Children in Reception and Key Stage 1 follow the synthetic phonics approach. It’s an approach to teaching phonics in which individual letters or letter sounds are blended to form groups of letters or sounds, and those groups are then blended to form complete words.

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

We follow the Letters & Sounds programme of study.

Letters & Sounds is divided into 6 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 or that children have not yet been taught. 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.

Prior Learning

Phase 1 will have been completed in nursery where children listen attentively to sounds around them, such as the sounds of their toys and to sounds in spoken language. They will learn a wide range of nursery rhymes and songs and will read books with repetition to help increase the number of words they know – their vocabulary – and enable them to talk confidently about books. The children learn to identify rhyme and alliteration.


In Phase 2 children will learn the letters of the alphabet and the sound each letter makes. This will be taught in a fun, hands on way, where children will learn each sound with an image and an action. They will then begin to blend the sounds together to make simple words such as: hat, mum, pig, etc. This will be followed by segmenting (breaking the word into separate sounds) and finally beginning to read simple captions such as ‘cats and dogs’.

In Phase 3, the same fun approach used in Phase 2 is applied to teach the remaining sounds. The sounds learnt in this phase are digraphs (2 letters, one sound) such as ‘ch as in chop’, ‘sh as in ship’ and ‘th as in this’. Children will learn to understand that a digraph only makes one sound, even though it has 2 letters. Children will then move on to reading more complex captions, sentences and questions with a focus on the digraphs.

In Phase 4, children will not learn any new sounds, as they concentrate on learning to blend and segment longer words, captions and sentences. This includes learning to blend adjacent consonants.

Key Stage 1

Phases 5 is taught in Year 1 and will see children learning alternative spellings of sounds they have previously learnt, for example they will have already learnt the sound ‘ee’ as in ‘sheep’ in Phase 3, so in this phase they will learn the alternative ‘ea’ as in ‘tea’.

Phase 6 is taught in Year 2. This phase concentrates on spelling rules and consolidating all previous knowledge taught so far.

Key Stage 2

In Key Stage 2, the teaching of spelling builds on the learning in Phase 6 with patterns, rules and word groups explored and investigated.  Once children have learnt a particular rule or pattern, they are encouraged to use this new learning in their written work.

In Lower Key Stage 2 (Years 3 and 4), repetition and consolidation of all phonics learning continues as a regular whole-class activity.

Where needed, explicit phonics teaching will continue into Upper Key Stage 2 (Years 5 and 6) as part of our catch-up intervention programme.


Ways you can support your children at home

Listening Games

Developing good listening skills helps to improve your child’s reading skills too. Noting sounds in the home (a ticking clock, the microwave ping) or on a walk (bird song, the whoosh of a train), as well as more sophisticated letter sound games like sound lotto, will help your child to hear the sounds that words make.

I Spy

Play this game as much as possible with your children at home. This will encourage them to understand the beginning sound for individual words.

Letter Hunts

You could be on the bus, walking to the shop, looking at logos on your clothes or even watching TV. Point out the letters and say the sound of them.

What’s in the box…?I

If you don’t have lots of objects at home to play sound games with, then don’t worry. You can play the imaginary game that we play at school, called ‘What’s in the box’? You just pretend that you have a box with lots of objects in and you can be as creative as you like. You just say…’In my box today I have a d o g’ (in a robot voice) your child then has to blend the sounds together to make the word. If your child struggles with this at first then you can give them a clue, this will encourage positivity and allow them to achieve.

Clap and Chunk

Clapping out syllables or chunks in words and names can help with reading longer words: Di-no- saur! Cho-co-late! Or point out that some words are made up of two words, so wind and
then mill makes windmill.

Read, Read, Read

It’s really important to read as much as possible with your child. Read the books that come home from school, borrow library books, buy books and magazines. Read signs and notices, and find interesting websites to read. And keep reading together at bedtime too!