What is Phonics?

Phonics is a way of teaching children to read and write. It is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate sounds and understand the link between the sound (phoneme) and the way it is written (grapheme)

How is Phonics taught at St Joseph's?

Children throughout Reception and Key Stage 1 take part in a daily phonics session. These focus on developing reading, writing and speaking and listening skills. The ‘Letters and Sounds’ programme is divided into six phases, with each phase building on the skills and knowledge of previous learning.


Phonic Knowledge and Skills

Phase 1


Activities are divided into seven aspects, including environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body sounds, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and finally oral blending and segmenting.

Phase 2


Learning 19 letters of the alphabet and one sound for each. Blending sounds together to make words. Segmenting words into their separate sounds. Beginning to read simple captions.

Phase 3


The remaining 7 letters of the alphabet, one sound for each. Graphemes such as ch, oo, th representing the remaining phonemes not covered by single letters. Reading captions, sentences and questions. On completion of this phase, children will have learnt the "simple code", i.e. one grapheme for each phoneme in the English language.

Phase 4


No new grapheme-phoneme correspondences are taught in this phase. Children learn to blend and segment longer words with adjacent consonants, e.g. swim, clap, jump.

Phase 5

(Year 1)

Now we move on to the "complex code". Children learn more graphemes for the phonemes which they already know, plus different ways of pronouncing the graphemes they already know.

Phase 6

(Year 2)

Working on spelling, including prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters etc.

Children can be taught in small targeted groups dependent on which phase they are working within, with the majority in whole class teaching. The lessons follow a clear structure of Review, Teach, Practise and Apply. 

Children are also taught to read and spell ‘tricky words’ – words with spellings that are unusual. These include the words ‘to’, ‘was’, ‘said’ and ‘the’. ‘Tricky words’ are ones that we can’t sound – so these words just need to be remembered.

How to pronounce the pure sounds – It is very important that we pronounce these correctly

Learn how to pronounce all 44 phonics sounds, or phonemes, used in the English language with these helpful examples.

How to blend sounds to read words

This video explains how letter sounds can be blended to read words, and gives tips on how to practice phonics with your child.

Vocabulary we use in Phonics lessons

vowels the open sounds / letters of the alphabet: a,e,i,o and u
consonants sounds/ letters of the alphabet that are not vowels
blend to merge individual sounds together to pronounce a word, e.g. s-n-a-p, blended together, reads snap 
cluster two (or three) letters making two (or three) sounds, e.g. the first three letters of 'straight' are a consonant cluster
digraph two letters making one sound, e.g. sh, ch, th, ph
vowel digraphs two vowels which, together, make one sound, e.g. ai, oo, ow
split digraph two letters, split, making one sound, e.g. a-e as in make or i-e in site
grapheme letter or a group of letters representing one sound, e.g. sh, ch, igh, ough (as in 'though')
mnemonic a device for memorising and recalling something, such as a snake shaped like the letter 'S'
phoneme the smallest single identifiable sound, e.g. the letters 'sh' represent just one sound, but 'sp' represents two (/s/ and /p/)
segment (verb) to split up a word into its individual phonemes in order to spell it, e.g. the word 'cat' has three phonemes: /c/, /a/, /t/

Hints and Tips 
to support children to make good progress with phonics

  • Try to say the short sound of the letter, not the letter name. This will help children when they come to blend words together. E.g. the letter names dee-oh-gee don’t blend together to make ‘dog’.
  • Read regularly with your child - Encourage children to recognise sounds and as they grow more confident, encourage them to blend the sounds together and to read sentences independently.
  • When you are reading to your child, emphasise the rhyming words and ask what is special about them.
  • Initial letter sound hunt – Say a sound to your child and see if they can find something in their house that starts with that letter. This also works well with ‘I spy’ but remember to use the letter sound and not its name.
  • Songs – Sing nursery rhymes and traditional songs with your child and talk to them about the patterns that they notice in the words.
  • Click here to access fun and interactive games to support your child’s development in phonics.