What is Phonics?
Phonics is a systematic synthetic approach to teaching children to read and write. Children are taught the sounds instead of letter names so that they can blend and segment from an early age. For example: the first six letters that they learn are s, a, t, p, i and n. Once these sounds are learnt children can then practise reading various cvc (consonant - vowel - consonant) words. Examples of these are: sat, pit, pin, sit etc:
Phonics is split into 6 phases and during the Summer Term of Year 1 children sit a Phonics screening test to give teachers and parents information regarding how your child is progressing.
The main objectives of phonics are to:
- recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes;
- identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make - such as /ch/ or /ng/;
- blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word and
- give children the confidence to apply their phonetic knowledge to decode unknown words
Phonics at Dulverton Primary School
At Dulverton Primary School, we follow the Letters and Sounds Scheme which is split into six phases.
Phase 1 (Nursery)
Prior to children learning to read and write children need to develop a phonological awareness. This means that children learn the skill to distinguish between word endings e.g the difference between ‘sit’ and ‘sip’ and the visual skills to recognise letter formation. This usually occurs through natural interaction between child and parent/care-givers or listening and responding to the environment around them. The child’s Nursery and Reception teacher will help to strengthen this understanding before moving to a more formal approach to reading.
Phase 2 (Reception)
Once children are secure in Phase 1 they are taught the initial sounds or digraphs on the Phase 2 sound mat below. The children are taught the graphemes/phonemes in this order and encouraged to blend cvc words as soon as they have learnt enough sounds to blend.
Phase 3 (Reception and Year 1)
During Phase 3, Children are introduced to 25 more phonemes which consist of digraphs (two letters together that make one sound like ‘qu’) and trigraphs (three letters together that make one sound like ‘air’). The children are taught consonant digraphs first and then vowel digraphs, as shown in the Phase 3 sound mat below.
Phase 4 (Year 1)
This is a consolidation phase where children practise the phonemes and graphemes and previously learnt and they also practise blending consonant sounds such as ‘tr’.
Phase 5 (Year 1)
In Phase 5, children learn a variety of ways to make the same sound. For example ‘ow’ and ‘ou’ make the same sound in the words clown and cloud. Children are exposed to different graphemes to write the same phonemes. This Phase also teaches them different phonemes for the same grapheme like in the words sea and head.
Phase 6 (Year 2)
Phase 6 is about developing children’s fluency in their reading skills and developing their spelling accuracy. Children should be exposed to all 44 phonemes randomly at this stage and be able to use their phonetic knowledge to segment and blend unfamiliar words. It is crucial to expose the children to different genres of text - poetry, non-fiction, fiction etc.
In Early Years and KS1, Phonics is taught daily for 20 - 25 minutes and is the foundation of all English learning. Teachers used their professional judgement to teach either as a whole class, in ability classes or in small groups. This may vary throughout the year and between year groups but always has the children’s accelerated progress at the forefront.
High Frequency words
There are some words that are frequently used in early reading and writing that can not be read or spelt phonetically, for example ‘said’ and ‘the’. These words are called High Frequency words, of which there are 200 of them. These are taught by sight and at Dulverton are practised and tested frequently both formally (via a reading and spelling test) and informally (through Phonics and English lessons).
The Phonics Screening Test
The phonics test is a national test and consists of 40 words that are a mixture of pseudo words and real words. Pseudo words are alien words - sounds that are put together to purely test the child’s phonetic ability. The children have to segment and blend at least 32 words to pass the expected national pass mark. Children are able to re-sit the assessment in Year 2 if required. Below is an example of some words from a previous screening test.
At Dulverton Primary School, staff work hard to match the children’s reading book to their ability. Please share reading with your children daily through a mixture of; them reading to you; you reading to them; picking out certain High Frequency words; you read a page and then they repeat the page and look at the pictures or answer comprehension questions about the text. This will help to build the children’s confidence and exposure to reading.
Common terminology used in Phonics teaching at Dulverton Primary School
Phoneme - smallest unit of sound e.g. igh = light. In the English language there are 44 phonics sounds.
Grapheme - smallest representation of a phoneme.
Segment - break up a word into its individual sounds. Sound buttons - Robot arms. E.g. b - oa - t = 3 sounds.
Blend - listen to the individual sounds and be able to push them together to say the full word e.g b - ar - k = bark.
Digraph - two letters together that make one sound e.g ch like in children, chips, such and butcher.
Trigraph - three letters together that make one sound e.g. ear like in dear, fear, hear and earring.
Split Digraph - it means that a vowel sound has been split - by a consonant. E.g. space, race, face. The a and e are joined so that the e doesn’t make a sound but makes the previous vowel say its letter name not sound.