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 highly effective phonics lessons within Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage One via daily lessons, supported by good quality, consistent resources. Children in Key Stage Two continue to be supported with their basic acquisition of phonics where necessary. Phonics is also used to teach spelling in Key Stage One and Key Stage Two.

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, daily phonics lessons in Foundation Stage, Year One and Year Two.

· 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, particularly writing and spelling.

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

From the Spring Term 2022, the Department for Education is recommending that all schools use a validated phonics scheme to teach phonics. In our school, we are using Fischer Family Trust "Success for All Phonics" in EYFS and making the transition to this scheme in Year One and Two.

The Phases of Phonics
Pre Phonics – (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, also called 'say it fast' and 'break it down'.  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.

 Steps 1 to 8 – (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

SET 6 - j, v, w

SET 7 - x, y, z 

Children will also learn letter names by singing an alphabet chant.

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


Steps 9 - 36 – (Foundation Stage)

More letter sounds are taught most of which comprise of two letter digraphs or 3 letter trigraphs. Reading and writing at this point extends to 3 or 4 word sentences. Again letters are taught in order:


Consonant digraphs – zz, qu, ch, sh, th, ng

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

Click here for a glossary of definitions of phonic terms from Success for All phonics

Steps 33 - 44 – (Year One)

These steps focus on alternative spellings and pronunciations, introducing the sounds listed below:

ay, ou, ie, ea, oy, ir, ue, aw, ew 

Steps 45 - 56 – (Year One)

Sounds can be grouped into families and alternative pronunciations and spellings or sounds.  Sentences will be extended for children to read and write. 

New sounds include:

a-e, e-e, i-e, o-e, u-e, -y, ow, soft c, soft g

Steps 57 - 68 – (Year One)

The last steps provide consolidation to all previous learning through Success for All phonics, it is taught alongside Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar targets.  Children will explore different spelling patterns and rules.

The last groups of letters to be covered are: ire, are, tch, oe, ph

Click here for pronunciation videos for the sounds from Success for All phonics

The Key Stage One Phonics Screening Check 

It is a statutory requirement for children in Year One and in some cases Year Two to be given a phonics screening.  This contains real and pseudo words.  It is designed to see if children have reached a 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 2021, the current Year 2 will be taking a screening check in December 2021. The current Year 1 screening will take place during the week of the 6th June 2022.

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

Extract from the phonics screen 

Our Reading Scheme 

We have made significant investment in a variety of reading schemes to encourage the children to access a range of texts suited to their own personal interests, whilst also extending their reading ability and confidence. The scheme the school mainly follows is ‘Collins Big Cat’ Individual Reading Scheme, but also supplemented with additional books from other schemes (Oxford Reading Tree, Rigby Star and Project X) in order to ensure any areas of weakness within the scheme are catered for. All Individual Reading Scheme books are kept in levelled colour coded boxes in our library. We have decodable and non-decodable books which link to the phonics scheme which we follow (See Phonics Policy). We believe having a consistent reading scheme supports us to assess the children’s reading abilities and enable them to progress and show evidence of progression through the book levels. Our guided reading books match up to the organisation in which reading skills are taught in our phonics lessons. At our school we understand the importance of inclusion and differentiation, so we ensure we have a range of books which suit the needs of children with SEN or children who are reluctant readers.

We subscribe to Reading Eggs for KS1 children and Bug Club for years 1-4.  Reading Eggs covers five components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, reading comprehension and fluency. The programme covers one to one lessons, which match each individual child’s ability. It includes fun characters, animations and songs which can all be accessed from home.

We have access to our 'Fischer Family Trust Success for All' online reading library.  Access to this will be shared with parents through children's reading records.

In Upper KS2 (Years 5 and 6) we use the ‘Reading Plus’ programme. Reading Plus is an online platform for children to use in school and at home. The programme assesses the children’s reading fluency and comprehension, then tailors the texts, reading speed and questioning to the individual. 

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.  In EYFS and Key Stage One, Fischer Family Trust Success for All phonics provide us with a set of 68 decodable books.  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.  

Click here to take a look at an example shared reading text

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 here to access our Success for All phonic flashcards

Below is an example of the sound mats that we use in class:



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:

Success for All phonics - homepage

Success for All phonics - Parent portal (literacy tab) (English 5 - 7, Letters and sounds) 

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