as if, am, on, up and ‘silly names’ such as ip, up ock;
  • Be able to read the 5 tricky words the, to, I, no, go
  • It is important to note that handwriting requiring fine motor control is a separate but important skill that is not taught in the discrete phonics session. For many children, especially boys this will include activities that develop motor skills.

By the end of Phase 3 children should be able to:

  • Give the sound when shown all or most Phase 2 and Phase 3 graphemes
  • Find all or most Phase 2 and Phase 3 graphemes from a display when given the sound
  • Be able to blend and read CVC words
  • Be able to segment and make phonetically plausible attempt at spelling CVC words
  • Be able to read the tricky word- she, she, we, me, be was, my, you, her, they all, are
  • Be able to spell the tricky words- the, to, I no, go
  • Write each letter correctly when following a model

By the end of Phase 4 children should be able to:

  • Give the sound when shown any Phase 2 and Phase 3 grapheme;
  • Find any Phase 2 and Phase 3 grapheme from a display when given the sound;
  • Be able to blend and read words containing adjacent consonants;
  • Be able to segment and spell words containing adjacent consonants;
  • Be able to read tricky words; some, one said, come , do, so, were, when, have, there, out , like, little what
  • Be able to spell tricky words; he, she, we, me, be, was, my, you, her, they, all, are
  • Write each letter, usually correctly.

By the end of Phase 5 children should be able to:

  • Give the sound when shown any grapheme that has been taught;
  • For any given sound, write the common graphemes;
  • Apply phonic knowledge and skill as the prime approach to reading and spelling unfamiliar words that are not completely decodable;
  • Read and spell phonically decodable two-syllable and three-syllable words;
  • Read automatically all the words in the list of 100 high-frequency words;
  • Accurately spell most of the words in the list of 100 high-frequency words;
  • Form each letter correctly.

Y1 children are expected  to be secure at Phase 5 phonics by July. Secure at phase 5 means secure at decoding and encoding.
This means that most Y1 children be able to:

  • Write the common graphemes for any given sound
  • Read and spell phonetically decodable two-syllable and three syllable words
  • Apply phonic knowledge and skill as the prime approach to reading and spelling unfamiliar words that are not completely decodable
  • Children in Y1 will take the Y1 phonics screening test

In year 2/ 3 and 4 there is a very strong focus on ensuring all the phonic phases are secure and that the children can read and spell the High Frequency Words 

In addition, the following areas are covered in Year 3 and 4:

  • Adding suffixes beginning with vowel letters to words of more than one syllable
  • The /ɪ/ sound spelt y elsewhere than at the end of words
  • The /ʌ/ sound spelt ou
  • Prefixes such as: in-, un-, dis, mis-, re-, sub-, inter-, super-, anti-, auto-,
  • The suffix –ation
  • The suffix –ly
  • Words ending in -ure.
  • The suffix –ous
  • Endings which sound like /ʃən/, spelt –tion, –sion, –ssion, –cian
  • Words with the /k/ sound spelt ch (Greek in origin)
  • Words with the /ʃ/ sound spelt ch (mostly French in origin)
  • Words ending with the /g/ sound spelt –gue and the /k/ sound spelt –que (French in origin)
  • Words with the /s/ sound spelt sc (Latin in origin)
  • Words with the /eɪ/ sound spelt ei, eigh, or ey
  • Possessive apostrophe with plural words
  • Homophones and near-homophones

The spelling areas covered with further examples can be downloaded below.

The spelling in Years 5 & 6 buildings on the Phonic Phases taught in FS2 - Y2 and the spelling patterns taught in Years 3 and 4.

They include the following spelling patterns:

  • Endings which sound like /ʃəs/ spelt –cious or –tious
  • Endings which sound like /ʃəl/ spelt -cial or tial
  • Words ending in –ant, –ance/–ancy, –ent, –ence / -ency
  • Words ending in –able and –ible
  • Words ending in –ably and –ibly
  • Adding suffixes beginning with vowel letters to words ending in –fer
  • Use of the hyphen
  • Words with the /i:/ sound spelt ei after c
  • Words containing the letter-string ough
  • Words with ‘silent’ letters (i.e. letters whose presence cannot be predicted from the pronunciation of the word)
  • Homophones and other words that are often confused

See the words lists below for more information