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Foundation for Phonics


Throughout foundation for phonics children will:

  • develop their language structures;
  • increase their vocabulary;
  • begin to distinguish between sounds in words;
  • speak clearly and audibly;
  • become familiar with rhyme, rhythm and alliteration;
  • listen attentively;
  • explore and experiment with sounds and words;


Activities to support learning in foundation for phonics include:

  • storytelling;
  • singing songs;
  • listening to rhymes and repeating patterns and refrains;
  • playing alliterative games;
  • using creative language in role play, drama and dance;
  • identifying sounds in names, words in the environment etc.


The activities in this phase will help children to listen attentively to sounds around them, such as the sounds of their toys and to sounds in spoken language. Teachers teach a wide range of nursery rhymes and songs. They read good books to and with the children. This helps to increase the number of words they know – their vocabulary – and helps them talk confidently about books.


As the children move through foundations for phonics and become skilled listeners and can identify the initial sounds in words we move on to show the children how to sound talk whole words – c-a-t = cat.

The separate sounds (phonemes) are spoken aloud, in order, all through the word, and are then merged together into the whole word. The merging together is called blending and is a vital skill for reading.


Children will also learn to do this the other way around – cat = c-a-t. The whole word is spoken aloud and then broken up into its sounds (phonemes) in order, all through the word. This is called segmenting and is a vital skill for spelling.


This is all oral (spoken). Your child will not be expected to match the letter to the sound at this stage. The emphasis is on helping children to hear the separate sounds in words and to create spoken sounds.


Below you will find the seven aspects of Foundation for phonics with some simple activities that you can try at home.

Phase 2

In Phase 2, children begin to learn the sounds that letters make (phonemes). There are 44 sounds in all. Some are made with two letters, but in Phase 2, children focus on learning the 25 most common single letter sounds.


Although the order in which sounds are taught will depend on which scheme your child’s school follows, usually, they will learn the most commonly used phonemes first, starting with: /s/, /a/, /t/, /p/, /i/, /n/.


By the end of Phase 2 children should be able to read some vowel-consonant (VC) and consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words, and to spell them out. They also learn some high frequency ‘tricky words’ like ones identified below 




Phase 3

Phase 3 introduces children to the remaining, more difficult and/or less commonly used phonemes. There are around 25 of these, depending on which scheme is followed, mainly made up of two letters such as /ch/, /ar/, /ow/ and /ee/. They learn the names of the letters, as well as the sounds they make. Activities might include learning mnemonics (memory aids) for tricky words, practising writing letters on mini whiteboards, using word cards and singing songs like the Alphabet Song.


By the end of Phase 3, they should be able to say the sound made by most, or all, Phase 2 and 3 graphemes, blend and read CVC words made from these graphemes, read 12 new tricky words and write letters correctly when given an example to copy.




Phase 4

By now, children should be confident with each phoneme. In Phase 4 phonics, children will, among other things:

  • Practise reading and spelling CVCC words (‘such,’ ‘belt,’ ‘milk’ etc)
  • Practise reading and spelling high frequency words
  • Practise reading and writing sentences
  • Learn more tricky words, including ‘have,’ ‘like,’ ‘some,’ ‘little’


Children should now be blending confidently to work out new words. They should be starting to be able to read words straight off, rather than having to sound them out. They should also be able to write every letter, mostly correctly. This phase usually takes four to six weeks, and most children will complete it around the end of Reception. 

Phase 5

Phase 5 generally takes children the whole of Year 1. Children learn new graphemes (different ways of spelling each sound) and alternative pronunciations for these: for example, learning that the grapheme ‘ow’ makes a different sound in ‘snow’ and ‘cow’. 


They should become quicker at blending, and start to do it silently.


They learn about split digraphs such as the a-e in ‘name.’

They’ll start to choose the right graphemes when spelling, and will learn more tricky words, including ‘people,’ and ‘water’


By the end of Year 1, children should be able to:

  • Say the sound for any grapheme they are shown
  • Write the common graphemes for any given sound (e.g. ‘e,’ ‘ee,’ ‘ie,’ ‘ea’)
  • Use their phonics knowledge to read and spell unfamiliar words of up to three syllables
  • Read all of the 100 high frequency words, and be able to spell most of them
  • Form letters correctly



At the end of Year 1, all children are given a Phonics Screening Check to ensure they have mastered the appropriate knowledge.

Phonics Videos

Below is a link to our videos page where you can find recorded lessons that you can use for phonics.

Tricky Words


Tricky words are those words which cannot be sounded out correctly using the phonics sounds. The only way these words can be read and spelt correctly is by learning them and having plenty of practise.


They are called common exception words in the KS1 Spelling Curriculum.


Letters and Sounds sets out high-frequency words (including tricky words) to be taught within each phase.


When helping your child to learn to spell the tricky words you may decide to use the 'Look, Cover, Write and Check' method. This involves first looking at the word and identifying which part is tricky, covering the word, writing it and then checking the spelling.


When practising the spelling of tricky words aim to make it a fun, enjoyable activity, perhaps by writing the tricky words in sand, paint, shaving foam or glitter. Once your child has practised a few times in a less structured way, give them the opportunity to attempt to write the tricky word on coloured paper with pencil colours or felt tips.

Getting ready to read resources