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Christ The King Catholic Primary School Learning, growing and praying together with Christ Our King

Phonics Explained

Phonics Explained

What is phonics?

In Early Years, KS1, lower KS2 and upper KS2 (where appropriate), synthetic phonics is used to help children read. The synthetic phonics approach teaches children to recognise 'phonemes' (units of sound) and their corresponding 'grapheme' (the letter or group of letters that represent that sound), then push them together to form words. This is known as 'blending'.


Children are taught to listen to the separate sounds in words and represent those sounds as letters. This is called 'segmenting' and forms the basis of spelling.


What on Earth?

Some of the language used to describe what happens in synthetic phonic teaching is really tricky. Amazingly your child will learn and understand these terms…


· Blend: (blending) this is when your child draws individual sounds together to pronounce a word, e.g. 'h-e-l-p' blended together, reads 'help'.

 · Phoneme: the smallest single identifiable sound, e.g. the letters ‘sh’ represent just one sound, but ‘fl’ represents two (/f/ and /l/), There are 44 phonemes in the English language.

 · Grapheme: a letter or a group of letters representing one sound, e.g. sh, th, igh. .

 · A phoneme may have only one grapheme for example ‘b’. Or may have several different spellings –for example 'or' can be spelt ‘or’ in torn, ‘aw’ in claw, ‘au’ in naughty or 'ore' in more. 

· Digraph: is when two letters make one sound, e.g. sh, ch, th, ph.

· Short Vowel Sounds: are the vowels saying their sound as ‘a’ in c a t.

· Long Vowel Sounds: are the vowels saying their name as ‘ay’ in day, ‘oa’ in boat or ‘igh’ in night. · Vowel digraphs: are two vowels which together make one sound, e.g. ie, oo, ai, ee.

· Consonant blends: are made up of two or three phonemes blended together quite quickly as we learn to read. Examples are sc, sm, bl, pr, str.


Children are introduced to an increasingly wider range of phonemes and graphemes as they progress through the school. These are introduced in the order outlined in the DfE document 'Letters and Sounds' (2007).


Phase One
Supports the importance of speaking and listening and develops children’s discrimination 
of sounds, including letter sounds.

The children learn to pronounce the sounds themselves in response to letters before blending them. This leads to them being able to read simple words and captions.

Letters: s, a, t, p, i, n, m, d, g, o, c, k, ck, e, u, r, h, b, f, ff, l, ll, ss

Tricky Words: the, to, I, no, go

Phase Three
Completes the teaching of the alphabet and moves on to sounds represented by more than one letter. The children will learn letter names and how to read and spell some tricky words.

Letters: j, v, w, x, y, z, zz, qu, ch, sh, th, ng, ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er

Tricky Words: he, she, we, me, be, was, my, you, they, her, all, are

Phase Four
The children learn to read and spell words containing adjacent consonants.

Tricky Words: said, so, have, like, some, come, were, there, little, one, do, when, out, what.

Phase Five
The children broaden their knowledge of sounds for use in reading and spelling. They will begin to build word-specific knowledge of the spellings of words.

Sounds: ay, ou, ie, ea, oy, ir, ue, aw, wh, ph, ew, oe, au, ey, a_e, i_e, u_e, o_e

Tricky Words: oh, their, people, Mr, Mrs, looked, called, asked.

Phase Six
This focuses on word-specific spellings. It encourages children to become fluent readers and increasingly accurate spellers.