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What is Phonics?

Phonics is an established coding system, used for the English language when learning to read.

A toadstool illustration
A toadstool illustration.


Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write. It helps children hear, identify and use different letter 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 (encoding).


Phonics involves matching the sounds of spoken English with individual letters or groups of letters. For example, the sound k can be expressed as c, k, ck or ch (coach, kit, mock, echo).


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 s, a, t,p, and i, they can start to read the words: sat, tap, pat, tip, pit etc.

When you first enter the world of phonics as a teacher new to Early Years  or as a parent supporting the learning process, you will soon realise that there is a fair amount of jargon! To break this down into understandable chunks with examples, we have created an e-book. 


Tricky Bits!

Anchor 1

Some sounds in words can be quite tricky to understand and pronounce. We'll walk you through the tricky bits right here:

Cherry illustration for the /ch/ phonics card.

'y' at the end of a word.

When you find the letter y at the end of a word it can have a long 'e' sound like cherry/berry or a long 'i' sound like fry/cry. You normally find the word ending in 'y'will have the long 'e' sound if it has two syllables ba-by / la-zy .

Star and Squiggle-01.png

Doubled Consonants

Our sets include 'zz'(Puzzle) , 'ss'(Chess) 'ff'(Muffin) and 'll'(Well) but there are more doubled consonants used in words that are slightly less common such as 'rr', 'bb' 'dd' 'pp' and 'gg'. They all sound the same as their single letter versions - not too tricky really! 


'le' and 'se' at the end of a word

Star and Squiggle-02.png
Star and Squiggle-02.png

Turtle ,thistle and puzzle pop up in our set two cards as example words, as well as horse, and we place a wiggle under the le/se. 'le' is known as consonant-le'; the 'e' element is silent and only the consonant and the 'l' that follows are heard. When decoding (sounding out), 'le' should be treated like the 'l'phoneme (sound) and 'se' like the 's' phoneme  or the 'z' phoneme depending on the word and your accent. 


The different 'ea' sounds.

In Set 2 we introduce the long 'e'vowel sound 'ea' alongside the word 'leaf'. This version of the 'ea' sound is the most common but the short 'e' vowel sound 'ea' as in treasure also crops up pretty frequently as does the long 'a' vowel sound in words like 'steak'.

Star and Squiggle-02.png
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