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Phonics at John Fletcher of Madeley Primary School

At John Fletcher of Madeley Primary School we follow the Letters and Sounds programme and supplement this with Jolly Phonics. We teach letter sounds in a way that is fun and multi-sensory. Children learn how to use the letter sounds to read and write words.

Parental support is important to all children as they benefit from plenty of praise and encouragement whilst learning. If interest is being lost leave the teaching for a while and then come back to it later. Not all children find it easy to learn and blend sounds. Extra practice will lead to fluency in reading and help your child in school.

Learning the letter sounds

During our Letters and Sounds sessions the 42 main sounds in English are taught, not just the alphabet. The sounds are in seven groups. Some sounds are written as two letters, such as ee and or. These are called digraphs. “oo” and “th” can each make two different sounds, as in book and moon, that and three.

  1. s a t i p n
  2. c k e h r m d
  3. g o u l f b
  4. ai j oa ie ee or
  5. z w ng v oo oo
  6. y x ch sh th th
  7. qu ou oi ue er ar

Each sound has an action which helps the children remember the letter(s) that represent it. As a child becomes more confident, the actions are no longer necessary. There is a list of all the letter sounds and their corresponding actions under the 'Jolly Phonics Actions' article or click here.

Children should learn each letter by its sound. For example, the letter a should be called a (as in ant) and not ai (as in aim). Similarly, the letter n should be nn (as in net), not en. This will help in blending. The names of the letters will follow later. The letters are not introduced in alphabetical order. The first group (s, a, t, i, p, n) has been chosen because they make more simple three letter words than any other six letters. The letters b and d are introduced in different groups to avoid confusion. Sounds that have more than one way of being written are initially taught in one form only. For example, the sound ai (rain) is taught first, and then alternative a-e (gate) and ay (day) follow later.

Blending

Blending is the process of saying the individual sounds in a word and then running them together to make a word. For example, sounding out d-o-g and making dog. It is a technique every child will need to learn, and it improves with practise. To start with you should sound out the word and see if a child can hear it, giving the answer if necessary. Some children take longer than others to hear this. The sounds must be said quickly to hear the word. It is easier if the first sound is said slightly louder. Try little and often with words like b-u-s, t-o-p, c-a-t, and h-e-n. Remember that some sounds (digraphs) are represented with two letters, such as sh. Children should sound out the digraph (sh), not the individual letters (s-h). With practise they will be able to blend the digraph as one sound in a word. So, a word like rain should be sounded out r-ai-n, and feet as f-ee-t. This is difficult to begin with and takes practise. You will find it helpful to be able to distinguish between a blend (such as st) and a digraph (such as sh). In a blend the two sounds s and t can each be heard. In a digraph this is not so. When sounding out a blend, encourage children to say the two sounds as one unit, so fl-a-g not f-l-a-g. This will lead to greater fluency when reading. Some words in English have an irregular spelling and cannot be read by blending, such as said, was and one. Unfortunately, many of these are common words. The irregular parts have to be remembered. These words are called ‘tricky words’.

Identifying sounds in words

The easiest way to know how to spell a word is to listen for the sounds in that word. Even with tricky words an understanding of letter sounds can help. Start by having your child listen for the first sound in a word. Games like I-Spy are ideal for this. Next try listening for the end sounds, as the middle sound of a word is the hardest to hear. Begin with simple three-letter words such as cat or hot. A good idea is to say a word and tap out the sounds. Three taps means three sounds. Say each sound as you tap. Take care with digraphs. The word fish, for example, has four letters but only three sounds, f-i-sh. Rhyming games and poems also help tune the ears to the sounds in words.