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At Okehampton Primary School children learn their phonics by following the Letters and Sounds document from the Department of Education. 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.


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. 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.


Here are some key principles:

Pronunciation is very important - not ‘uh’ on the end – use soft voice!

This video on YouTube should help.


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

This is:

  • 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.


Technical vocabulary.

A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a word. A phoneme may be represented by 1, 2, or 3 letters. Eg. t ai igh

— A syllable is a word or part of a word that contains one vowel sound. E.g. hap/pen bas/ket let/ter

— A grapheme is the letter(s) representing a phoneme. Written representation of a sound which may consist of 1 or more letters eg. The phoneme ‘s’ can be represented by the grapheme s (sun), se (mouse), c (city), sc or ce (science)

— A digraph is two letters, which make one sound.

◦ A consonant digraph contains two consonants

sh th ck ll

◦ A vowel digraph contains at least one vowel

ai ee ar oy

— A split digraph is a digraph in which the two letters are not adjacent (e.g. make)

  • A trigraph is three letters, which make one sound. E.g. igh

— Oral Blending – hearing a series of spoken sounds and merging them together to make a spoken word (no text is used) for example, when a teacher calls out ‘b-u-s’, the children say bus.

— Blending – recognising the letter sounds in a written word, for example c-u-p, and merging in the order in which they are written to pronounce the word ‘cup’.

— Segmenting – identifying the individual sounds in a spoken word (e.g. h-i-m) and writing down letters for each sound to form the word ‘him’.


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.

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.

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.