In Phase 1 phonics, children are taught about:
- Environmental sounds
- Instrumental sounds
- Body percussion (e.g. clapping and stamping)
- Rhythm and rhyme
- Voice sounds
- Oral blending and segmenting (e.g. hearing that d-o-g makes ‘dog’)
Typical activities for teaching Phase 1 phonics include 'listening' walks, playing and identifying instruments, action songs, learning rhymes and playing games like I Spy.
This phase is intended to develop children’s listening, vocabulary and speaking skills.
In Phase 2, children begin to learn the sounds that letters make (phonemes). There are 44 sounds in all. Some are made with two letters, but in Phase 2, children focus on learning the 19 most common single letter sounds:
s, a, t, p, i ,n ,m, d, g, o, c, k, ck, e, u, r, h, b, f, ff, l ll, ss.
By the end of Phase 2 children should be able to read some vowel-consonant (VC) and consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words and spell them out. They also learn the tricky words:
the, to, I, no, go, into
This phase usually lasts about 6-8 weeks.
Phase 3 introduces children to the remaining, more difficult and/or less commonly used phonemes. These phonemes are mainly made up of 2 or 3 letters. A 2 lettered phoneme is known as a digraph and a 3 lettered phoneme is known as a trigraph:
j, v, w, x, y, z, zz, qu, ch, sh, th, ng, ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er.
Children are taught the tricky words:
he, she, we, me, be, was, my, you, they, her, all, are.
Phase 3 takes most children around 12 weeks. By the end, they should be able to say the sound made by most, or all, Phase 2 and 3 graphemes, blend and read CVC words made from these graphemes, read 12 new tricky words, write letters correctly when given an example to copy and say the letter names for the phonemes.
Children do not learn any new sounds in Phase 4, instead they learn about adjacent consonants. Adjacent consonants are two sounds that often come together in words. They can easily be missed out by young readers and writers. e.g. went. It is common for children to miss out the quieter sound, in this case spelling wet.
In Phase 4 phonics, children will, among other things:
- Practise reading and spelling CVCC words (‘bump', 'nest', ‘belt,’ ‘milk’, etc)
- Practise reading and spelling high frequency words
- Practise reading and writing sentences
- Learn more tricky words, including ‘have,’ ‘like,’ ‘some,’ ‘little’
Children should now be blending confidently to work out new words. They should be starting to be able to read words straight off, rather than having to sound them out. They should also be able to write every letter, mostly correctly. This phase usually takes four to six weeks, and most children will complete it around the end of Reception.