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Introduction to Phonics    

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At Hampton Hargate Primary, children begin to read in Reception using Phonics. We use the DfE approved systematic synthetic Phonics (SSP) scheme, ‘Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised’ , where children concentrate on speaking and listening skills, preparing them for learning to read by developing their phonic knowledge and skills.

To start, children are immersed in activities which promote listening to environmental and instrumental sounds, body percussion, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration and voice sounds. They then begin oral segmenting and blending of familiar words, embedding their learning within language-rich provision and activities.  Children will often be secure with this stage when they leave pre-school. Children then begin to distinguish between speech sounds and blend and segment words orally. They will learn the letter names (grapheme) and sound (phoneme) of each letter of the alphabet, then begin to represent each of 44 phonemes by a grapheme blending to read. Children then broaden their knowledge of graphemes and phonemes, learning alternative pronunciations. Children progress to read longer and less familiar texts independently and with increasing fluency.

Lots of opportunities should be provided for children to engage with books that fire their imagination and interest. Enjoying and sharing books leads to children seeing them as a source of pleasure and interest and motivates them to value reading.

Why Phonics?

By building their Phonics skills and knowledge, children are able to ‘decode’ new words more quickly and independently. They start by recognising the sound that each letter makes and then identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make i.e ‘ch, ‘air’. They can then use this knowledge to blend the sounds together to form words (‘chair’). By doing this they are then able to tackle unfamiliar words and add to their growing vocabulary.

“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 to 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 to read difficult, for example those who have dyslexia. If you would like to find out more about phonics, visit the phonics section of the Department for Education website.”

‘Learning to Read Through Phonics’, Department for Education, 2013.

How is Phonics taught?

At Hampton Hargate Primary School, we follow the 'Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised’ Department for Education validated SSP scheme. From Reception, children will take part in daily 20-minute Phonics lessons,. The lessons take the format of:

Revisit and Review – recapping the previously visited sounds with the use of flash cards

Teach – introduce a new sound, building on the order of the scheme’s progression. . Enunciation is key at this stage (video clips can be accessed to sure the ‘pure sound’ needed for each phoneme).

Practise – using the sound in words – Spotting the new phoneme in words, modelling blending and then allowing the children to read words with the new sound from flashcards?

Apply –  The children will be asked to read a sentence – identifying ‘tricky words’, previously learnt phonemes and the new phoneme for the day. They will then be able to sound out and blend each word to form the sentence verbally. Children will then be asked to write words and/or sentences to apply the new sound to their writing.

The Little Wandle website provides guidance on how some of these elements are covered:

Phase 1 of Letters and Sounds usually begins at Nursery and Preschool age. Children are introduced to the skills they will need to then begin recognising and identifying their letters and corresponding sounds. Children begin to learn the phonemes and corresponding graphemes from Phase 2 of the Letters and Sounds scheme during Reception. They will then progress through the phases usually within Key Stage 1 of Primary School. Each phase is made up of sets of phonemes so children are introduced to a few sounds at a time, progressively getting more complex as they build their knowledge and skills.

Click here to see the Little Wandle ‘Programme Progression’ document. 

Click here for the 'Grow the Code' grapheme mat (as used in the classroom to support children with blending and segmenting)

Click here for a video to demonstrate the correct enunciation for each of the 44 sounds.   

We support this further from year 2 and in Key Stage 2 with our spellings programme and weekly SPAG lessons in Year 3 upwards. We continue to support children with ‘Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised’ through Key Stage 2 where needed.

For further information, please speak with your child’s class teacher.


The teaching of Phonics involves introducing the children to the correct terminology to help build their skills and work more independently with their reading.

We hope that your child will be familiar with the following words and it may be useful to discuss them at home when you are helping them with their reading.

Phoneme – the smallest unit of sound in a word.

Grapheme – the letter or letters representing a phoneme i.e t, ai, igh.

GPC – Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence – how we write each phoneme.

Blending – recognising the phonemes in each word and merging them in the order they are written to pronounce the word i.e c-a-t cat.

Oral blending – when no text is used, an adult sounds out i.e. b-u-s and the child can say ‘bus’.

Segmenting – identifying the individual sounds in a spoken word and being able to write down the letters for each sound i.e. him h-i-m.

Digraph – two letters which make one sound:

                Consonant digraph – ch, sh, th

                Vowel digraph – ea, ai, oo

                Split vowel digraph – a digraph where the two letters are not adjacent – make

Trigraph – three letters which make one sound i.e. air, ear, igh.


Tricky words

In addition to the phases of phonemes, children will also be introduced to  ‘tricky words’ during their Phonics lessons. Tricky words are simply those words which  do not follow the pattern of sounds taught through phonics and are spelt in an unusual or uncommon way. Tricky words will need to be learnt by sight.

Click here to see the ‘Programme Progression’ document which shows the tricky words in the order they are taught. 

Phonics mats

During all lessons, children are encouraged to use the Grapheme Mats (Grow the Code)’ ’in the classroom to help them to make phonetically plausible decisions with their independent writing.

Click on the links below for your own copies to use at home, or you can ask your child’s teacher if you would like copies to use at home.

Click here for the Reception (phase 2 and 3) Grapheme Mat

Click here for the Year 1 (phase 2, 3 and 5) Grow the Code Grapheme Mat


Year 1 Phonics Screening Check

The phonics screening check is a statutory National Curriculum Key Stage 1 assessment and will take place in June.

The assessment is carried out with the child’s class teacher and mainly focuses on phase 3 and 5 graphemes.   Lots of work is carried out with the children in Year 1 to prepare them for the screening check and they will have participated in many practise papers so that they feel completely comfortable with what is expected of them.

The papers consist of 40 words, made up of real and nonsense words. They are asked to read the words accurately. They can make attempts to sound out but must be heard blending the word correctly.  Children will practise ‘nonsense’ words as part of the Little Wandle programme to prepare them for the screening check. Nonsense words are used to ensure children are able to decode any word, even those that may not be in their vocabulary yet.

Children who do not pass the screening check can retake it in year 2 and will receive further support to prepare them, alongside their usual daily phonics lessons.

More information about the Year 1 Phonics Screening check, along with past papers can be found at: Phonics screening check: sample materials and training video - GOV.UK (


Phonics games to try at home

Suggestions for non-computer-based activities:

Get children to make their own  flashcards for daily practise. Use the Programme Progression chart or the Autumn 1, Autumn 2 and Spring 1 sounds documents available on the Little Wandle website   (opens in new window)
Children could cut out any graphemes they find in magazines or newspapers and use them to spell words. Play splat. Choose graphemes/words (about 5 or 6) to write on a piece of paper and then call out one of the words. The first one to 'splat' the correct word or grapheme wins a point. Change words/graphemes after a certain time. 

Match the picture. Select pictures from magazine or online and practise oral blending i.e. a picture of a beach, the child will need to orally sound out ‘b-ea-ch’. You can also show some pictures and then cards showing words to match the picture and the child has to match the word with the correct picture once they have sounded it out and blended.

‘What’s in the box’/’I spy’ – take it in turns to think of an object or have one ready hidden in a box, and orally sound out the name of the object to see if the other person can blend and guess the word i.e. I have a ‘s-o-ck’.

Write down some words get children to read and then cut up words into graphemes or use the flashcards (e.g. snail would be cut up into 's-n-ai-l' to include digraph. Then get children to reassemble word correctly. They may then like to think of rhyming words and have a go at spelling these. This could lead to a discussion about how different graphemes can represent the same sound (e.g. a_e in whale).

Use books. There are plenty of games that can be played using books. This may include 'digraph detective' in which children should scan a page to see if they can find any digraphs or a specified digraph. You might select a sentence from a book and play 'sentence substitution'. For this game you may choose a sentence such as 'The man walked slowly down the road'. Then you would have a set of words written on small pieces of paper such as 'talked, slept, cartwheeled, toad, clown' (it can really be any set of words) and the children would take one word out of the original sentence and replace it with a new word. The aim of the game is obviously to ensure that children are recognising graphemes in words but they really enjoy making their sentences as silly as possible-they don't have to make sense. 

Bingo. Children should divide paper into 6 sections and write a grapheme in each. You may then choose flashcards (either home-made or printed) for the children to cross off their board. Give bonus point if they can say the sound before you do. The same game can be adapted to play with real or nonsense words. 

Grapheme hunt. Graphemes can be written on a piece of paper and then stuck up around the house or in the garden. You then say a phoneme and children run to the corresponding grapheme. They may then think of their own words containing that grapheme and bonus points could be given if they use that grapheme in a sentence (written or oral). 

Supporting your child with reading at home

Reading practise is an integral part of the ‘Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised’ scheme. Each week the children will have further opportunities, as part of the ‘Practise and apply’ section of their phonics lesson, to embed their learning of new sounds and to practise the decoding skills they have learnt. Each week your child will have access to two types of reading material:

  • A colour book-banded reading book which is fully decodable. Children should be able to sound out any words that they are unsure of, enabling them to build further confidence when reading. This continues our practice of children taking home a physical book, matched to their reading level.
  • A library book. Children choose any book from our library. This book is usually above their reading level so is a book to share together with you reading to your child. Library books are changed regularly, subject to the library being accessible.

Reading at school

Each week in Reception and Year 1 your child will take part in three practise reading sessions as part of a small group. Because these books are fully decodable and carefully matched to their phonics learning, the children should be able to confidently sound out and blend each word. The books include some ‘tricky words’ (those common exception words that do not follow the phonic sounds) but these words are also matched to those covered in the children’s phonics sessions. The same book is read three times across the week to build children’s fluency as well as other skills like prosody and comprehension.

Our combined phonics and reading programmes follow guidance set out in the government’s new Reading Framework which outlines the huge importance of building children’s fluency in reading, expanding language and creating a love of reading. Research shows that creating able readers really is the key to allowing children to succeed in all areas of their learning.

Children in year 2 and beyond also take part in similar reading practise or guided reading sessions every week to develop their reading skills once they are secure with phonics.

We would encourage you to support your child’s reading journey by listening to them read at home as often as possible.


Useful websites - Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised – this is the scheme’s website used by the school. The ‘For Parents’ section provides:

  • Videos to demonstrate the correct pronunciation of sounds
  • Video link to how we teach ‘alien’ or nonsense words
  • Video link to demonstrate how ‘tricky words’ are taught
  • Video link to demonstrate how we teach children to blend words
  • Links to the Programme Progression document
  • Links to the Phase 2 and 3 ‘sounds’ documents to demonstrate how they are taught
  • Link to a ‘How to write capital letters’ document

Phonics - GOV.UK ( – this website provides more information on how phonics is taught in schools and details of the Phonics Screening Check, as well as past papers to try at home.

Oxford Phonics Check Support – this website allows you to generate sample practise papers

Here is a video demonstration of a phonics lesson in year 1. This shows use of sounding, blending and segmenting.

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