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Phonics - Infant Class

At Earl Sterndale we recognise the importance of teaching a synthetic phonics programme to build and support children’s speaking and listening skills, and to prepare children for learning to read by developing phonic knowledge and skills. 

We follow the Monster Phonics scheme throughout school which is a systematic, synthetic phonics scheme with decodable books. Please see our Monster Phonics Guide for Parents below.

Phonics is taught for 30 minutes every day and during each lesson children are taught to:

  • Decode letter/sounds correspondences- see phonic phases below
  • Read  ‘tricky’ words by sight - 
  • Comprehend and understand what they read 
  • Read aloud with fluency and expression 
  • Spell quickly by segmenting sounds in words

Strategies are put in place for children that may need some additional support. Intervention programmes using Monster Phonics Catch -up, Sounds Discovery, Phonological Awareness Training, Precision Teaching and Nessy are used 1:1 or in small groups to also boost phonic knowledge. 

Phonics is important for children to become effective readers, but it is not an end in itself. Our children are also taught phonics as part of a language rich curriculum, so that they develop their wider reading skills at the same time. Please visit 'Early Reading ' to find out more.

Phonic Phases

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’, which are words with spellings that are unusual or that children have not yet been taught. Phase 1 phonics is taught at pre-school settings and children usually start school ready to begin Phase 2. 

Phase 1 (Nursery)

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 (Reception)

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 starting with: /s/, /a/, /t/, /i/, /p/, /n/. By the end of Phase 2 children should be able to read some vowel-consonant (VC) and consonant-vowel-consonant words (CVC), and to spell them out. They also learn some high frequency 'tricky words' like ‘the’ and ‘go.’ 

Phase 3 (Reception)

Phase 3 introduces children to the remaining, more difficult and/or less commonly used phonemes. There are around 25 of these, mainly made up of two letters such as /ch/, /ar/, /ow/ and /ee/. They learn the names of the letters, as well as the sounds they make. Activities include learning mnemonics (memory aids) for tricky words, practising writing letters on mini whiteboards, using word cards and singing songs like the Alphabet Song. By the end, they should be able to say the sound made by most, or all, Phase 2 and 3 graphemes, blend and read CVC words made from these graphemes, read 12 new tricky words and write letters correctly when given an example to copy.

Phase 4 (Reception)

By now, children should be confident with each phoneme.

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

  • Practise reading and spelling CVCC words (‘such,’ ‘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.

Phase 5 (Throughout Year 1)

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 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’.  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

Phase 6 (Throughout Year 2 and beyond)

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

Children should now be spelling most words accurately (this is known as 'encoding'), although this usually lags behind reading. They will also learn, among other things:

  • Prefixes and suffixes e.g. ‘in-’ and ‘-ed’
  • The past tense
  • Memory strategies for high frequency or topic words
  • Proof-reading
  • How to use a dictionary
  • Where to put the apostrophe in words like ‘I’m’
  • Spelling rules

Although formal phonics teaching is usually complete by the end of Year 2, children continue to learn, use and embed their knowledge as they move up the school. The whole aim of phonics teaching is not just to learn the sounds, but to use them as a tool for reading and spelling, everything leads on to independent reading and writing.

Tricky words

It is recognised that not all words can be broken down easily using phonics. These non-decodable words are known as 'tricky words' or 'common exception words' and these are taught through each of the phonic phases from Phase 2 upwards. These words need to be learnt ‘by sight’ and they do not always have a spelling pattern.

In order to read simple sentences, it is necessary for children to know some words that have unusual spellings. It should be noted that, when teaching these words, it is important to always start with sounds already known in the word, then focus on the 'tricky' part. Further advice on how to teach and support with ‘tricky words’ is given on Monster Phonics website under the parent section.

High frequency words

High frequency (common) words recur frequently in much of the written material young children read and these are words they need when they write.

Useful websites:

Small Talk is full of ideas, tips and activities to encourage chatting, playing and reading from birth to 5.