At Haig School we teach phonics using the government recommended scheme of Letters and Sounds Programme. We follow a programme of synthetic phonics. It’s an approach to teaching phonics in which individual letters or letter sounds are blended to form groups of letters or sounds, and those groups are then blended to form complete words.
What Are Phonics Phases?
Phases are the way the Letters and Sounds Programme is broken down to teach sounds in a certain order. Letters and Sounds is divided into six phases, with each phase building on the skills and knowledge of previous learning. There are no big leaps in learning. 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’ – words with spellings that are unusual or that children have not yet been taught or words which cannot be decoded using a phonic strategy. These include the words ‘to’, ‘was’, ‘said’ and ‘the’ – you can’t really break the sounds down for such words so it’s better to just ‘recognise’ them.
Phase Phonic Knowledge and Skills
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.
Learning 19 letters of the alphabet and one sound for each. Blending sounds together to make words. Segmenting words into their separate sounds. Beginning to read simple captions.
The remaining 7 letters of the alphabet, one sound for each. Graphemes such as ch, oo, th representing the remaining phonemes not covered by single letters. Reading captions, sentences and questions.
On completion of this phase, children will have learnt the "simple code", i.e. one grapheme for each phoneme in the English Language.
No new grapheme-phoneme correspondences are taught in this phase. Children learn to blend and segment longer words with adjacent consonants, e.g. swim, clap, jump.
Now we move on to the "complex code". Children learn more graphemes for the phonemes which they already know, plus different ways of pronouncing the graphemes they already know.
Working on spelling, including prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters etc.
What are “Tricky words”?
Tricky words are words that cannot be ‘sounded-out’ but need to be learned by heart. They don’t fit into the usual spelling patterns. In order to read simple sentences, it is necessary for children to know some words that have unusual or untaught 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.
What are High Frequency words?
High frequency (common) are words that recur frequently in much of the written material young children read and that they need when they write. You can click on the link at end of the article to view the High Frequency word list. To help support your child at home, we encourage parents to use these lists to help your children to practise the reading and spelling of these words.
What do the Phonics terms mean?
At Haig School we encourage the children to use the correct terminology within phonics. We have included the terms so that you can help support your child within phonics at home.
The Phonic Terms
Phoneme: The smallest unit of sound you can hear within a word, e.g. c/a/t, sh/o/p, t/ea/ch/er. The word phoneme refers to the sound, not the letter(s) which represent the sound in writing. For example, in the word gate, there are three phonemes (g-long ay-t); in school there are four (s-c-long ooh-l). There are 44 phonemes in English, which can be split into two groups:
24 consonant phonemes: for example, ‘b’ (bang, bubble), ‘m’ (monkey, hammer), ‘ch’ (chat, match), ‘ng’ (bang). You can see in the examples that the sounds (the phonemes) can be written in different ways (different graphemes).
20 vowel phonemes: there needs to be at least one vowel sound in every word. There are short vowel sounds (apple, egg, bread, kit, gym, octopus, wash, umbrella, won), long vowel sounds (such as in rain, tray, tree, me, light, kite) and other vowel sounds (such as book, could, fork, board, chair). As before, the sounds can be written in different ways (different graphemes).
Grapheme: a grapheme is a ‘symbol’ of a phoneme – it’s a letter or group of letters representing a sound and we use the letter names for this. A one letter grapheme is the ‘c’ in cat where the hard ‘c’ sound is represented by the letter ‘c’; a two letter grapheme is in leaf where the long ‘ee’ sound is represented by the letters ‘ea’; a four letter grapheme is contained in through where the letters ‘ough’ make the long ‘oo’ sound.
To complicate matters even more, some sounds (phonemes) can be spelled with different graphemes (spellings). For example, the hard ‘c’ sound can be spelled with ‘c’, ‘k’ or ‘ck’ graphemes (as in ‘car’, ‘kite’ and ‘lock’); the long ‘ee’ sound can be spelled with lots of different graphemes, such as ‘ee’ (Leeds), ‘ea’ (beat), ‘ie’ (chief), ‘ei’ (ceiling), ‘e-e’ (theme).
Digraph: Two letters which together make one sound, e.g. sh, ch, ee, ph, oa.
Split digraph: Two letters, which work as a pair, split, to represent one sound, e.g. a-e as in cake, or i-e as in kite.
Trigraph: three letters which together make one sound but cannot be separated into smaller phonemes, e.g. igh as in light, ear as in heard, tch as in watch.
Segmentation: means hearing the individual phonemes within a word – for instance the word ‘crash’ consists of four phonemes: ‘c – r – a – sh’.
In order to spell this word, a child must segment it into its component phonemes and choose a grapheme to represent each phoneme.
CVC: a word containing the sequence ‘consonant, vowel, consonant). For example, cat and even chat because the ‘ch’ grapheme works together to make a single sound (phoneme) – you wouldn’t say c-h-a-t)
Blending: the merging together of the separate sounds in a word. The separate sounds (phonemes) are spoken in order, all through the word, and are then merged together into the whole word - this is a vital skill for reading. For example, the three phonemes ch-a-t are blended to make chat, whilst th-r-ee blend to make three.
Adjacent consonants: two or three letters with discrete sounds, which are blended together e.g. str, cr, tr, gr. (previously consonant clusters).
Comprehension: understanding of language whether it is spoken or written
Decode: to read words.
Encode: to spell words.
Supporting your child with phonics
When you talk about sounds to your child, use the phonemes (the letter sounds). The reason for this is that sounding out words is practically impossible if you use the letter names: dog doesn’t sound like ‘dee-oh-gee’.
When saying the sounds of b, d, g, j and w and other letters, you might notice the 'uh' sound which follows each (‘buh’, ‘duh’...). It’s hard to say the sound without it but do try to emphasise the main letter sound and avoid saying the ‘uh’ too much. In some letters, avoid the ‘uh’ completely (say ‘mmm’ rather than ‘muh’ and ‘sss’, not ‘suh). This is to avoid your child spelling a word like cat and wanting to add the ‘uh’ sound (c-u-a-t).
Below is a link to the High Frequency Words.