What is phonics?

Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skilfully. They are taught how to:

  • recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes;
  • identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make - such as ‘sh’ or ‘oo’;
  • blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word.

Children can then use this knowledge to ‘de-code’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read.

Why phonics?

Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5 to 7. Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment.

How do we teach phonics?

At Bishopswood we follow the Letters and Sounds programme.  Letters and Sounds is a phonics resource published by the Department for Education which consists of six phases. Discreet phonics sessions are taught daily and are fun and multi-sensory to engage all children in learning new sounds and words. Additionally we use cued-articulation for teaching the individual sounds in a word. These are a set of hand cues (movements or actions) which represent each sound. Each action gives clues as to how and where the sound is produced.

Helping your child at home

Phonics works best when children are given plenty of encouragement and learn to enjoy reading and books. Parents play a very important part in helping with this. Some simple steps to help your child learn to read through phonics:

  • Most importantly, try to make time to read with your child every day. Grandparents and older brothers or sisters can help, too. Encourage your child to blend the sounds all the way through a word. At Bishopswood we have a ‘Reading Race’ to encourage children to read at least 3 times a week. Click here for more information about the Reading Race.

  • Each week your child will be given two books from our reading scheme to read at home. Your child will be given a book with the right level of phonics for them. These books are called ‘decodable readers’ because the story is written with words made up of the letters your child has learnt. Your child will be able to work out new words from their letters and sounds, rather than just guessing. Our progressive reading scheme comprises of a range of books from different sources such as Oxford Reading Tree, Rigby Star and Pearson.

  • With all books, encourage your child to ‘sound out’ unfamiliar words and then blend the sounds together from left to right rather than looking at the pictures to guess. Once your child has read an unfamiliar word you can talk about what it means and help them to follow the story.

  • At Bishopswood we use ‘book bags’ and a reading record (or Monkey Book), which is a really important way for us to communicate with parents about what your child has read. The reading record allows both school and parents to say when the child has enjoyed a particular book and share problems or successes they are having.

  • Finally, make learning fun! Below are a range of resources and ideas to support you in helping your child to learn to read. There are some links to familiar websites we use at school with your child and some games you can play at home.


Year 1 Phonics Screening Check

In the Summer Term of Year 1 all children are legally required to take a Phonics Screening Check. The screening test is a way of assessing how secure a child’s phonic knowledge is and how well they can sound out and blend words. The test comprises of 40 words: 20 real words that the children will have come across before and 20 ‘pseudo’ words e.g nonsense words. We call these nonsense words ‘Alien Words’ in class. The purpose of including nonsense words is to check that the child knows the sounds and can blend them together to read the words. They will be new to all pupils, so there won’t be a bias to those with a good vocabulary knowledge or visual memory of words. Children who have not met the standard in Year 1 will retake the check in Year 2. Please see our Year 1 page for more information and resources to support your child with the Phonics Screening Check

If you have any questions about phonics, reading or how to help your child at home, please speak to your child’s class teacher or our English leader Mrs Marnoch.


Phonics play


ICT games

Words & Pictures

Teach Your Monster to Read

Phonics Bloom


Phonics information for Spring 2 term:-