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Phonics and Early Reading

ENGLISH - Okehampton Primary School Phonics and Early Reading Curriculum

Okehampton Primary School strives to ensure that all pupils learn to read, regardless of their background, needs or abilities. This starts from EYFS with our own, carefully planned and designed ‘Simmons Hub Phonics and Spelling Scheme’. We have clear expectations of pupils’ phonics progress term-by-term, from EYFS to Year 2 and beyond when needed. The sequence of reading books shows a cumulative progression in phonics knowledge that is matched closely to the school’s phonics programme. Teachers give pupils sufficient practice in reading and re-reading books that match the grapheme-phoneme correspondences they know, both at school and at home. Reading, including the teaching of systematic, synthetic phonics, is taught from the first day the children begin school and is supported by a rigorous assessment system as we are adamant that children who are at risk of underachieving have their needs skilfully and consistently met to protect them from this risk.

Throughout their time at Okehampton Primary School, children will follow our scheme of work and will learn to

  • read words accurately when they contain the graphemes they have been taught.
  • be able to read new and unfamiliar words by using the phonics they know.
  • be able to read words, sentences and whole texts fluently and to understand what they are reading.
  • to be able to spell words, sentences and whole texts accurately by using the phonics and rules they have been taught.
  • use accurate terminology. We use the following terminology when teaching our pupils and we would expect this language to be heard in all classrooms:


The smallest individual unit of sound that can be extracted from a word.


The written letter or letters representing a phoneme.



Two letters which make one sound

      -     A consonant digraph contains 2 consonants:

  •                sh      ck      th      ll
  • A vowel digraph contains at least one vowel:
  •                ai      ee      ar      oy
  • A split digraph  - the two letters are not adjacent:
  •                make


Three letters which make one sound.

     -     ear - igh

CVC word

E.g.  cut (consonant-vowel-consonant)

Words sometimes wrongly identified as CVC.

              bow – few – saw – fly


  b l a ck                       s t r o ng              f e l t                       b l a n k

  c v c c            c c v c c                            c c v c                      c c c v c


Joining sounds to make words.


Breaking words into sounds

Tricky words

Words which cannot be decoded or broken down – they break the rules!




At Okehampton Primary School, we believe that, as a result of our curriculum design, you will see children who are resilient, engaged, appropriately challenged and confident to participate fully in phonics learning and to apply this in their reading. They will also be independent, reflective thinkers who are able to transfer their skills wherever they need them, especially into their writing curriculum.


We aim to build a culture where there is a deep understanding, confidence and competence in phonics and early reading which will then produce strong, secure learning and progress; both within their reading ability and when participating in the phonics screening checks.

Phonics Coverage and Information

At Okehampton Primary School children learn their phonics by following the 'Simmons Hub Phonics and Spelling Scheme'. In EYFS and Key Stage 1 they have a daily phonics lesson where they learn to recognise the 44 phonemes (the speech sound) and the grapheme (how we write it). The information below aims to explain a little about our approach to phonics and the way we teach it.


So, What Exactly is Phonics?

Words are made up from small units of sound called phonemes. Phonics teaches children to be able to listen carefully and identify the phonemes that make up each word. This helps children to learn to read words and to spell words. In phonics lessons children are taught three main things:

• Phonemes: Each letter in the alphabet has a ‘name’ (a = ay, b = bee, c = see, etc), but spoken English uses about 44 sounds (phonemes). These phonemes are represented by letters (graphemes). In other words, a sound can be represented by a letter (e.g. ‘s’ or ‘h’) or a group of letters (e.g. ‘th’ or ‘ear’).These sounds are taught in a particular order. The first sounds to be taught are s, a, t, p.

• Blending: 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.

• Segmenting: Children are also taught to segment. This is the opposite of 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. What makes phonics tricky? In some languages learning phonics is easy because each phoneme has just one grapheme to represent it. The English language is a bit more complicated than this. Obviously we only have 26 letters in the alphabet so some graphemes are made up from more than one letter, such as ch th oo ay. These are all digraphs (graphemes with two letters), but there are other graphemes that are trigraphs (made up of 3 letters, e.g. igh) and even a few made from 4 letters (e.g. ough). Another slightly sticky problem is that some graphemes can represent more than one phoneme. For example ch makes very different sounds in these three words: chip, school, chef!


Why Phonics?

Reading and writing is one of the most fundamental skills children need to be successful learners. There are many different strategies that we use to teach our children to read and write but the most vital one is phonics. In the past people argued that because the English language is so tricky, there was no point teaching children phonics. Now, most people agree that these tricky bits mean that it is even more important that we teach phonics and children learn it clearly and systematically. A written language is basically a kind of a code. Teaching phonics is just teaching children to crack that code. Children learn the simple bits first and then easily progress to get the hang of the trickier bits.


How is Phonics Taught?

Phonics sessions are very structures and last for approximately 30 minutes per day. Children are then given the opportunities to explore what they are learning in phonics in independent or adult-led activities throughout the school day. Phonics forms a part of how we teach reading, but it is also important to help children become fluent readers by teaching them to recognise key words by sight. The overarching aim of phonics is to break the code in reading and in writing as it gives children the skills to blend words for reading and segment words for spelling.


At the end of Year 1, the children will take part in the Year 1 Phonics Screening which is set by the government.


What is this?

  • A screening check for Year 1 to encourage schools to pursue a rigorous phonics programme.
  • Aimed at identifying the children who need extra help are given the support.
  • Assesses decoding skills using phonics.
  • 40 items to be read (20 real words, 20 words that are not real, called alien words).
  • If children do not pass in Year 1 they have to retake the test at the end of Year 2.


How can I help at home?

  • Try to find time to read with your child every day.
  • Talk about the book, the character, what is happening in the story, predict what may happen next. Encourage a love of reading – not a chore!
  • Ask your child to find items around the house that represent particular sounds, i.e. ‘oo’ - ‘spoon’ ‘bedroom’
  • Play matching pairs – with key words or individual sounds/pictures.
  • Flashcard letters and words – how quickly can they read them?
  • Notice words/letters in the environment.
  • Go on a listening walk around the house/when out and about.
  • Lots of activities online for children to practice their phonic knowledge.


Here are some useful websites and sound mats


Phonics is taught by progressing through the phases.

Phase 1:

To distinguish between sounds and become familiar with rhyme, rhythm and alliteration.

Phase 2:

To introduce 19 grapheme-phoneme correspondences and be able to read and write words containing them.

Phase 3:

To teach one grapheme for each of the 44 phonemes in order to read and spell simple regular words.

Phase 4:

To read and spell words containing adjacent consonants - although at OPS this is amalgamated into Phases 2, 3 and 5.

Phase 5

To teach alternative pronunciations for graphemes and alternative spellings for phonemes. The focus during this phase is the application of the sounds they have learnt in their independent reading and writing.

Phase 6/Year 2 spelling pathway

To develop their skill and automaticity in reading and writing.


Okehampton Primary School has developed a rigorous assessment procedure to ensure all children leave our school as confident spellers and with a love of reading.