A phased approach to teaching phonics

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By Sue Taylorformer primary school teacher and senior lecturer in primary education, now freelance writer

Sue Taylor outlines how to incorporate a six-phase approach to teaching phonics into your lessons.

The ‘Letters and Sounds’ phonics resource that was published as part of the Primary National Strategy back in 2007 now feels like ancient history, but the phased approach that it outlined is still relevant to synthetic phonics teaching today. This comprised a six-phase programme that teaches not only the relationship between letters and sounds (grapheme-phoneme correspondences), but also the reversible skills of blending (for reading) and segmenting (for spelling).Take a look at our summary of each phase for more information and guidance about how to break down phonics teaching across Early Years and Key Stage 1 into manageable chunks.

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Phase 1

Phase 1 prepares children for phonics and continues throughout the EYFS (alongside systematic phonics teaching when it begins). Children learn to listen carefully in order to discriminate between sounds; this skill underpins the learning of phonics. Activities develop general sound discrimination, awareness of rhythm, rhyme and alliteration, sensitivity to different voice sounds, and the ability to orally blend and segment phonemes in simple words (referred to as ‘sound-talk’). Activities will be discrete, adult-led sessions, but opportunities to consolidate learning may occur throughout the day.

Points to note

  • Phonemic awareness: children do not need to fully master oral phonemic discrimination before beginning to learn grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs).
  • Letter awareness: children’s existing awareness of and curiosity about letters should be fostered, while maintaining the emphasis on oral activities.
  • Letter names: children can learn the names, shapes and sequence of letters in the alphabet using an appropriate song while pointing to the letters.
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