St Norbert's
Catholic Primary School

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Phonics

Like most primary schools, here at St. Norbert’s we use a method of teaching called 'synthetic Phonics' to help children learn to read and spell. On this page you will find information on what synthetic phonics (known to the children as 'Letters and Sounds') is and how you can help your child develop this vital skill.

Phonics is one method of teaching children how to read and write. It's all about sounds. There are 44 sounds in the English language, which we put together to form words. Some are represented by one letter, like 't', and some by two or more, like 'ck' in duck and 'air' in chair. Children are taught the sounds first, then how to match them to letters, and finally how to use the letter sounds for reading and spelling. Synthetic phonics refers to 'synthesising', or blending, the sounds to read words. It's based on the idea that children should sound out unknown words and not rely on their context.

The 44 sounds (phonemes) of the English language, and the way they are written down, are taught one by one. The order of teaching these sounds has been specially developed so that children can start reading complete words as soon as possible. A phonics lesson begins with revising any sounds the children have already been taught. Then the teacher will introduce a new sound and its spelling.

Letters and Sounds - Phases

We use a teaching scheme called 'Letters and Sounds' to teach Synthetic Phonics. This scheme is split into 6 Phases with then children starting Phase 1 in Reception and moving through to Phase 6 by Year 2-3.

Phase 1

Focuses on the basic skills needed for reading and writing, it focuses on the speaking and listening skills helping the children to become familiar with sounds.

Phase 2 Phonic letters

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, ss

Phase 3 Phonic sounds

Set 6: j, v, w, x        
Set 7: y, z, zz, qu                                                                                               Consonant digraphs: ch, sh, th, ng                                                                       Vowel digraphs: ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er

Phase 4 Phonic sounds

In Phase 4, no new graphemes are introduced. The main aim of this phase is to consolidate the children's knowledge and to help them learn to read and spell words which have adjacent consonants, such as trap, string and milk.

Tricky words

During Phase 4, the following tricky words (which can't yet be decoded) are introduced:

  • said
  • have
  • like
  • so
  • do
  • some
  • come
  • were
  • there
  • little
  • one
  • when
  • out
  • what

Phase 5 sounds

In Phase Five, children will learn more graphemes and phonemes. For example, they already know ai as in rain, but now they will be introduced to ay as in day and a-e as in make.

Alternative pronunciations and spelling for graphemes will also be introduced, e.g. ea in tea, head and break.

Tricky words

During Phase 5, the following tricky words (which can't yet be decoded) are introduced:

  • oh
  • their
  • people
  • Mr
  • Mrs
  • looked
  • called
  • asked
  • could

Phase 6 sounds

At the start of Phase Six of Letters and Sounds, children will have already learnt the most frequently occurring grapheme–phoneme correspondences (GPCs) in the English language. They will be able to read many familiar words automatically. When they come across unfamiliar words they will in many cases be able to decode them quickly and quietly using their well-developed sounding and blending skills. With more complex unfamiliar words they will often be able to decode them by sounding them out. There is also a focus on suffixes and prefixes.

High Frequency words

The 100 and 200 High Frequency word lists. We send a letter to all families with these word lists on every September. They can also be found on the guide below:

Phonics Parent Pocket Guide