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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.

Written language can be compared to a code, so knowing the sounds of individual letters and how those letters sound when they’re combined will help children decode words as they read.

Understanding phonics will also help children know which letters to use when they are writing words.

Phonics involves matching the sounds of spoken English with individual letters or groups of letters. For example, the sound k can be spelled as c, k, ck or ch.

Teaching children to blend the sounds of letters together helps them decode unfamiliar or unknown words by sounding them out. For example, when a child is taught the sounds for the letters tpa and s, they can start to build up the words: “tap”, “taps”, “pat”, “pats” and “sat”. (The National Literacy Trust)


How is phonics taught?

Introducing young children to the joy and wonder of books requires a systematic teaching of phonics.

Synthetic phonics

The most widely used approach associated with the teaching of reading in which phonemes (sounds) associated with particular graphemes (letters) are pronounced in isolation and blended together (synthesised). For example, children are taught to take a single-syllable word such as cat apart into its three letters, pronounce a phoneme for each letter in turn /k, æ, t/, and blend the phonemes together to form a word. (The National Literacy Trust)


Phonics at KS2 and Beyond

Phonics is an essential aspect of learning to read, and it lays the foundation for children to become confident and fluent readers. While some students may have mastered basic phonics skills in their early years, continuing phonics into KS2 (ages 7-11) and beyond can still be beneficial for a number of reasons:

  1. Consolidation and reinforcement of phonics skills: Continuing to use phonics instruction in KS2 helps to ensure that students have a solid grasp of the basic phonics skills that they learned in their earlier years. This reinforcement can help students to become more confident and fluent readers, which in turn can help them to better understand the meaning and context of the text they read.
  2. Introduction to more complex phonics skills: As students move into KS2, they will encounter more complex texts that require a more advanced understanding of phonics. By continuing phonics instruction into KS2 and beyond, students can build on their existing skills and learn new strategies for decoding unfamiliar words.
  3. Supporting struggling readers: For students who struggle with reading, continuing phonics instruction can be especially important. By focusing on specific phonics skills that the student may be struggling with, teachers can help them to develop their skills and become more confident readers.
  4. Building spelling and writing skills: Phonics instruction can also help students to improve their spelling and writing skills. By understanding the sounds and spelling patterns of words, students can become better at spelling and recognizing commonly used words, which in turn can improve their writing fluency and comprehension.

Overall, continuing phonics instruction into KS2 and beyond helps to ensure that students have a strong foundation in reading and writing, and can support them in becoming confident and successful learners.

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Phonics International

At Whiteheath Junior School we use Phonics International which was written by leading synthetic phonics expert, Debbie Hepplewhite and is a Validated SSP programme.

Phonics International (PI) is a highly-organised, systematic and yet flexible online synthetic phonics programme (program). Designed for all ages and needs and suitable for anyone who wants to learn to read and spell.

Debbie's approach is the 'Two-pronged systematic and incidental phonics teaching and learning' This is supported by the ever-present overview Alphabetic Code Chart to show the spelling system in a 'tangible' format.

 PI resources are exciting, colourful, informative and enjoyable for teachers and learners to use. The resources are based on research and leading-edge practice.  PI has a massive bank of unique and printable ‘rolling programme’ teaching and learning resources.

Phonics - Sounds of the English Alphabetic Code

Synthetic Phonics consultant and programme designer Debbie Hepplewhite demonstrates the sounds of the English Alphabetic Code

English Phonics - Sounds and Spelling Alternatives - Part 1 of 2

Synthetic Phonics consultant and programme designer Debbie Hepplewhite demonstrates the sounds of the English Alphabetic Code and their spelling alternatives.

English Phonics - Sounds and Spelling Alternatives - Part 2 of 2

Synthetic Phonics consultant and programme designer Debbie Hepplewhite demonstrates the sounds and their spelling alternatives of the second part of the English Alphabetic Code.