What is Phonics?
Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write. It helps children hear, identify and use different sounds that distinguish one word from another in the English language.
National Literacy Trust 2021
How is Phonics taught at Berry Hill Primary School?
We use Unlocking Letters and Sounds which was validated by the DfE in December 2021. We begin teaching phonics in the first few weeks of term 1 in Reception. Children begin to learn the main sounds heard in the English Language and how they can be represented, as well as learning ‘Common Exception’ words for Phases 2, 3 and 4. They use these sounds to read and write simple words, captions and sentences. Children leave Reception being able to apply the phonemes taught within Phase 2, 3 and 4.
Phoneme- is the smallest unit of sound. The word cat for example has three phonemes c-a-t, and the word chair has two phonemes ch-air.
Grapheme- is the written form of a phoneme.
Digraph- is two letters that together make one sound. There are consonant digraphs like 'sh' and 'th' and there are vowel digraphs like 'ai' and 'oi'.
Trigraph- is three letters that together make one sound such as 'igh' and 'ear'.
Split Digraphs- is when a digraph has been split and a consonant has been put in the middle of the two letters. There are five of these to learn. They are 'a_e', 'e_e', 'i_e', 'o_e' and 'u_e'
Common Exception Words - these are words which do not follow the phonics rules and therefore are not decodable.
In Year 1 through Phase 5 children learn any alternative spellings and pronunciations for the graphemes and additional Common Exception Words. By the end of Year 1 children will have mastered using phonics to decode and blend when reading and segment when spelling. In Year 1 all children are screened using the national Phonics Screening Check. In Year 2, phonics continues to be revisited to ensure mastery of the phonetic code and any child who does not meet age related expectations will continue to receive support to close identified gaps. For further details please see the Unlocking Letters and Sounds progression below.
To ensure no child is left behind at any point in the progression, children are regularly assessed and supported to keep up through bespoke 1-1 interventions. These include GPC recognition and blending and segmenting interventions. The lowest attaining 20% of pupils are closely monitored to ensure these interventions have an impact.