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What is Phonics?

Phonics is a method of learning to read print (decode).

Phonics works by breaking each word up into it’s individual sounds before blending those sounds back together to make the word. Children learn to 'decode' words by breaking it down into sounds rather than having to memorise 1,000's of words individually. Research has shown that phonics, when taught correctly, can be the most effective way of teaching children to learn to read.

We base our phonics loosely on the ‘Letters and Sounds guidance, following the order of sounds and structure of the lessons, although our approach to the delivery of the sessions are unique to Stanway Fiveways Primary School.

We hold annual Phonics Workshops to EYFS and Year One parents where we talk through terminology, the Phonics Screening Check and give you ways you can support your child at home.

Key Terminology:

  • Phoneme - ‘A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a word that changed the meaning’ (bed-led)
  • Grapheme - ‘A grapheme is the symbol of a phoneme – a letter or group of letters representing a sound.’
  • Digraph - Two letters make one sound e.g. s-h = ‘sh’ –ship
  • Trigraph – Three letters make one sound i-g-h = ‘igh’ – night
  • Oral blending - j-u-m-p, s-p-i-n, s-t-o-m-p
  • Chopping board - e.g. b-ir-d using the arm as a ‘board’ and the other arm to ‘chop it up’. This supports the children to blend words to read.

How we teach Phonics:

Phonics is taught daily for 30 minutes-whole class with a teacher and a Learning support assistant.

All lessons are very fun and engaging-the children love phonics!

Revisit-children recap previously taught sounds, read some words and complete a variety of actions through ‘soundtalk’ e.g. j-u-m-p, s-p-i-n, c-l-a-p, s-l-ee-p.

Teach-Children are taught a new sound four days a week on the fifth day of the week children practise their ‘tricky words’. Each sound has an action and a rhyme that accompanies it.

Practise-children go on a ‘word hunt’, play a game or listen to a song that links with their new sound.

Apply-Children go off into groups at their ability and complete an activity to embed their understanding e.g. matching words and pictures, spotting digraphs on cereal boxes, bingo etc. Teacher and LSA work with a group each and two groups are independent. This changes everyday.

Reading-When ready, children read a decodable text in a pair matched to their phonic ability. This gives ‘phonics’ a context.

Phonics Activities you could do at home:

  • Spot digraphs in words- e.g. on cereal boxes, leaflets, takeaway menus e.g. cornflakes.
  • Highlight digraphs in words in magazines.
  • Initial sound hunt (find as many objects around the house that have the ‘sh’ sound in them-shoe, shower gel, shampoo, shiny foil etc.
  • -Cross the river-Draw a line on the ground using chalk (this can also be done with string or a skipping rope.) Children stand on one side of the ‘river’ and they can only cross the river if the statement you tell them is the truth, if your tricking them they have to stay on that side. Can be played using sound talk, for example, in my hand I have a sh-ee-p, if you are holding a sheep they are to cross if you’re holding something else they stay. e.g. peg, pen, shell, sharpener, rubber, car, paint, glue, book, straw, chalk, string, torch, fork, coin etc.
  • Target game-Draw five circles on the ground starting with a small circle in the centre getting bigger as you go out (this will look like a target.) Place objects or words within each circle. Each child had a bean bag or something similar and is to throw it at the correct object or word when it is called out by the teacher.
  • Targets-Display tricky words/digraphs etc on the wall/fence use water pistols to ‘blast’ particular words.
  • Write words on the floor/attach to the wall with paper in four corners of a garden or room. For example was/go/no/she. Say a sentence that contains one of the words displayed, the children are to go the word they think they heard.
  • Crazy soap/shaving foam (mindful of allergies) form letters/hunt for printed letters or words using crazy soap-very sensory and disintegrates in minutes.
  • Instruction for them to follow, can you s-i-t, can s-t-a-m-p you f-ee-t, can you j-u-m-p,
  • Hang words on a ‘washing line’ using pegs (tie string between two chairs could work) children are to match a digraph to a word that includes that digraph e.g. ar and shark-can they read the word aloud?
  • Play I spy, either with initial letter sounds or digraphs. Display a variety of objects on the table and play I spy, e.g. I spy with my little eye a t-or-ch.

Our Phonics Overview can be downloaded below.


Phonics Workshop November 2021

Phonics Workshop November 2022

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