Children start their reading journey by learning phonics - the sounds that letters make. Phonics is the first and most important strategy children will use to read and write words. We teach phonics daily through an ALS approach, where children are taught the mantra "Look at the letters, make the sounds, blend the sounds together."
ALS is a DFE validated systematic synthetic approach to teaching phonics based on letters and sounds. Children are taught to read using the sounds that letters make as soon as they start school in Reception. All of the texts that children read independently in EYFS and KS1 are explicitly matched to the sounds they have learnt that week.
Phonics is split into phases and is taught in the following year groups as well as to children who are new to English:
Phase One - Sound discrimination
Phase Two - Single sounds s a t p i n m d g o c k ck e u r h b f l ss ff ll
Phase Three - Digraphs & Trigraphs j v w y x z zz qu th sh ch ay ee igh oa or ar ur er ear air ure
Phase Four - Adjacent consonants
Phase Five - Alternative Spellings
Phase Five - Alternative Pronunciations
This then leads on to the teaching of spelling rules.
Please note that no new sounds are taught during Phase Four. During this phase the children will learn to distinguish between the sounds made my adjacent consonants e.g d -r, t - r, m-p. We say that these are "Two letters that make two sounds". Children also consolidate their knowledge of Phase 2 and 3 sounds during Phase 4.
Your children and their teachers will use lots of words you might not have heard before when talking about their phonics learning! Here is a quick explanation of each to help you!
Phoneme - This is the sound that the letter makes i.e the letter "s" makes a "sssssss" sound.
Grapheme - This is what the sound looks like.
Blending - This is when we put sounds together to make a word e.g c-a-t blends together to make the word cat. This is a crucial stage in your child's learning as it enables them to use their sounds to read words.
Segmenting - This is the reverse of blending, so breaking down a word into sounds e.g dog segments into d-o-g. This is how the children use their sounds to write words independently.
Decoding - This is the process of using sounds to read words.
Digraph - Two letters that make one sound e.g ai. ee, oi, or, ar
Trigraph - Three letters that make one sound e.g igh, ear, air
As well as daily phonics lessons where they are taught new sounds and expected to use them to read and write, children also practise their sounds during whole class shared reading lessons, small group guided reading sessions and through the reading books that are sent home. The books the children read independently explicitly match the sounds that they have been taught that week.
Year One Screening Check
All children in the UK will sit a Phonics Screening Check in the summer term of Year One. This is to check how well the children can use their phonics to read words. In order to pass the check, children will need to be confident using most of the sounds in Phase Five. Any children who do not pass this test in Year One will receive targeted interventions in Year Two and will retake the Screening Check in the Summer Term of Year Two. The checks are carried out on a 1:1 basis with an adult that is familiar to the child. We prepare all children to take the Screening Check, but we do not place any unnecessary pressure on the children and ensure that they take the Screening Check in a comfortable environment where they are happy and relaxed. Any children who do not pass the Screening Check in Year Two will continue to receive phonics interventions in Key Stage Two.
For more information about ALS, please have a look on their website:
This website has lots of helpful information for parents about the Year One Screening Check.
These are the sound mats the children use at school to help them remember the sounds that they have learnt.
These videos will help you to pronounce each sound:
These websites are great for helping your child practise their phonics at home:
You could also try the following apps: Monster Phonics, Kids vs Phonics