At Hollingwood we use ‘Letters and Sounds’ to develop children’s phonic skills. It is a fun and interactive way to support children in learning how to read and write.
The English language is a very tricky language to learn – especially when it comes to reading and writing. The alphabet only contains 26 letters but includes 44 spoken sounds (phonemes). These phonemes are represented by letters (graphemes). In other words, a sound can be represented by a letter (e.g. ‘s’ or ‘a’) or a group of letters (e.g. ‘sh’ or ‘ear’)
Once children begin to be aware of how to hear sounds in words, they can transfer this skill into their reading and spelling of words. The first six letters that are taught are /s/a/t/p/i/n/. These phonemes have been chosen quite carefully as they can immediately be used to make a number of words such as ‘sat’, ‘pin’, ‘pat’, ‘tap’, ‘nap’. It is really important that children see the purpose in their learning of phonemes and graphemes in order for them to transfer their skills straight away into the reading and writing activities in their first days in Reception.
As a parent, your involvement in supporting your child’s learning will be a vital factor in determining their success in learning to read.
Blending for reading
In Nursery, children are taught to hear individual sounds in words and put them back together in a spoken word. Even before children are introduced to printed words, they are capable of being supported to understand that words are made up of sounds. For example, when a teacher calls out ‘b-u-s’, the children say ‘bus’.
In order to learn to read (decode words) children must be able to smoothly blend sounds together. Blending sounds fluidly helps to improve fluency when reading but can be more difficult to do with longer words so learning how to blend accurately from an early age is imperative.
Showing your child how to blend is important. Nursery send homework with early activities that demonstrate how you can model ‘pushing’ sounds smoothly together without stopping at each individual sound. This must continue as they move into ‘big school’ as they are introduced to graphemes and simple words in order for children to become confident readers.
It is also recommended to talk to your child about what blending is so they understand what they are trying to achieve.
Segmenting for spelling
Segmenting is a skill used in spelling. In order to spell the word ‘cat’ it is necessary to segment the word into its sounds c/a/t. It requires that your child is able to identify the sounds (phonemes) within the word and write down the letter (grapheme) that represents each.
Children often understand segmenting as ‘chopping’ a word. Before writing a word young children need time to think about it, say the word several times, ‘chop’ the word and then write it. Once children have written the same word several times they won’t need to use these four steps as frequently.
Children will enjoy spelling if it feels like fun and if they feel good about themselves as spellers. We need to be playful and positive in our approach – noticing and praising what children can do as well as helping them to correct their mistakes.
Letters and Sounds is split into 6 distinct phases. Below is an overview what is included in each phase.
The term VC, CVC, CVCC etc. appear throughout the phases when referring to words that children should be able to read and spell within a particular Phase. The V denotes a vowel and a C denotes a consonant.
Phase One (Nursery)
The aim of this phase is to foster children’s speaking and listening skills as preparation for learning to read with phonics. Parents can play a vital role in helping their children develop these skills, by encouraging their children to listen carefully and talk extensively about what they hear, see and do.
Phase Two – Four (Reception)
Phase Two is when systematic, high quality phonic work begins. During Phase Two to Four, children learn:
- How to represent each of the 44 sounds by a letter (grapheme) or sequence of graphemes.
- How to blend sounds together for reading and how to segment words for spelling.
- Letter names
- How to read and spell some high frequency ‘tricky’ words containing sounds not yet learnt (e.g. they, my, her, you).
The Letters and Sounds Programme progresses from the simple to the more complex aspects of phonics at a pace that is suitable for the children who are learning.
Parents can click on the link below to access the outlines for each phase.
Phase Five (Year 1)
Children learn new ways of representing the sounds and practise blending for reading and segmenting for spelling.
Phase Six (Year 2)
During this phase, children become fluent readers and increasingly accurate spellers.
Tips and Definitions
Feel confident to talk to your child about Letters and Sounds and also feel comfortable using some of the language that they are introduced to from Reception. “These are graphemes. A grapheme can make a phoneme. Sometimes graphemes are stuck together and they make a new phoneme. Graphemes together can make words. If we can read those words we can read: labels, signs, notes, comics, books and lots of other things all around us.”
Tricky words are words that cannot be ‘sounded-out’ but need to be learned by heart. They don’t fit into the usual spelling patterns. Examples of these words are found below. In order to read simple sentences, it is necessary for children to know some words that have unusual or untaught spellings. It should be noted that, when teaching these words, it is important to always start with sounds already known in the word, then focus on the 'tricky' part.
100 High Frequency Words
High frequency (common) are words that occur frequently in much of the written material young children read and that they need when they write. If you would like a list of high frequency words please ask your child’s class teacher. Some of these high frequency words are listed below.
Interactive websites at home to support your child’s learning:
The Oxford Owl website has a wealth of resources for parents and teachers in supporting children’s phonics, reading and writing skills. The website includes useful videos, sound clips, FAQs and guidance on a range of key issues.
ICT Games has a number of useful interactive games that supports children’s learning in synthetic phonics.
Letters and Sounds downloadable document Click here
If you would like further guidance or have any questions please ask your child’s class teacher or myself, Mrs Rowlett, Phonics Lead.