Skip to content ↓

Phonics guidance

For phonics videos - click  HERE

Introduction to Phonics

At Hampton Hargate Primary, children begin to read in Reception using Phonics, with the support of the ‘Jolly Phonics’ learning scheme where they can associate an action with each phoneme. This then leads to and runs alongside the synthetic Phonics scheme, Letters and Sounds (DfES, 2007), 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 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 42 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?

From Reception, children will take part in daily 20-minute Phonics lessons, usually in ability groups. 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 ‘sets’ and ‘phases’. 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 – can they think of words using these sounds? Can they read words including the new sound from flashcards?

Apply – can they use the sound in words, captions and sentences? This may include resources like games, magnetic letters, word or sentence scramblers or reading and writing simple sentences. The children may also be asked to use ‘sound buttons’ or ‘phoneme fingers’ to help identify individual sounds in words which helps with segmenting.

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 from 2-6, 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 what each set and phase includes and at what stage children are introduced to each phase. (link to ‘phase words list’ document)

Click here for a video to demonstrate the Jolly Phonics actions to match the phase 2 sounds.( Jolly Phonics A-Z - YouTube)

Click here for a video to demonstrate the correct enunciation for each of the 44 sounds. (Phonics: How to pronounce pure sounds | Oxford Owl - YouTube)

We support this further in KS2 with weekly SPAG lessons in Year 3 upwards. We continue to support children with ‘Letters and Sounds’ (synthetic phonics) through Key Stage Two where needed. We reinforce this also with children who have struggled to progress with synthetic phonics and move on to onset and rime phonics (supported spelling) and additional interventions.

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 for 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.

High Frequency Words and Tricky words

In addition to the sets and phases of phonemes, children will also be introduced to high frequency words and ‘tricky words’ during their Phonics lessons. High frequency words are simply those words that are commonly used in written texts and will be a mixture of decodable (can be sounded out by phonemes) and non-decodable or ‘tricky words’ which means they 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 for a list of the High Frequency words in phases from 2 to 5.

Click here for a list of the ‘Tricky words’ in phases from 2-5.

Phonics mats

During all lessons, children are encouraged to use the ‘Phonics/sound mats’ 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 Jolly Phonics sound mat, including actions in pictures - (opens in new window)

Click here for phonics/sound mat – level 1 (beginner) - (opens in new window)

Click here for phonics/sound mat – level 2 (intermediate) - (opens in new window)

Click here for phonics/sound mat – level 3 (advanced) - (opens in new window)


Year 1 Phonics Screening Check

** Please note that the 2021 Phonics Screening Check has been cancelled.**

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.  The test will be pitched at phase 5 so your child should be aiming to be able to decode most words from the phase 5 sets. 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 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 bending the word correctly.

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 phase 3 and 5 flashcards for daily practise. Use the phase sets in the ‘How is phonics taught?’
  • 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. 
  • Write down some words (you can use words listed in the ‘Activity Sheets’ section), 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. 
  • Make nonsense words. Have graphemes (including single letter sounds) written on small pieces of paper and put in a bag, then get children to take out maybe three/four graphemes and make their own nonsense words e.g. 'z-ai-p-er'. They could then think about which other graphemes they could use to spell the same word e.g. 'z-ay-p-u'. The children would benefit from having the sound mats available for use in this type of activity. 
  • 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). 

    Activity sheets

    Click here for word activity sheets for phase 3 sounds.

    Click here for Phase 3 flash card and word card sheets – these are useful to chop up words to sound and blend. (opens in new window)

    The links below take you to videos to explain how to use phoneme frames to help children segment words for their writing, and how to use sound buttons, robot arms and phoneme fingers to help children with their phonics, particularly blending. 

  - using phoneme frames

  - using sound buttons, robot arms and phoneme fingers