Phonics is a way of teaching children to read and write. It is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate sounds and understand the link between the sound (phoneme) and the way it is written (grapheme).
At Exning Primary school we have developed our own approach to teaching synthetic phonics, blending the best practice from a range of programmes. This is a phonics programme in which individual letters or letter sounds are ‘blended’ to form groups of letters or sounds, and those groups are then blended to form complete words.
Children throughout Reception and Key Stage 1 take part in a daily phonics session. These focus on developing reading, writing and speaking and listening skills. This is the order we teach phonemes at our school:
Children are also taught to read and spell ‘tricky words’ – words with spellings that are unusual. These include the words ‘to’, ‘was’, ‘said’ and ‘the’. ‘Tricky words’ are ones that we can’t sound – so these words just need to be remembered.
You may come across some of these terms in our phonics work:
vowels - the open sounds/letters of the alphabet: a, e, i , o, u
consonants – sounds/ letters of the alphabet that are not vowels.
blend – to merge individual sounds together to pronounce a word, e.g. s-n-a-p, blended together, reads snap
cluster – two (or three) letters making two (or three) sounds, e.g. the first three letters of 'straight' are a consonant cluster
digraph – two letters making one sound, e.g. sh, ch, th, ph.
vowel digraphs – two vowels which, together, make one sound, e.g. ai, oo, ow
split digraph – two letters, split, making one sound, e.g. a-e as in make or i-e in site
grapheme – letter or a group of letters representing one sound, e.g. sh, ch, igh, ough (as in 'though')
mnemonic — a device for memorising and recalling something, such as a snake shaped like the letter 'S'
phoneme — the smallest single identifiable sound, e.g. the letters 'sh' represent just one sound, but 'sp' represents two (/s/ and /p/)
segment (vb) — to split up a word into its individual phonemes in order to spell it, e.g. the word 'cat' has three phonemes: /c/, /a/, /t/