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What is phonics?

Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write. It helps children hear, identify and use different sounds that distinguish one word from another in the English language.

Written language can be compared to a code, so knowing the sounds of individual letters and how those letters sound when they’re combined will help children decode words as they read.


Understanding phonics will also help children know which letters to use when they are writing words.

Phonics involves matching the sounds of spoken English with individual letters or groups of letters. For example, the sound k can be spelt as c, k, ck or ch.


Teaching children to blend the sounds of letters together helps them decode unfamiliar or unknown words by sounding them out. For example, when a child is taught the sounds for the letters tpa and s, they can start to build up the words: “tap”, “taps”, “pat”, “pats” and “sat”.


A glossary:

Some phonics technical vocabulary explained:

Phoneme: the smallest unit of speech sound that you can hear e.g sh/i/p

Grapheme: the written representation of each sound

Digraph: 2 letters making 1 sound e.g sh

Trigraph: 3 letters making 1 sound e,g igh

Blend (ing):  to say and ‘push’ individual sounds together to pronounce a word e.g s-n-a-p

Segment(ing):  to split up a word into its individual phonemes in order to spell

CVC word: consonant – vowel – consonant e.g cat

CCVC word: consonant – consonant -vowel – consonant e.g pram

A hard-to-read or spell word: a word that cannot be sounded out, also called ‘common exception words’  e.g said

Suffix(es): a unit of letters such as ‘ed’ /’ing’ that are added to a word to change its meaning e.g play/played


Our Phonics Scheme


Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS) is our chosen phonics programme. It teaches children to read by identifying the phonemes (smallest unit of sound) and graphemes (written version of the sound) within words and using these to read words. Children experience the joy of books and language whilst rapidly acquiring the skills they need to become fluent independent readers and writers.


How do we teach phonics?

  • We use a simple, consistent approach to teaching phonics from Nursery to Year 2.
  • Your child will experience the same classroom routines within each lesson which reduces cognitive load and maximises the chances of success.
  • All children are supported within the lesson to use their new phonic knowledge independently.
  • In every single ELS lesson, your child will make the direct application to reading.


How are children assessed in phonics?

At the end of Year One, each child’s phonetic knowledge is assessed in a phonics screening test carried out on a one-to-one basis with the class teacher. In Week 5 of each half term, children’s phonic knowledge is assessed using the ELS phonics tracker, this is then used to inform review weeks which appear in week 6 of each half term.  This data identifies any children that require any phonics interventions.


Any phonics interventions are 1:1 with pupils for 3-5 minutes daily following the structure for the ELS phonics scheme.


ELS Progression










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