How We Teach Phonics

Phonics and Early Reading

What is Synthetic Phonics?

 Synthetic Phonics is a method used to teach children to read and write and is based on the sounds that letters make rather than the letter name e.g. Apple starts with an /a/ sound instead of an /ai/ sound like you can hear in ‘train’.  

 This approach helps children to hear, identify and use the sounds that different letters and groups of letters make and supports them in being able to distinguish one word from another. For example, knowing that the grapheme ‘c’ at the beginning of ‘cat’ makes a /c/ sound but the grapheme  ‘ch’ in ‘chop’ makes a /ch/ sound.

 There are forty-four different sounds (phonemes) in the English language - that is a lot for children to remember!  There are also many common-exception words/tricky words to learn that do not follow regular spelling rules and need to be recognised by sight.

The order in which the letter sounds (phonemesare taught is important so that children can start using the sounds they know to decode words and sentences as early as possible.

Please see the glossary at the bottom of this page for definitions of the key words in bold font. 


Phonics at Bearwood Primary School


  • To ensure consistent practice, progression and continuity in the teaching and learning of phonics throughout the school with a focus on quality-first teaching.
  • To ensure that systematic synthetic phonics is the first approach pupils use to develop their reading and writing skills.
  • To encourage children to learn to read for meaning in addition to developing their ability to decode texts using their phonological awareness.
  • To give children the confidence to apply their phonic knowledge across the curriculum.
  • To use robust assessment procedures to check progress and swiftly identify pupils in need of additional support.
  • To provide targeted support to pupils as required to ensure they are able to 'keep up' with age-related expectations wherever possible. 


  • We access planning, resources, training and support from  ‘Lesley Clarke’s Letters and Sounds’ (a phonics programme which has been validated by the Department for Education). Further information and support for parents and carers about this programme can be found here
  • In EYFS and KS1 we provide pupils with planned daily discrete phonics sessions that follow the sequence of teaching set out in ‘Lesley Clarke’s Letters and Sounds’. This provides consistency in the knowledge pupils are taught and clear progression of skills across the phonics phases and year groups.
  • We regularly assess and monitor pupils’ reading and writing of GPCs (GraphemePhonemeCorrespondences), tricky/common-exception words and high frequency words so that gaps in knowledge can be identified and addressed promptly and additional support provided if necessary.
  • We use high-quality resources that will support teaching and learning and motivate pupils e.g. mnemonics to support children in remembering the sounds that letters make and how to write them.
  • We have invested in ‘decodable’ books for pupils to read both in school and at home so that they can access texts that are closely matched to the grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) they already know and are taken from the suggested book list from ‘Lesley Clarke’s Letters and Sounds' programme.
  • We provide pupils with a curriculum that is rich in reading so that pupils are exposed to texts in a wide range of genres so that they can apply their phonic knowledge and develop their understanding.


Phonics Curriculum

From the day pupils begin in our Nursery, they are provided with plenty of opportunities to develop their speaking and listening skills which will form the foundations of learning to read and write. The more that a child is communicated with and encouraged to use good listening skills, the more likely it is that they will succeed in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 when learning the sounds we use to read and write.

This teaching sequence supports pupils in becoming fluent readers by the end of Year 2 and means that they can begin blending and segmenting simple CV and CVC words to read and write in their first week of being exposed to phonics in Reception.



  • The vast majority of pupils will become fluent readers by the end of Year 2 so that they can focus on developing their reading fluency, stamina and comprehension skills throughout the rest of their time with us in Key Stage Two. 
  • Pupils will be equipped with the skills, strategies and confidence needed in order to read and spell unfamiliar words.
  • Pupils develop a love of reading due to the engaging yet challenging phonic experiences they are provided with.
  • Pupils will be supported by their phonics knowledge in reading for pleasure across a wide range of genres and reading experiences. 


What if my child requires additional support in phonics?

  • Pupils who require additional support with phonics are quickly identified by staff through assessment of their reading, writing and spelling ability. This includes pupils who join the school as mid-phase admissions. 
  • Additional support is provided through quality-first teaching during pupils’ regular daily lessons, however when appropriate, these pupils may also take part in small targeted adult-led group or individual sessions, in agreement with the Phonics Leader and SENCo (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator).
  • Small-group sessions will follow the ‘Phonics 10’ structure as outlined in ‘Lesley Clarke’s Letters and Sounds’ programme and are designed to fill any gaps in a pupil's phonic-knowledge as quickly as possible.


 Support for Parents/Carers

Parents and carers have a vital role to play in their child's reading journey. Throughout the year, we invite parents and carers to attend coffee mornings and workshops that focus on phonics and supporting your child’s reading at home. Letters will be sent home informing parents of these events and further information can also be found in our school newsletter. 

We understand that it is not always possible for parents and carers to attend these meetings but are always willing to share the information covered at a convenient time and answer any questions or queries you have.


Top Tips for Parents/Carers:

  • Read daily with your child. They will be provided with ‘decodable’ books which they can use their phonic knowledge to read. You can support them by encouraging them to ‘sound-out’ and blend together the sounds in unfamiliar words. E. g. ‘sh-i-p….ship!’.
  • Encourage your child to use the 'Reading Toolkit' we refer to at school to help them when they get stuck reading a particular word or sentence.
  • When demonstrating to your child how to pronounce a particular sound, always make the sound as short as possible for example, the letter ‘p’ makes a short /p/ sound rather than a long ‘puh’ sound.
  • Make reading fun!
Glossary of phonics terms:

blend/cluster - Two (or three) letters making two (or three) sounds e.g. lost, sprite.

blending - Reading the letters in a written word eg b-a-t, and merging them to pronounce the word (‘bat’).  This skill is needed for reading.

common-exception words/tricky words  - Words where the usual spelling rules don’t apply; such as the common exception words "sugar", "improve", "climb" and "because".

digraph - Two letters which make one sound eg ‘sh’, ‘ai’, ‘ph’

grapheme - Letter(s) which represent a phoneme/sound.

grapheme-phoneme correspondence (GPC) The relationship between a phoneme and a grapheme. Children need to be able to write/find a grapheme in response to the phoneme and say the phoneme(s) when looking at a grapheme.

long vowel - A vowel sound which is long - there are 5 of them: /ai/ (as in make, rain, day), /ee/ (as in these, me, tree), /igh/ (as in tie, night, my), /oa/ (as in coat, low, go), /ue/ (as in moon, tune, unit).

mnemnonics – Songs, rhymes, acronyms that help us to remember certain facts or large amounts of information. In phonics, for example, we use an image of a cat curved into a ‘c’ shape to help pupils remember what one of the graphemes for ‘c’ looks like.

phoneme - The smallest unit of sound in a word.

segmenting - Identifying the individual sounds in a spoken word (e.g. b-a-t) and writing down or moving letters for each sound to form the word (‘bat’). This skill is needed for spelling.

short vowel - A vowel sound which is short - there are 5 of them: /a/ (as in cat), /e/ (as in bed), /i/ (as in pin), /o/ (as in hot), /u/ (as in hut).

split digraph (used to be known as magic ‘e’) - A vowel digraph (eg ‘ie’) which is split up by another letter eg 'time’,make’.

trigraph - Three letters which make one sound eg ‘igh’