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A parents’ guide to phonics: an overview of phases

Phonics are usually separated and taught in chunks called ‘phases’. Primary schools can follow different phonics schemes, which differ slightly in the order of when sounds are taught.

For the guide below, we’ve used the Department for Education’s Letters and Sounds scheme. Using this, we’ll explain what this scheme is and what your child will learn in each phase. So, do you have your phonics glossary handy? Then let’s go!

Phase 1

Phase 1 provides children with the opportunity to listen, experiment and discuss sounds. In this phase, children will cover seven aspects:

  1. Environmental sounds
  2. Instrumental sounds
  3. Body percussion
  4. Rhythm and rhyme
  5. Alliteration
  6. Voice sounds
  7. Oral blending and segmenting

Phase 2

In Phase 2, children will learn 19 single letter grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) e.g. s, a, t and p and a few two-letter GPCs (digraphs), e.g. ck and ff. 

By the end of the phase, they should be able to read (blend) and spell (segment) some VC (vowel-consonant) and CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. Additionally, they’ll learn some tricky words, e.g. the, no, go and to. 

Phase 3

Phase 3 teaches children all of the other GPCs (most of them being digraphs) and continue to practise blending and segmenting of CVC words with the aim to blend and segment two-syllable words and captions. 

They also learn letter names and more tricky words, e.g. he, she, we and me.

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Phase 4

In Phase 4, no new GPCs are taught. Instead, children learn to read and spell words with adjacent consonants, e.g. clown and step. Remember, adjacent consonants are different from digraphs! 

Phase 5

New GPCs are introduced in Phase 5. Children will learn that graphemes can be pronounced in different ways e.g. cat and cent and that phonemes can be represented by more than one grapheme, e.g. the /ai/ phoneme can be written as ay, a-e, eigh, ey, or ei.

Phase 6

In Phase 6, children become fluent readers and accurate spellers. Children cover many areas:

  1. Memory strategies to help them learn high-frequency words
  2. Strategies to help them gain independence (proofreading, dictionaries and spell checkers)
  3. Spelling rules for adding prefixes, suffixes and apostrophes
  4. Word-specific knowledge for spelling homophones, e.g. sea and see
  5. Less common spelling patterns, e.g. words ending in al like hospital
  6. Phoneme positioning – the position of a phoneme can rule out certain graphemes. For example, ay will be found at the end of words rather than ai, e.g. day

For more phonics fun, download the DoodleEnglish app to enjoy interactive exercises and educational games covering grammar, spelling and punctuation!

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