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Understanding Phonics


What is phonics?

Phonics is a method of teaching children how spoken words are composed of sounds (phonemes) and how the letters in words correspond to those sounds. The process of reading involves decoding or ‘breaking’ words into separate sounds, so that meaning can be gained. On the other hand, the process of spelling requires the writer to identify all the sounds in a word and then use their knowledge of sound patterns to write or ‘make’ the word.

Let's start at the beginning...

Each one of the 26 letters in the alphabet has its own ‘sound'. This is very different to how a letter is ‘said' in the alphabet. For example:

                             ‘a' in ‘arrow’                                                                                 ‘b' in ‘bat’.


Of course phonics is not that simple! There are more than 26 sounds in English language, in fact there are 44 sounds in total. Some of these sounds are made up of 2 or 3 letters. 2 letter sounds are called 'digraphs' and three letter sounds are called 'trigraphs'


Examples of digraphs and trigraphs


                          Digraph = 'ou'                                                         Trigraph = 'ear'



It gets a bit more complicated than that too!


The sound that children struggle to spot the most when breaking down words into its individual sounds is the 'split digraph'. Like a normal digraph, this is when two letters work together to make one sound, however with a split digraph, they are separated and have a letter in the middle.


Examples of split digraphs


So that's it! We appreciate there has been a few new words thrown at you there that you may have never heard of, so below is a little phonics codebreaker to help us out before we go any further!


The phonics codebreaker

Phoneme - a sound as it is said

Grapheme - a sound that is written

Digraph - two letters that work together to make the same sound

Trigraph - Three letters that work together to make the same sound

Split digraph - Two letters that work together to make the same sound, separated by another letter.

Blending - Blending is the process that is involved in bringing the sounds together to make a word or a syllable and is how

/c/ /a/ /t/ becomes cat.

Segmenting -  Segmenting is the process of breaking a word into its individual sounds.


Why is phonics the best method for teaching my child to read?

Phonics makes learning to read easier, simpler and crucially gets children reading quicker. This helps to increase a child's confidence and instil a love of reading from an early age. Rather than memorising 1,000's of words individually, children are instead taught a phonics ‘code’.


This code helps children work out how to read 95% of the English language.




Why is reading and learning to read so important?

Reading is one of the first things that children learn when they start school. It is the foundation of all education. When children can read, other subjects then become available to them and independent learning can begin. 

Reading doesn't only have educational benefits but social ones as well. Reading with your child can be one of the most exciting, memorable and special times for you as a parent. It is not everyday you can help teach your child a skill they will use every single day for the rest of their lives!


Learning to read also helps to instil confidence, independence and self belief that will massively help your child's all round development.





Letters and Sounds

At Lovers’ Lane, we follow Letters and Sounds, which is a government-produced phonic teaching programme. There are six phases in which the children are introduced to all 44 sounds and corresponding letter patterns (graphemes). The following sound mats are in the order of the sounds the children will learn them. 


The Phase 2 sounds will initially be learnt in Foundation 2.




The Phase 3 sounds will initially be learnt in Foundation 2. 




The Phase 5 sounds will be learnt in Foundation 2 and Year 1.




Finally your child will learn that sometimes a single (or more) letter may represent more than one sound; for example, the ‘o’ in /most/ and the ‘o’ in /hot/ or the ‘ow’ in /wow/ and the ‘ow’ in /tow/. Below are the sound fa with the different sound families on. 



This can be confusing but with the structure and regularity of letters and sounds almost all children will pick this up.

• It is not important to know all the jargon.
• It is important to know how to pronounce each of the sounds correctly.

Here are some useful videos to support your child in their Phonics

Mr Thorne Does Phonics Letter Sounds

Mr Thorne Does Phonics - Digraphs and Trigraphs