Phonics is a way of teaching children to read 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 ‘oo’; and
- blend those sounds together from left to right to make a word.
Children can then use this knowledge to ‘decode’ new words that they see or hear. This is the first important step to 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 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 difficult to read, for example those who have dyslexia.
At Barnburgh Primary School we use the ‘Letters and Sounds’ principles and practice of high-quality phonics. ‘Letters and Sounds’ is used alongside the ‘Read, Write, Inc.’ phonics programme.
- In nursery, children begin by learning to identify and recognise basic sounds (sounds in the environment, instrumental sounds, sounds our bodies can make) and are introduced to alliteration, rhythm and rhyme. Children also begin to practise oral segmenting and blending (without seeing or writing anything down).
- We begin teaching formal phonics in F2.
- Children learn to read and write simple sounds first (s, a, t, p) and how to blend them to make words (s-a-t, sat). They then move on to more complex sounds (ea, igh, ay).
- The lessons are short, interactive and fun!
Phoneme – The smallest unit of sound. There are approximately 44 phonemes in English (it depends on different accents). Phonemes can be put together to make words.
Grapheme – A way of writing down a phoneme. Graphemes can be made up from 1 letter e.g. p, 2 letters e.g. sh, 3 letters e.g. tch or 4 letters e.g ough.
GPC – This is short for Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence. Knowing a GPC means being able to match a phoneme to a grapheme and vice versa.
Digraph – A grapheme containing two letters that makes just one sound (phoneme).
Trigraph – A grapheme containing three letters that makes just one sound (phoneme).
Blending – This involves looking at a written word, looking at each grapheme and using knowledge of GPCs to work out which phoneme each grapheme represents and then merging these phonemes together to make a word.
Segmenting – This involves hearing a word, splitting it up into the phonemes (sound talk/sounding out) that make it, using knowledge of GPCs to work out which graphemes represent those phonemes and then writing those graphemes down in the right order.
Green words - These are words which we can sound out (segment) and blend using phonics knowledge. E.g. c-a-t = cat.
Red words - These are words which are tricky to read because we cannot sound them out in the normal way. E.g. what. We learn these words by sight recognition only.
Alien words – These are ‘made up’ words which test children’s knowledge of known phonemes.