Phonics and Reading

Children in Reception and Key Stage 1 follow the synthetic phonics approach, using the ‘Letters and Sounds’ programme. It is an approach to teaching phonics in which individual letters or letter sounds  (phonemes) are blended to form groups of letters or sounds, and those groups are then blended to form complete words. Children also use ‘Jolly Phonics’ actions to go with the sounds.

We use a combination of reading schemes. These include Oxford Reading Tree, Floppy’s Phonics, Project X, Ginn, Rigby Star and Storybox. These give a variety of fiction and non–fiction books to develop children’s reading range. Children learn to read at different rates. Once they finish the reading scheme, we encourage them to become ‘free readers’ and choose their own books.

Our daily phonics sessions are fun, involving lots of speaking, listening and games. The emphasis is on children’s active participation. They learn to use their phonic knowledge for reading and writing activities and in their independent play.

At Varna Community Primary, we use a synthetic phonics programme called Letters and Sounds alongside the actions of Jolly Phonics and resources from Floppy Phonics and Read Write Inc.

Letters and Sounds is divided into six phases, with each phase building on the skills and knowledge of previous learning. There are no big leaps in learning. Children have time to practise and rapidly expand their ability to read and spell words. They are also taught to read and spell ‘tricky words’ – words with spellings that are unusual or that children have not yet been taught. These include the words ‘to’, ‘was’, ‘said’ and ‘the’.

Phase 1 begins in nursery. This phase paves the way for the systematic learning of phonics. During this phase especially, we plan activities that will help children to listen attentively to sounds around them, such as the sounds of their toys and to sounds in spoken language. We teach a wide range of nursery rhymes and songs and read good books to and with the children. This helps to increase the number of words they know – their vocabulary – and helps them talk confidently about books. The children learn to identify rhyme and alliteration.  These skills continue to be developed throughout KS1 and KS2.

Phonemes are introduced in a systematic way.

Set 1 – s a t p
Set 2 – i n m d
Set 3 – g o c k
Set 4 – ck e u r
Set 5 – h b f ff l ll s ss

By the end of Phase 3 the children will know one way of writing down each of the 44 phonemes.

Set 6 – j v w x
Set 7 – y z zz qu

Consonant diagraphs – ch sh th ng

Vowel diagraphs (and trigraphs) – ai ee igh oa oo ar ur ow oi ear air ure er

This phase helps children to blend and segment words with adjacent consonants e.g. truck, help.

It is very important that these phonemes are pronounced clearly and correctly so that children are able to blend them together.

Weeks 1 – 4
 –    New phonemes introduced including split digraphs 

a_e  e_e  i_e  o_e  u_e

Weeks 4 – 7
These weeks introduce the idea that some graphemes can be pronounced in more than one way.  E.g. the ch grapheme can be pronounced in each of these ways, check, chef and school.

Weeks 8 – 30
This part of Phase 5 is all about learning that some phonemes have more than one spelling.

Phase 6 reinforces much of the learning from Phase 5 and begins to explore spelling rules and conventions e.g. adding –ing and –ed.

Once children reach Phase 6, we work on helping them to move away from blending and segmenting and develop automaticity in their reading.  We can then develop other areas of reading that need to be taught.


  • Play ‘What do we have in here?’ Put some toys or objects in a bag and pull one out at a time. Emphasise the first sound of the name of the toy or object by repeating it, for example, ‘c c c c – car’, ‘b b b b – box’, ‘ch ch ch ch – chip’.
  • Say: ‘A tall tin of tomatoes!’ ‘Tommy, the ticklish teddy!’ ‘A lovely little lemon!’ This is called alliteration. Use names, for example, ‘Gurpreet gets the giggles’, ‘Milo makes music’, ‘Naheema’s nose’.
  • Teach them ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers’.
  • Form the letters with a finger in the air, on the palm of the hand, on a back or on a rough surface.
  • If children struggle to hear all the sounds in a word encourage them to think about the movements that their mouths are making.  Ask them to look in a mirror when saying the word.
  • Play I spy with my little eye a c-u-p.  Child to blend the phonemes to say the word and then go and find it.
  • Play Buried Treasure on Phonics Play.  Children to sort real words and nonsense words.


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