Phonics & Early Reading

At Bishopswood Infant School we know that a child’s ability to read quickly and fluently is a core skill that opens up not only the curriculum to them, but the rest of the world as well. Children are taught phonics through systematic, ambitious and multi-sensory lessons. Through these lessons children learn about phonemes, words and spellings. The developing reader has daily access to a rich wealth of texts in their classroom and is able to take a range of books home to help develop a life-long love of reading. We ensure children have access to books that develop their decoding skills systematically and more challenging texts to expose them to rich and varied vocabulary. We encourage parents and carers to hear the children read on a daily basis to support and develop their child’s progress as a reader.



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?

We know that children learn best when parents and teachers follow the same methods. Working in the same way is vital for reinforcing learning. So here is some information to help you use the Monster Phonics approach which your child is following at school.

What is Monster Phonics?

The 26 letters of the alphabet and combinations of these letters make 44 speech sounds in English. The 44 sounds (phonemes) are spelt by 144 different letter combinations (graphemes). For example, the sound A is spelt several different ways, including ay (play) and ai (train). Traditional ways of learning to spell can be time-consuming and for some children they are ineffective. Monster Phonics teaches children to read by enabling them to identify the individual graphemes (letter combinations) ad blend the sounds (phonemes) together to read the word. To support this process, Monster Phonics uses the 10 monsters to categorises all sounds into 10 simple areas. Furthermore, each monster has a different colour and that colour represents that way of spelling the sound.

Why does it improve learning?

The child learns through the assignment of colour and the linkage of the sound, as well as seeing the colour, creating more ways of remembering the spelling.

Your child’s teacher will be using games, songs and activities that continuously reflect this way of learning, so that structure is constantly seen, heard and experienced by your child. This consistency is critical in ensuring that a complicated language is learnt in the most simplistic way.

The colour-coded grapheme system is unique to Monster Phonics; each coloured grapheme is paired with a monster character that makes the same sound to give audio-visual prompts that help children ‘see’ each sound within a word and pronounce it correctly. Our monsters are really sound cues to help children remember how to read and pronounce graphemes.

Find out more about how Monster Phonics works Visit

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 Miss Lees.


Phonics play


ICT games

Words & Pictures

Teach Your Monster to Read

Phonics Bloom