At Miriam Lord Primary School we take reading very seriously and know that readers are learners. This is really important for our youngest learners and to make sure that develop as confident readers we put a strong focus on teaching phonics. We use the Letters and Sounds document as this provides us with a consistent method of teaching phonics. As well as this, we have some phonics DVDs that share strategies with parents. Please see the school office if you would like a copy.
Phonics refers to a method used to teach speakers of English how to spell and read. It is generally accepted that most varieties of spoken English use about 44 different sounds, these different sounds are called phonemes.
Phonemes can be represented by either a single letter or a group of letters called a grapheme. In the English language there are 120 graphemes that can be formed using the 26 letters of the alphabet. A grapheme can be formed using 1, 2, 3 or 4 letters. The following are all graphemes. s / t / ai / eigh / igh.
Graphemes formed from more than one letter have special names. A grapheme formed by combining two letters is a digraph (ch, sh, ai, oo), three letters is a trigraph (igh), there are even some graphemes formed from 4 lettes, a quadgraph (ough, eigh, aigh).
Now things get a little trickier...
Some graphemes can represent more than one phoneme. For example 'ch' makes very different sounds in these words, cheese, school, chef / 'i' in milk and mind / 'ea' in bread and mean.
Also, a phoneme can be represented by different graphemes. For example the following words all contain the /ai/ phoneme, but it is represented by a different grapheme in each word: angel, late, lay, eight, straight.
(Note: Letters within slashes // represent the sound)
In phonics lessons children are taught three main things:
This stands for grapheme phoneme correspondences. This means that they are taught all the phonemes in the English language and ways of writing them down. These sounds are taught in a particular order. The first sounds taught are s, a, t, p.
Children are taught to be able to blend. This is when children say the sounds that make up a word and are able to merge the sounds together until they can hear what the word is. This skill is vital in learning to read.
Children are also taught to segment. This is the opposite to blending. Children are able to say a word and then break it up into the phonemes that make it up. This skill is vital in being able to spell words.
Supports the importance of speaking and listening and develops children’s discrimination of sounds, including letter sounds.
The children learn to pronounce the sounds themselves in response to letters, before blending them. This leads to them being able to read simple words and captions.
Letters: s, a, t, p, i, n, m, d, g, o, c, k, ck, e, u, r, h, b, f, ff, l, ll, ss
Tricky Words: the, to, I, no, go
Completes the teaching of the alphabet and moves on to sounds represented by more than one letter. The children will learn letter names and how to read and spell some tricky words.
Letters: j, v, w, x, y, z, zz, qu, ch, sh, th, ng, ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er
Tricky Words: he, she, we, me, be, was, my, you, they, her, all, are
The children learn to read and spell words containing adjacent consonants.
Tricky Words: said, so, have, like, some, come, were, there, little, one, do, when, out, what
The children broaden their knowledge of sounds for use in reading and spelling. They will begin to build word-specific knowledge of the spellings of words.
Sounds: ay, ou, ie, ea, oy, ir, ue, aw, wh, ph, ew, oe, au, ey, a_e, i_e, u_e, o_e
Tricky Words: oh, their, people, Mr, Mrs, looked, called, asked
This focuses more sharply on word-specific spellings. It encourages children to become fluent readers and increasingly accurate spellers.