What is Phonics?

Phonics is a way of teaching children to read and write. It is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate sounds and understand the link between the sound (phoneme) and the way it is written (grapheme).

How is Phonics taught at Hetton Lyons Primary?

At Hetton Lyons Primary School we follow the Letters and Sounds Programme.

This is a phonics programme 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.

Children throughout Reception and Key Stage 1 take part in a daily phonics session. These focus on developing reading, writing, spelling, speaking and listening skills. The ‘Letters and Sounds’ programme is divided into six phases, with each phase building on the skills and knowledge of previous learning.


Phonic Knowledge and Skills

Phase 1


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.

Phase 2


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.

Phase 3


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.

Phase 4


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.

Phase 5

(Year 1)

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.

Phase 6

(Year 2)

Working on spelling, including prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters etc.

Children are taught in whole class groups and smaller targeted groups linked to the phase that they are working within.  The lessons follow a clear structure of Review, Teach, Practise and Apply.  In Year 2 the emphasis is more upon ensuring children learn spelling rules and grammar to provide firm foundation s for work in Key Stage 2.

Children are also taught to read and spell 'tricky words' which we refer to as red words - words with spellings that are unusual rules. These include the words ‘to’, ‘was’, ‘said’ and ‘the’ i.e.  words that cannot be sounded out and just need to be remembered.

How to pronounce the pure sounds – It is very important that we pronounce these correctly

Learn how to pronounce all 44 phonics sounds, or phonemes, used in the English language with these helpful examples.

How to blend sounds to read words

This video explains how letter sounds can be blended to read words, and gives tips on how to practice phonics with your child.

Vocabulary used in phonics lessons


the open sounds / letters of the alphabet: a,e,i,o and u


sounds/ letters of the alphabet that are not vowels


to merge individual sounds together to pronounce a word, e.g. s-n-a-p, blended together, reads snap 


two (or three) letters making two (or three) sounds, e.g. the first three letters of 'straight' are a consonant cluster


two letters making one sound, e.g. sh, ch, th, ph

vowel digraphs

two vowels which, together, make one sound, e.g. ai, oo, ow

split digraph

two letters, split, making one sound, e.g. a-e as in make or i-e in site


letter or a group of letters representing one sound, e.g. sh, ch, igh, ough (as in 'though')


a device for memorising and recalling something, such as a snake shaped like the letter 'S'


the smallest single identifiable sound, e.g. the letters 'sh' represent just one sound, but 'sp' represents two (/s/ and /p/)

segment (verb)

to split up a word into its individual phonemes in order to spell it, e.g. the word 'cat' has three phonemes: /c/, /a/, /t/


Hints and Tips to support children to make good progress with phonics

  • Try to say the short sound of the letter, not the letter name. This will help children when they come to blend words together. E.g. the letter names dee-oh-gee don’t blend together to make ‘dog’.
  • Read regularly with your child - Encourage children to recognise sounds and as they grow more confident, encourage them to blend the sounds together and to read sentences independently.
  • When you are reading to your child, emphasise the rhyming words and ask what is special about them.
  • Initial letter sound hunt – Say a sound to your child and see if they can find something in their house that starts with that letter. This also works well with ‘I spy’ but remember to use the letter sound and not its name.
  • Songs – Sing nursery rhymes and traditional songs with your child and talk to them about the patterns that they notice in the words.
  • Click here to access fun and interactive games to support your child’s development in phonics.

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