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”.

According to the Department for Education's guidance for parents, "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."

How is phonics taught?

Words are made up of just 44 sounds in English. You may have heard your child or their teacher use particular words that form the core of understanding phonics. Here's a quick explanation of some of the key concepts.

Phoneme - the smallest unit of sound as it is spoken

Grapheme -  a written symbol that represents a sound (phoneme) that's either one letter or a sequence of letters

Digraph - two letters that work together to make the same sound (ch, sh, ph)

Trigraph - three letters that work together to make the same sound (igh, ore, ear)

Split digraph - (sometimes called 'magic e') - two letters that work together to make the same sound, separated by another letter in the same word. This enables children to understand the difference in vowel sounds between, for example, grip/gripe, rag/rage, tap/tape

Rather than memorising words individually, children are taught a code which helps them to work out how to read an estimated 95% of the English language.

Here at High Street we teach using Letters and Sounds and provide children with carefully matched phonetically decodable books linked to their Phonics teaching to further support and consolidate their learning. This gives the children the confidence to apply their phonics knowledge and read stories independently from an early age. Phonics is now taught twice a day to help support in bridging the gap following Covid.

How can support your child at home?

  • Listen to your child read every night, encouraging them to segment and blend the words to support them
  • Support your child in confidently reading and spelling the Year 1 High Common Exception words (uploaded to the website)
  • Practise the sounds your child will be learning and encourage your child to spot these within their books, (see the uploaded Phoneme Wall for these)
  • Support your child in practising their weekly spellings before their ‘quiz’ on a Friday
  • Articulation of phonemes is crucial and therefore the below link will support you with this, if needed:

More information and resources can be found by following the links below:

Files to Download

Winsford High Street Community Primary School, High St, Winsford CW7 2AU

Tel: 01606 668 066 | Email: