Phonics is a way of teaching children to read skillfully. They are taught how to:
- recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes;
- identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make – such as ‘sh’ or ‘oo’; and
- blend those sounds together from left to right to make a word.
Children can then use this knowledge to ‘decode’ new words that they see or hear. This is the first important step to learning to read.
Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5 to 7.
Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and read for enjoyment.
Children who have been taught phonics also tend to read more accurately than those taught using other methods, such as ‘look and say’. This includes children who find learning difficult to read, for example those who have dyslexia.
In Year 1, pupils recap Phases 2-4 (taught in Reception) but focus on Phase 5. The purpose of this phase is for children to broaden their knowledge of graphemes (the written letter) and phonemes (the sound they make) for use in reading and spelling. They will learn new graphemes and alternative pronunciations for these and graphemes they already know, where relevant. Some of the alternatives will already have been encountered in the high-frequency words that have been taught. Children become quicker at recognising graphemes of more than one letter in words and at blending the phonemes they represent. When spelling words they will learn to choose the appropriate graphemes to represent phonemes and begin to build word-specific knowledge of the spellings of words. It must always be remembered that phonics is the step up to word recognition. Automatic reading of all words – decodable and tricky – is the ultimate goal.
At Fixby we use Letters and Sounds scheme for teaching phonics.
At the end of Year 1, pupils are assessed on their ability to decode words, using the Phonics Screening Test. This is a combination of real and 'alien' words (made up words.) The pupils have to meet a certain threshold in order to say they have achieved the expected standard. You will be reported on your child's outcome at the end of Year 1.
In Year 2, pupils who did not reach the expected standard in the Phonics Screening Test will continue to focus on phonics, moving onto spelling patterns including suffixes and prefixes. Those pupils who were below the expected standard in Year 1 will repeat the test in Year 2.