Learning to read with phonics

If your child is in the first year of primary school, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the word Phonics a few times!

Phonics is an essential part of learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and Key Stage One. It provides children with the necessary skills to decode or sight real words.

What is phonics?

Phonics is a method of learning to read and write words that is taught in primary school. It helps children hear, identify, and use different sounds that distinguish one word from another.

What is a phoneme?

A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a language. Have a look at the following image with all the phonemes used when speaking in English.

Phonics involves matching the sounds of spoken English with individual letters or groups of letters.

For example, the sound /k/ can be spelt as c, ck, k or ch.

Children will be taught from primary school the individual sounds of each letter of the alphabet. They will also start to put them together, to make short words such as dog, cat, zoo, etc.

They will be able to understand how to put the individual sounds of each word -phonemes- to create a fully comprehensive concept. This exercise is called blending sounds.

This means that instead of just learning the sound of a letter like it’s pronounced in the alphabet, they learn how to use it with words. For example, the letter /d/ is not ‘di’ but ‘ddd’.

What are the steps kids follow when learning phonics?


Children start recognising the sounds in the words. The aim is for kids to see a letter and then identify and say the sound it represents out loud. Once they know this, they will be able to know the sounds of a lot of other words, which will also help them to write these letters (encoding).

  • The first step will be decoding three-letter or CVC (Consonant, Vowel, Consonant) words. Cat, Dog, Man, Car.
  • Then they will move onto decoding CCVC or CVCC words, where two consonants are placed together in the same word. Fish, Plot, Flat, Milk.
  • Children are then introduced to vowel diagraph such as /ee/ or /ai/. Hair, Bees, Paint.

Also, to consonant diagraph such as /ph/ or /ch/. Photo, Chair.


Once they can decode the individual sounds of the word, they need to be able to put them together and say the whole word.

This is a big step, so don’t worry if it takes them time to get used to it.

Encoding, learning to spell as well as read

Encoding is the process of writing down a spoken word, known also as spelling. Children in this stage start to be able to write simple words correctly.

Learning through games

Our Pre-school children are so enthusiastic about letter sounds and letter formation using Jolly Phonics. We incorporate games such as silly soup and Binky Bunny into making phonics fun.

We inform parents at the beginning of each week as to what sound we are focussing on that week so that they can continue exploring the letter sound at home.

An excellent website for online resources is this one, where you will be able to find a lot of interactive games that children can play online from home, where they can further practise their phonic reading skills.

It is important for both the child and the adult that the reading process doesn’t get rushed.

Reading at home should be an enjoyable and positive experience!

If you need any other information about reading with phonics, or if you want to know how we implement it here at Scallywags nursery, get in touch!