Phonics Overview

Our teaching of reading is initially based on pupils learning sounds, (phonics). There is more to reading than this but there is a weight of evidence that systematic synthetic phonics, taught in the first years of a child’s education, gives children the key building blocks they need to decode and understand words. This underpins children’s successful progress in reading and can inspire a lifetime love of books.

The phonics approach teaches children to decode words using sounds, rather than by recognising whole words. The emphasis in early years teaching is on synthetic phonics, in which words are broken up into the smallest units of sound (phonemes). Children are taught the letter or group of letters (graphemes) that represent these phonemes and also learn to blend them into words. So, at its most basic, children are taught to say the sounds in a word like c-a-t, and then blend them together to read the word cat.

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.

At Waycroft we use the Primary National Strategy document ‘Letters and Sounds’ to plan our phonics sessions; it begins in the Nursery and progresses as shown in the table below.





Phase 1 - In Nursery children focus on hearing and differentiating between different types of sounds including environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body sounds,voice sounds andrecognising rhythm, rhyme and alliteration. Finally children learn oral blending (teacher says the phonemes e.g. c-a-t and children try to blend the sounds to make the word) and oral segmenting (teacher says a word e.g. dog and children try to break it up into its phonemes e.g. d-o-g) of letters.


Phase 2 - Initially children learn 19 sounds (phonemes) and the letters (graphemes) for each of these. They learn to blend sounds together to read words and segment words into their separate sounds to write them. This begins with VC (vowel-consonant) and CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant). They will use these skills to read simple words and captions.

Phase 3 – Children learn a further 25 sounds, most of which are represented by graphemes containing more than one letter e.g. ee, oo, igh, oa, ai etc. By the end of phase 3 the children will be able to represent each of about 42 phonemes by a grapheme;at this stage pupils will be able to read simple sentences.

Phase 4 -Children spend time learning to blend and segment longer words with adjacent consonants, e.g. swim, clap, jump etc. Pupils who are ready will be encouraged to read more complex words and sentences.


Phase 5 - Children continue to use phonics to build a broader reading vocabulary. Children learn more graphemes for the phonemes which they already know, 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. Alternative pronunciations for graphemes will also be introduced, e.g. ea in tea, head and break. They are also taught ‘tricky words’ which can’t easily be worked out by using phonics for example oh, their, people, looked and could. Again children continue to apply their reading through using books which get more difficult as they learn more words. Children will also increase the number of words which they can read at sight (without sounding out).

Y2 and beyond

Phase 6 - Working on spelling, including prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters etc.At this stage children should be able to spell words phonetically although not always correctly. The main aim now is for children to become more fluent readers and more accurate spellers as children will have already learnt the most frequently occurring grapheme–phoneme correspondences (GPCs) in the English language. They will be able to read many familiar words automatically. When they come across unfamiliar words they will in many cases be able to decode them quickly and quietly using their well-developed sounding and blending skills. With more complex unfamiliar words they will often be able to decode them by sounding them out. As children read more words at sight (without sounding out) they will become increasingly fluent readers.

During Letters and sounds session’s children are also taught to read and spell high frequency words (common words that appear most frequently in speech and written texts).


VC: A vowel-consonant word, such asat, it or as.

CVC: A consonant-vowel-consonant word, such as cat, pin or top. You may also come across the abbreviation CCVC for consonant-consonant-vowel-consonant words such as clap and from. Also CVCC for words such as mask and belt.

Phoneme: Phonemes are the smallest unit of speech-sounds which make up a word. For example, there are three phonemes in the word sit /s/-/i/-/t/. If you change the phoneme /s/ for /f/, you have a new word, fit. If you change the phoneme /t/ in fit for a /sh/, you have a new word, fish - /f/-/i/-/sh/.

Grapheme: Graphemes are the written representation of sounds.