How do we teach phonics at Nova Primary?

Children are taught how to read using systematic synthetic phonics and this is given a high priority throughout Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1. The purpose of phonics is to quickly develop pupils’ phonemic awareness which is their ability to hear, identify, and use phonemes in English. The aim is to systematically teach leaners the relationship between these sounds and the written spelling patterns (graphemes) which represent them. Phonics emphasises the skills of decoding new words by sounding them out combining (blending) the sound-spelling patterns.

We use Letters and Sounds phonics framework to teach a sequence of skills which are broken down into 6 phonics phases (see table below). Through explicit daily phonics sessions, pupils are taught phonics knowledge and skills. This helps children build and use the relationship between sounds and letter symbols to help readers decode new words. The children are also taught that some words are not decodable and need to be recognised on sight. We teach this through daily repetition activities in order for the children to be able to read fluently.

PhaseSounds taughtKey wordsPhonic knowledge and skills
Phase 1 (Nursery/ Reception)  Activities are divided into several aspects, including: Listening to and for sounds (environmental, instrumental, voice and body sounds) Rhythm and rhyme Alliteration Oral blending and segmenting skills *These skills continue to be taught through all phases*
Phase 2 (Reception – up to 6 weeks)s, a, t, p, I, n, m, d, g, o, c, k, ck, e, u, r ,h, b ,f ,ff ,l ,ll , ss 2A: s, a, t, p 2B: i, n, m, d 2C: g, o, c, k 2D: ck, e, u, r 2E: h, b, f, ff, 2F: l, ll,  ssthe, to, go, no, ITo orally blend and segment cvc words. Learning 19 letters of the alphabet and one sound for each. Beginning to read simple captions.  
Phase 3 (Reception – up to 12 weeks)Sounds taught: j, v, w ,x ,y, z, zz, qu Consonant digraphs: ch, sh, th, ng, Vowel digraphs: ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er 3A: j, v, w, x 3B: y, z , zz, qu  3C:  ch, sh, th, ng 3D: ai, ee, igh, oa 3E: oo, ar, or, ur 3F: ow oi, ear, air 3G:ure, er  he, she, my, was, we, me, be, to, they, all, are, my, herThe remaining 7 letters of the alphabet, one sound for each. Graphemes such as ch, oo, th representing the remaining phonemes not covered by single letters. On completion of this phase, children will have learnt the “simple code”, i.e. one grapheme for each phoneme in the English language. Reading captions, sentences and questions.  
Phase 4 (Reception – 4-6 weeks)* No new grapheme-phoneme correspondences are taught in this phase. Children learn to blend and segment longer words with adjacent consonants, e.g. swim, clap, jump.*     Consonant clusters and blends: 4A: st, nd, mp, nt, nk 4B: ft, sk, lt, lp, tr, 4C: dr, gr, cr, br, fr, 4D:  bl, fl, gl, pl, cl, 4E: sl, sp, st, tw, sm, 4F: nch, shr, str, thr  said,  so, he,  we , me,  be,  have,  like,  some,  come, was,  you,  were, there, little,  one,  do,  when , out,  whatRead and write words with initial and/or final blends: st, nd, mp, nt, nk, ft, sk, lt, lp, tr, dr, gr, cr, br, fr, bl, fl, gl, pl, cl, sl, sp, st, tw, sm, nch, shr, str, thr Confidently segmenting and blending cvcc/ccvc/ccvcc/cccvc/cccvcc/ polysyllabic words to read and write.
Phase 5 (Year 1)New phonemes: ay (day), ou (out), ie (tie), ea (eat), oy (boy), ir (girl), ue (blue), aw (saw), wh (when), ph (photo), ew (new), oe (toe), au (Paul), ey (monkey) Split digraphs: a-e (make), e-e (these), i-e (like), o-e (home), u-e (rule). Teach alternative pronunciations for graphemes (p136): i, o, c, g, u, ow, ie, ea, er, a, y, ch, ou, Teach alternative spellings for phonemes (P.144): sh, ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er   5A: ay (day), ou (out), ie (tie) 5B:  ea (eat), oy (boy), ir (girl), ue (blue) 5C: aw (saw), wh (when), ph (photo), ew (new), 5D:  oe (toe), au (Paul), ey (they) 5E: Split digraphs: a-e (make), e-e (these), i-e (like), o-e (home), u-e (rule). Alternative pronunciations for graphemes (p144):   5F: i, o, c, g, 5G: u, ow, ie, ea, 5H: er, a, y, ch, 5I: ou ay,  ou , ie,  5J: ea , oy,  ir,  ue,  5K: aw,  wh,  ph,  ew,  5L: oe, au,  a-e,  e-e, 5M:  i-e, o-e,  u-e  oh, their, people, Mr, Mrs, looked, called, asked, could, water, where, who, again, thought, through, work, mouse, many, laughed, because, different, any, eyes, friends, once, pleaseChildren learn more graphemes for the phonemes which they already know, plus different ways of pronouncing the graphemes they already know.   Teach alternative pronunciations for graphemes              
Teach alternative spellings for phonemes                        

Phase 6 (Year 2 and beyond)
Working on spelling, including prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters etc.First 200 HFWDuring this phase, children become fluent readers and increasingly accurate spellers. Understand and apply suffixes – ed, ing, ful, est, er, ment, ness, en, s, es                                                               Understand the rules for adding ing, ed, er, est, ful, ly, y                                                      Investigate how adding suffixes and prefixes changes words

Lesson structure:

Phonics lessons at Nova follow the structure of: review, teach, practise and apply. Within lessons, we use a variety and balance of activities to help children learn e.g. recording in writing; IT based; outdoor learning; physical activities. Four new sounds are taught a week with a phonics recap on a Friday.

Early reading

We understand effective phonics techniques need to be embedded in a rich literacy environment for early readers and are only one part of a successful literacy strategy. Therefore children also have opportunities to apply and practise these skills during normal reading and writing activities.

Because the connection between letters and sounds is not readily apparent to new readers, modelling is an important aspect of phonics teaching. Teachers frequently model ways that a reader uses the sound-symbol relationship to decode unfamiliar words by reading and thinking aloud.

Once children have been exposed to adult modelling several times, they are encouraged to practise applying phonics to their own reading. This independent practice helps young readers truly build the connection between symbols and sounds. Adults guide children in strategically applying phonics to authentic reading and writing experiences to help them develop good decoding skills.

Children are matched with phonetically decodable books to help them practise the skill of decoding. In addition to this, children are also provided with a colour banded wider interest reading book in order to develop other reading skills such as comprehension, prediction, inference, vocabulary and fluency.


Phoneme – smallest unit of spoken language (sound)

Grapheme – a letter or combination of letters to represent a phoneme (written)

Diagraph – a combination of two letters making one sound  e.g. sh

Trigraph – a single sound represented by three letters e.g. igh

Blending – the action of combing sounds to form a word e.g. c-a-t = cat

Segmenting – the action of breaking down a word into individual sounds e.g.

Letters and Sounds publication link: