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What is phonics?

The National Literacy Trust says phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write. It helps children hear, identify and use different sounds that distinguish one word from another in the English language.

Written language can be compared to a code, so knowing the sounds of individual letters and how those letters sound when they’re combined will help children decode words as they read. Understanding phonics will also help children know which letters to use when they are writing words. Phonics involves matching the sounds of spoken English with individual letters or groups of letters. For example, the sound k can be spelled as c, k, ck or ch. Teaching children to blend the sounds of letters together helps them decode unfamiliar or unknown words by sounding them out. For example, when a child is taught the sounds for the letters tpa and s, they can start to build up the words: “tap”, “taps”, “pat”, “pats” and “sat”.


How do we teach phonics at MPPS?

Introducing young children to the joy and wonder of books requires a systematic teaching of phonics.  The approach recommended by the DfE is ‘systematic synthetic phonics’ in which phonemes (sounds) associated with particular graphemes (letters) are pronounced in isolation and blended together (synthesised). For example, children are taught to take a single-syllable word such as cat apart into its three letters, pronounce a phoneme for each letter in turn and blend the phonemes together to form a word. At MPPS, we use the Collins Big Cat Song of Sounds to support our phonics teaching. Click the links below to hear them on YouTube.

Song of Sounds Stage 1   Song of Sounds Stage 2   Song of Sounds Stage 3

From Reception to Year 2 the children have a daily Song of Sounds phonics lesson. They match these sounds with a phonetically decodable reading book to consolidate their learning for that week.  Where children have gaps in their phonic knowledge, they receive additional phonics sessions. 

A lesson will include a recap of their previously learnt sounds or spelling rules (year 2), the teaching of a new sound or rule, practise sound talking and blending words that contain the new sound, practising writing the new grapheme (letters which make the sound) on its own or as part of a word, and practise applying the sound, as a sentence, or in a game.  The children also learn to read and write “tricky words” in their phonics lessons: words that are not phonetically decodable. This means that their graphemes (letters), don’t make the sound that we would expect, such as the, no, here and said.

How do we assess phonics at MPPS?

We are constantly formatively assessing the children in phonics, so that we can close any gaps as they arise. Early identification of any barriers to learning phonics is key to ensuring children learn to read fluently and confidently by the time they leave school. 

Every half term children will have an assessment on the sounds they have been taught, and this will inform their next half term’s learning.

In Year 1 the children take part in the national Phonics Screening Check, which uses nonsense words and real words to assess children’s knowledge of the 44 different sounds that make up most words. The children usually enjoy doing this and don’t find it worrying.


Do we teach phonics in KS2?

When a child reaches year 3, we expect them to be confident in using the phonics that they have been previously taught to read most words. However, when this is not the case the children receive continuing phonics tuition either as a small group or class. All children up to year 6 have access to Song of Sounds sound mats which have all of their taught sounds on and reference will be made to them during spelling lessons and in their writing, to support children’s spelling.