Phonics at Chapel Street


What is phonics?

Phonics is all about sounds. There are 44 sounds (phonemes) in the English language, which we put together to form words. Phonemes are represented by graphemes. These can be one letter, like ‘t’ or two or more, like ‘ck’ in duck or ‘oa’ in boat. Children are taught these sounds and how to match them to letters.


Phonics is the building blocks of reading and writing and equips children with the skills needed to become independent readers and writers.


How do we teach phonics?

Children in Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 follow the synthetic phonics approach, using the ‘Letters and Sounds’ programme.


Our daily phonics sessions are fun, involving lots of speaking, listening and games. The emphasis is on children’s active participation. They learn to use their phonic knowledge for reading and writing activities and in their independent play.


Letters and Sounds is divided into six phases, with each phase building on the skills and knowledge of previous learning. Children have time to practise and rapidly expand their ability to read and spell words. They are also taught to read and spell ‘tricky words’ – words with spellings that are unusual. These include the words ‘to’, ‘was’, ‘said’ and ‘the’ – you can’t really break the sounds down for such words so it’s better to just ‘recognise’ them.


What do the children learn?

Phase one begins in Nursery. During this phase we plan activities that will help children to listen attentively to sounds around them.  They practise using rhythm and rhyme and making different sounds.  They will then move on to Phase Two where they will begin to learn about the letter sounds, called phonemes, usually represented by single letters.

It is important that the children pronounce the phonemes without adding ‘uh’ at the end (‘ffff’ rather than ‘fuh’) and we call these pure sounds.


You can listen to children saying the pure sounds on


Children will continue with this learning in Reception and will also learn Phase three phonemes, which are often represented by more than one letter.

During Phase four, which is usually taught towards the end of Reception or during Year One, children will learn to blend and segment words with more than three phonemes, such as jump, crash and sandwich.


In Year One the children will also work through Phase 5, learning different representations for phonemes and preparing them for the Phonics Check they will take in June.

In Year Two, children will continue to revisit the different graphemes they have learnt but there will be more focus on spelling and knowing when to use the different graphemes and other spelling patterns and rules.   Children who did not take or pass the Phonics Check will continue to with phonics sessions and will re-take the Check in June.  Other children who need to build on their phonic skills higher up in the school also have the opportunity to do so in groups tailored to their needs.


What can we do at home?

You can help your child in lots of fun ways.  For example:

• Read books together.

• Sing songs and nursery rhymes.  After a while, leave out words and see if your child can say them.

• Look out for print when you’re out and about, such as road signs or adverts. Which letters does your child know? Can you blend the sounds to read them?

• Play ‘I spy’ using the phoneme rather than letter name (‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with sss’)

• Play ‘robot talk games’ by asking your child to follow an instruction by blending sounds in simple words – ‘Put on your s-o-ck’, ‘Touch your t-oe-s’


There are also websites your child could use. We recommend:

Teach your monster to read is free on a computer (but costs £4.99 as an app on a tablet).  It is a progressive game that takes children on a journey with their monster, completing challenges including matching letters to sounds, blending and segmenting.

Phonics Play has some free games to play at each phase.  Other games are available if you subscribe.


If you have any questions, please speak to your child’s class teacher.


Blending consists of building words from their smallest units of sound (phonemes) to read.

Consonant cluster

A consonant cluster is a group of consonants, and can be hard to blend at first. For example, 's', 't' and 'r' create the 'str' in strap.


A word made up of Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (e.g. dog).

VC (at), CVCC (hump), CCVC (crab) etc. may also be used.


A digraph is a two-letter grapheme where two letters represent one sound. For example, 'ea' in 'seat' and 'sh' in 'ship'.


A grapheme is the written representation of a phoneme. It is a letter, or group of letters, representing a sound. For example, the 'c' sound (or phoneme) can be written using the 'c', 'k' or 'ck' graphemes.



A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a word. For example, the word 'cat' has three phonemes, 'c', 'a', 't'. When we are writing something down, phonemes are represented by graphemes.


Segmenting consists of breaking words down into their smallest units of sound (phonemes) to spell.


A trigraph is a three-letter grapheme where three letters represent one sound (phoneme). For example, 'igh' in 'light'.


A syllable is part of a word and only contains one vowel sound. The word 'pocket' has two syllables, 'pock' 'et'.

Chapel Street Primary School, Chapel Street, Levenshulme, Manchester, M19 3GH

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