Phonics teaching

At St James’ we base our phonics teaching on Letters and Sounds, supplemented by planning from Phonics Play.  

Letters and sounds is a systematic approach for the teaching of phonics. It is split into six phases and if often covered between Nursery and Year 2. Synthetic phonics is a method of teaching where words are broken up into the smallest units of sound (phonemes). Children are taught to make connections between the letters of written texts (graphemes) and the sounds of spoken language. This also supports spelling, as children are able to write the sounds they hear. There are some words that cannot be learned by sounding and blending and must be learnt by sight. These are often referred to as ‘tricky’ or ‘sight’ words.  

The 6 phases of Letters and Sounds introduce the sounds and skills in a particular order. There are also a few ‘tricky’ words introduced at each phase.  

Phase 1 

This is often introduced in Nursery and explored further within the first few weeks of Reception. At this stage, the focus is on the development of speaking and listening skills prior to introducing written letters. The activities are divided into seven groups: 

  • Environmental sounds. 
  • Instrumental sounds. 
  • Body percussion. 
  • Rhythm and rhyme. 
  • Alliteration. 
  • Voice sounds. 
  • Oral blending and segmenting.

Phase 2 

This is introduced in the Autumn Term of Reception. The children learn the majority of the individual letter sounds. As each group is introduced, children are encouraged to use their new knowledge to sound and blend words. The sounds are introduced in the following order: 

Set 1: s a t p 

Set 2: i n m d 

Set 3: g o c k 

Set 4: ck e u r 

Set 5: h b f (ff) l (ll) ss 

Tricky words: I, to, no, go, the, into 

Phase 3 

Once the children are familiar with the phase 2 sounds, we progress on to phase 3. This usually happens in the Spring Term of Reception and is recapped as the children move into Year 1. The children will complete the remaining single letter sounds and progress on to sounds made by two or three letters, known as digraphs and trigraphs. They are introduced in the following order: 

Set 6: j v w x 

Set 7: y z (zzqu 

Consonant digraphs: ch sh th ng 

Vowel digraphs: ai ee igh oa oo ar or ur ow oi ear air ure er 

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

Phase 4 

Phase 4 is an opportunity to consolidate blending and segmenting skills as no further sounds are introduced. Children will learn to read and write words with adjacent consonants such as tr in trap, str in strong, lk in milk.  

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

Phase 5 

This phase is introduced in Year 1 towards the end of the Autumn Term and continues for the year. Some of the later aspects are introduced in Year 2. Children will learn new graphemes (written sounds) and will also be taught alternative pronunciations for known graphemes. For example, they will have already learn ow and in cow, and will now learn ow as in blow. In addition, they will learn alternative spellings for known sounds. For example, ‘igh’ as in ‘night’ can also be spelled y, ie and i_e. 

New graphemes include: 

ay – day, play 

ou – cloud, proud 

ie – pie, tie 

ea – sea, meat 

oy – toy, boy 

ir – bird, skirt 

ue – blue or due 

aw – paw, claw 

wh – wheel, whisper 

ph – photo, dolphin 

ew – new or flew 

oe – toe, foe 

au – launch, autumn 

a_e – make, name 

e_e – theme, eve 

i_e – like, time 

o_e – home, bone 

u_e – June, flute 

Tricky words: oh, their, people, Mr, Mrs, looked, called, asked, could 

Phase 6 

In Year 2, children start to focus on increasing fluency as they read. They will have learned the majority of the letter-sound correspondences and will be able to read familiar words without needing to sound and blend. Phase 6 focuses on spelling patterns including prefixes and suffixes when the root word is adjusted. 

The Phonics Session 

From Reception to Year 2, children participate in a teacher led phonics session daily. They are encouraged to apply their segmenting and blending skills within each session to support reading and writing using their sounds. There are also many opportunities to apply skills throughout child-initiated learning, Challenge Time and the daily Literacy Carousel 

Phonics Screening 

In June of Year 1, children complete the Phonics Screening assessment. This is to check blending skills and application of phonic sounds taught. If a child does not reach the benchmark set, they will re-take the assessment the following year in Year 2. It is expected that most children will pass by the end of Year 2.