Phonics

At St Helen's we use 'Letters and Sounds, 'Speed Sounds', 'Code', 'Fresh Start Phonics', 'Jolly Phonics', 'Floppy's Phonics' and 'Big Cat Phonics'. All of these follow the outline of the 'Letters and Sounds' phonics scheme developed by the Department for Education.
Some resources for supporting your child with phonics at home are included at the bottom of this page

So what is phonics?

Words are made up from small units of sound called phonemes. Phonics teaches children to be able to listen carefully and identify the phonemes that make up each word. This helps children to learn to read words and to spell words


In phonics lessons children are taught three main things:


Graphemes and Phonemes?

Put simply, the graphemes are the letters, the shapes we write, while phonemes are the sounds those letters make.

Children are taught all the phonemes in the English language and ways of writing them down. These sounds are taught in a particular order. The first sounds to be taught are s, a, t, p.



Blending

Children are taught to be able to blend. This is when children say the sounds that make up a word and are able to merge the sounds together until they can hear what the word is. This skill is vital in learning to read.


Segmenting

Children are also taught to segment. This is the opposite of blending. Children are able to say a word and then break it up into the phonemes that make it up. This skill is vital in being able to spell words.


What makes phonics tricky?

In some languages learning phonics is easy because each phoneme has just one grapheme to represent it. The English language is a bit more complicated than this. This is partly because England has been invaded so many times throughout its history. Each set of invaders brought new words and new sounds with them. As a result, English only has around 44 phonemes but there are around 120 graphemes or ways of writing down those 44 phonemes. We only have 26 letters in the alphabet so some graphemes are made up from more than one letter.

ch th oo ay (these are all digraphs - graphemes with two letters)

There are other graphemes that are trigraphs (made up of 3 letters) and even a few made from 4 letters.

Another slightly sticky problem is that some graphemes can represent more than one phoneme. For example 'ch' makes very different sounds in these three words: chip, school, chef.


Resources for supporting your child's phonics learning at home

  • Glossary of 'phonics-speak' your child may use!
  • Oxford Owl - Oxford Owl Reading offers lots of resources for helping with phonics as well as reading in general.
  • PhonicsPlay - Lots of games to play for each of the different stages of learning phonics.
  • Pronunciation video