Phonics at the Discovery School

At The Discovery School we believe that learning to read and establishing a love of books is an essential part of being a literacy learner. Therefore we value the importance phonics has in the development of early reading and early writing.  We deliver high quality, phonics lessons within Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage One through the use of high quality and consistent resources. Children in Key Stage two continue to be supported with their phonics where necessary.  

Approaches to teaching phonics are reviewed and refreshed regularly in order to follow the needs of each cohort and class of children. However our objectives remain the same:

  • To have timetabled phonics lessons in Foundation Stage and Year One.

  • For all phonics lessons to follow the DfEs ‘Letters and Sounds,’ suggested framework

  • To assess regularly and group children for their appropriate phase of learning.

  • To develop a good knowledge of phonemes and graphemes.

  • To be able to blend phonemes to decode (read) a word.

  • To be able to segment and blend to be able to spell a word.

  • To be able to transfer the skills from phonics into everyday learning.

  • To be confident with segmenting and blending pseudo (alien / made up) words in preparation for the statutory Year One phonics screen.

The Six Phases of Letters and Sounds
Phase 1 – (Pre school and Foundation Stage)

The focus for this phase is getting children to tune into different sounds.  They will play games which allow them to identify sounds from the environment and also make different sounds with their voice. 

‘Sound talking’ is introduced.  Although the children do not see any written letters on the page they are taught to break simple words down into their component sounds and also put the sounds together to form a word. Eg:

Cat = c-a-t

Sheep = sh – ee- p

Rain = r-ai – n

Click = c-l-i-ck

When children can look at an object and say the sounds and put the sounds together to find an object they are ready for letters on the page.

Phase 2 – (Foundation Stage)

Children are introduced to 19 letter sounds and their actions.  They will read and write them in simple words but also in short sentences and captions.  The letter sounds will be taught in a specific order:

SET 1 – s, a, t, p

SET 2 – i, n, m, d

SET 3 – g, o, c, k

SET 4 – ck, e, u, r

SET 5 – h, b, f, ff, l, ll, ss

Sound pronounciation demonstration video: 

To support grapheme / phoneme correspondence sound buttons or dots are used under each word to act as a ‘doorbell’.  Children are encouraged to ‘press’ the button hear the sounds.   a Phoneme frames are also used (3 boxes side by side with one sound in each box)  For children who find pencil control an issue at this stage; magnetic letters can be used as an alternative.

Sound Buttons:       c      a      t                                  d     u     ck

                                .       .       .                                  .      .     ___

Phoneme frame:

c a t
d u ck


Phase 3 – (Foundation Stage and Year One)

Children are introduced to letter names (capital letters) at this point. Another 25 letter sounds are taught most of which comprise of two letter digraphs. Reading and writing at this point extends to 3 or 4 word sentences. Again letters are taught in order:

SET 6 – j, v, w, x

SET 7 – y, z, zz, qu

Consonant digraphs – ch, sh, th, ng

Vowel digraphs – ee, oo, ai, oa, ar, ow, oi, igh, air, ear, er, ur, ure

Phase 4 – (Foundation Stage and Year One)

Phase 4 is a consolidation of the previous 2 phases, therefore, no new sounds are introduced.  Words are extended in length.  Children begin to use consonant and vowel blends at the beginning and end of words such as cl, br, nt, mp 

Phase 5 – (Year One)

Phase 5 Introduces sound families and alternative pronunciations and spellings or sounds.  Sentences will be extended for children to read and write. 

Phase 5 Sound Family Poster 

Phase 6 – (Year Two)

Phase 6 consolidates all previous learning through letters and sounds, it is taught alongside Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar targets.  Children will explore different spelling patterns and rules.

Key Vocabulary Powerpoint

The Year One Phonics Screening Check 

It is a statutory requirement for children in Year One to be given a phonics screening.  This contains real and pseudo words.  It is designed to see if children have reached standard in phonics before Year Two.  The assessment is administered by class teachers, there is no time limit on the assessment.  The children will do practise screenings throughout the academic year so the set up will not be unfamiliar to them.  The standard mark is unknown each year.  It is only published once the Local Authority has scores from all schools. Due to lockdown in 2020, the current Year 2 will be taking a screening check in December 2021

Click below to see a sample extract from the phonics screen:

Extract from the phonics screen 

Guided Reading

Guided reading is a group reading activity that happens everyday across the school.  It is an opportunity for children to practise their decoding skills with the support of their peers and an adult.  We have recently purchased a new set of phonics based guided reading books that follow the same teaching sequence as our phonics curriculum.  This means that children will be able to access reading material that is matched to the learning they have undertaken in their phonics sessions.  Children will be able to read the books confidently without coming across sounds that they are yet to learn or cover.  

Great resources to have at home to support phonics


  • Giving children responsibility – shopping lists, notes for family members, cards and letters, diaries
  • Using paper and pens that look like the ones mummy and daddy use
  • Role play – cooking recipes, menus, signs on small world toys
  • Finger games – lacing, threading, tweezers with pasta and seeds
  • Playdough
  • Patterns and tracing
  • Writing in sand, flour or glitter
  • Anything that wipes clean to alleviate fear of getting it wrong
  • Magic writing – with water in a bucket and a paintbrush on the pavement.  Write a message and then watch it disappear
  • Shaving foam
  • Gloop (cornflour, food colouring and water)
  • Chalking
  • Chunky pencils, crayons and pen

Letter recognition and word building

  • Flashcards with letters and initial sound pictures
  • Alphabet posters
  • Magnetic letters and a baking tray
  • Foam bath letters
  • Magazines, picture books and school reading scheme books
  • A CVC bag  - a bag that contains objects such as a sock, pen, peg, rubber duck, hat (all objects that children can sound talk easily)

Click below for initial sound letter and picture cards:

Initial sound letter and picture cards 

Useful websites and online games

There are a number of useful websites and online games these can be found by simply google searching ‘phonic games for FS and Key Stage 1’.  They are particularly useful for helping children with reading both real and pseudo words.  There are also apps available for Iphone and Android again by searching ‘phonics’ in the app store.

Below is a list of just a few of the websites we would use in school: (literacy tab) (English 5 - 7, Letters and sounds) 

For further help and advice with Phonics at The Discovery School please email Mrs Latter on