What is phonics?

Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skilfully. They are taught how to recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes, identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make - such as ‘sh’ or ‘oo’; and blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word.

Download the video below to hear how these sounds are pronounced:

Phonics Pronounciation

Children can then use this knowledge to ‘de-code’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read.

Why phonics?

Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way - starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. 

Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment.

Children who have been taught phonics also tend to read more accurately than those taught using other methods, such as ‘look and say’. This includes children who find learning to read difficult, for example those who have dyslexia.

If you would like to find out more about phonics, visit: 

Government advice on phonics

Why is reading so important?

Reading is a vital skill for all children to learn. It allows them to access information needed in all areas of the curriculum at school, helping them to achieve in all subjects. Reading is also a lifelong skill which the children will use in their everyday lives, opening up the doorway to learning and exploring the world in which we live. It increases confidence and is enjoyable. Here at Mount Hawke Academy, we believe that helping children to make progress in their reading is most successful when done in partnership between home and school.

How do we teach children to read?

Children read texts which are at a suitable level for their ability. They should be challenged in their reading, but the book should not be too difficult. Each book is carefully Book Banded. The Bands correspond to National Curriculum stages. Children choose a book from the Band that is matched to their reading needs.

In order for children to become independent readers they need to develop the following skills:

  • Accuracy – children can ‘decode’ words they are reading without interrupting the flow. This is why we use phonics to teach children to read.
  • Understanding – children who can draw meaning from the content of what they read.
  • Fluency – children who can read at a comfortable speed with appropriate expression and punctuation.


At Mount Hawke Academy, we strongly promote the use of ‘phonics’ as the primary method of teaching when children first learn to read. For children to be able to decode new and unfamiliar words and read them accurately they need to be able to segment and blend the phonemes (sounds) in the words. These skills are taught in sessions daily in Reception and Key Stage 1.  We base our teaching on ‘Letters and Sounds’, a phonics resource published by the Department for Education.

There are six overlapping phases. The table below is a summary:


Phonic Knowledge and Skills

Phase One (Pre-School)

Activities are divided into seven aspects, including environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body sounds, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and finally oral blending and segmenting.

Phase Two

Learning 19 letters of the alphabet and one sound for each. Blending sounds together to make words. Segmenting words into their separate sounds. Beginning to read simple captions.

Phase Three

The 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. Reading captions, sentences and questions. On completion of this phase, children will have learnt the "simple code", i.e. one grapheme for each phoneme in the English language.

Phase Four

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.

Phase Five

Now we move on to the "complex code". Children learn more graphemes for the phonemes which they already know, plus different ways of pronouncing the graphemes they already know.

Phase Six

Working on spelling, including prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters, etc.

 And remember, please talk to your child’s teacher if you would like to find out more.

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