Phonics at St Mary's

Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write. It helps children hear, identify and use different sounds that distinguish one word from another in the English language.

Written language can be compared to a code, so knowing the sounds of individual letters and how those letters sound when they’re combined will help children decode words as they read. Understanding phonics will also help children know which letters to use when they are writing words. Phonics involves matching the sounds of spoken English with individual letters or groups of letters. For example, the sound k can be spelled as c, k, ck or ch. Teaching children to blend the sounds of letters together helps them decode unfamiliar or unknown words by sounding them out. For example, when a child is taught the sounds for the letters t, p, a and s, they can start to build up the words: “tap”, “taps”, “pat”, “pats” and “sat”.

The Curriculum 

Phonics is taught as a daily 30 minute lesson in Reception, Year One and Year Two. Pupils who need additional support with their phonics in Key Stage Two also attend a daily phonics session. Pupils are placed into a 'phonics group' based on the phase of phonics they are currently on. We follow Letters and Sounds Scheme of Learning for Phonics.  

Click here to see our progression framework.

The Sounds 

Your child will learn the different sounds we have in the English Language. Please watch this video below to support your child with the correct pronunciation. 

Phonics Phases 

Phase One 

Early phonics teaching in Nursery focuses on developing children’s listening skills. In Phase One, children are taught about:

  • Environmental sounds

  • Instrumental sounds

  • Body percussion (e.g. clapping and stamping)

  • Rhythm and rhyme

  • Alliteration

  • Voice sounds

  • Oral blending and segmenting (e.g. hearing that d-o-g makes ‘dog’)

This phase is intended to develop children’s listening, vocabulary and speaking skills.

Phase Two 

In Phase 2, children begin to learn the sounds that letters make (phonemes). There are 44 sounds in all. Some are made with two letters, but in Phase 2, children focus on learning the 19 most common single letter sounds. 

Below are the sounds that your child will be taught in Phase 2. 

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Phase Three 

Phase 3 introduces children to the remaining, more difficult and/or less commonly used phonemes. 

Phase 3 takes most children around 12 weeks. By the end, they should be able to say the sound made by most, or all, Phase 2 and 3 graphemes as well as blend and read 3 letter words (CVC words) made from these graphemes.

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Phase Four

By now, children should be confident with each phoneme. 

In Phase 4 phonics, children will, among other things:

  • Practise reading and spelling CVCC words (‘bump', 'nest', ‘belt,’ ‘milk’, etc)

  • Practise reading and spelling high frequency words

  • Practise reading and writing sentences

  • Learn more tricky words, including ‘have,’ ‘like,’ ‘some,’ ‘little’

Children should now be blending confidently to work out new words. They should be starting to be able to read words straight off, rather than having to sound them out. They should also be able to write every letter, mostly correctly. This phase usually takes four to six weeks, and most children will complete it around the end of Reception. 

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Phase Five

Phase 5 generally takes children the whole of Year 1. 

Children learn new graphemes (different ways of spelling each sound) and alternative pronunciations for these: for example, learning that the grapheme ‘ow’ makes a different sound in ‘snow’ and ‘cow’. 

They should become quicker at blending, and start to do it silently.

They learn about split digraphs (the ‘magic e’) such as the a-e in ‘name.’

They’ll start to choose the right graphemes when spelling, and will learn more tricky words, including ‘people,’ ‘water’ and ‘friend’


They also learn one new phoneme: /zh/, as in ‘treasure.’

By the end of Year 1, children should be able to:

  • Say the sound for any grapheme they are shown

  • Write the common graphemes for any given sound (e.g. ‘e,’ ‘ee,’ ‘ie,’ ‘ea’)

  • Use their phonics knowledge to read and spell unfamiliar words of up to three syllables

  • Read all of the 100 high frequency words, and be able to spell most of them

  • Form letters correctly

At the end of Year 1, all children are given a Phonics Screening Check to ensure they have mastered the appropriate knowledge.

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Phase Six

Phase 6 phonics takes place throughout Year 2, with the aim of children becoming fluent readers and accurate spellers.

By Phase 6, children should be able to read hundreds of words using one of three strategies:

  • Reading them automatically

  • Decoding them quickly and silently

  • Decoding them aloud

High Frequency/tricky Words 

High frequency words are common words that appear very often in written texts. They are a mixture of decodable words (words that can be sounded out) and tricky / exception words (words in which the English spelling code works in an unusual or uncommon way, which means the words have to be learned and recognised by sight).

It is really important that children learn how to read these words as they will make up a large proportion of the words they will be reading in everyday texts. They also need to learn to spell these words as they will find they will need to use them a great deal in their writing.