In order to be a successful reader, you need the ability to blend sounds and letters, as well as the ability to show understanding of what you are reading. These two skills rely on each other – you cannot be a skilled reader without both skills. Phonics is the main strategy for learning to read and spell and will be taught until children are fluent readers and spellers.
At St. Matthew’s we use the scheme ‘Phonics Bug’ to teach phonics. The scheme helps children memorise sounds (phonemes) and learn how these are represented with letters (graphemes). Daily lessons are approximately twenty minutes long and taught at a quick pace. In these lessons, the children review their learning, are taught a new sound or skill, practise this and then apply it. There are six phases for teaching phonics. A brief explanation of each is shown below.
In Phase 1, early phonics teaching focuses on developing children’s listening skills by listening to sounds in the environment.
In Phase 2, children begin to learn the sounds that letters make (phonemes).
Phase 3 introduces children to the remaining, more difficult and/or less commonly used phonemes, such as /ai/, /ar/, /ow/ and /ee/.
In Phase 4 children consolidate and apply what they have already learnt. By the end of this phase, children should now be blending confidently to work out new words.
In Phase 5, children learn new graphemes (different ways of spelling each sound) and alternative pronunciations for these. The aim of Phase 6 is for children to become fluent readers and accurate spellers.
By Phase 6, children should be able to read hundreds of words using one of three strategies: Reading them automatically, decoding them quickly and silently and decoding them aloud. Children should now be spelling most words accurately (this is known as 'encoding').
Throughout all of these phases, children are also taught tricky words which cannot be sounded out.
Children continue to use their phonics knowledge as they move up the school. The whole aim of phonics teaching is not just to learn the sounds, but to use them as a tool for reading and spelling.