What is Phonics?
Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skilfully. They are taught how to:
– recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes;
– identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make such as /sh/ or /ee/; and
– blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word.
Children can then use this knowledge to ‘decode’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read.
Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5 to 7.
Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment.
Children who have been taught phonics also tend to read more accurately than those taught using other methods, such as ‘look and say’. This includes children who find learning to read difficult, for example those who have dyslexia.
(The information above is directly from the Department of Education’s ‘Learning to read through phonics : information for parents’ document .)
At Avanti House Primary School, we follow the Letters and Sounds document as our core programme to support with our planning and teaching of synthetic phonics. The Letters and Sounds document provides information and guidelines on how best to equip children’s phonic knowledge from Nursery to the end of KS1.
We have adapted our teaching to ensure that all the elements of the new National Curriculum (2014) have been included and therefore being taught to all pupils.
Phonics is the process of learning the sounds of all graphemes and learning the process of blending sounds to read and segmenting sounds to write. A high level phonics programme also provides guidance on teaching words that cannot be phonetically decoded; these are known as tricky words or common exception words.
There are 44 phonemes, represented by 26 letters in a range of different combinations.
What is the difference between analytical phonics and synthetic phonics?
Analytical phonics focuses on recognising words from sight, children are taught to identify or guess words by recognising initial sounds and the formation of the remaining letters in the word. When teaching analytical phonics, children are taught single phonemes and words that begin with that sound (e.g.: S – sun sat snow sink), following from this children are then taught diagraphs (e.g. – ee, oo, ai, ew).
However, synthetic phonics focuses on teaching children to identify phonemes and to use these to blend and segment in their reading writing. Blending and segmenting begins almost within the second week of the programme, this means the children do not guess words, but use phonic knowledge to break up sounds to read and write as correctly as possible.
At Avanti House Primary School we use the synthetic approach, by following the Letters and Sounds programme, this allows us to teach all phonemes, words that begin with particular sounds (e.g. N – neck) and words which contain those sounds (e.g. N – bend). This is taught through on-going blending and segmenting activities.
Key Vocabulary / Glossary
Phonemes: A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound
Graphemes: The grapheme is the letter used to represent the sound
Digraph: two letters used to make one sound (e.g. ch/ sh/ th)
Trigraph: three letters used to make one sound (e.g. igh/ ure/ air)
Split Digraph: A digraph in which the two letters are not adjacent (e.g. make/ bone/ like)
Vowel Digraph: A digraph that uses two vowels to make one sound (e.g. oo/ ai/ ee)
Consonant Diagraph: A digraph that contains two consonants (e.g. ck/ sh/ ch)
CVC: Consonant Vowel Consonant (c-a-t/ sh-ee-p)
Blending: Combining sounds together to read the word
Segmenting: Breaking up the sounds in a word to help spell the word
Homographs: Words that have the same spelling but differ in meaning and pronunciation, for example, a row of chairs or a row like an argument
Homophones: Words with common pronunciations but different spellings, for example, to / two / too or there / their
Syllable: One or more letters representing a unit of spoken language consisting of a single uninterrupted sound
Polysyllabic word: A word containing more than one syllable
Adjacent Consonant: Two consonants next to each other in a word, for example, trip or bend. These used to be known as ‘blends’ but must not be now. They need to be taught as separate sounds.
Please click on the three links below to download documents which contain essential information that will help you support your child in the development of their phonics, reading and writing:
Phonics Parents Handout
Phonics Word List
Phonics Alternative Pronunciations and Spellings
Useful Website Links
Click on the picture to access an excellent website containing lots of information and activities to use with your child.
Click on the picture to gain access lots of useful information, print out activities and interactive games that you can use with your child. Print out the flashcards from Phases 2, 3, 5a and then use them with your child to practise the individual sounds. Print out the picture/match cards for Phases 2, 3, 4 and child love to first read the words and then find the matching pictures.