Jelly and Bean

Starting with Phonics

When children learn to talk they pay attention to the meaning of the words they hear and say. They do not pay attention to the sounds in words. This is because speech is a continuous stream of ever changing sound and the rate of change in a normal conversation is too fast to take notice of any specific sounds within the words.

When the inventors of alphabetic writing decided to make symbols to correspond to sounds, they had to do two things: invent the symbols and identify the sounds.

To identify the sounds they had to listen to the speech of many, many people in their community. All these people had different voices, and the sounds they made as they said their words were not the same from person to person. However, the inventors of written language could identify the sounds which changed the meaning of the spoken words, e.g. 'o' is a different sound to 'i' in the words 'dog' and 'dig.' These sound classifications, which also depended on accent and dialect, relating to the meaning of words could be put into categories. These categories of sounds are called 'phonemes' and the symbols that match them are called 'graphemes'.

When they learn to read and write children have to learn about these sounds (phonemes) and their corresponding symbols (graphemes). The UK government's programme Letters and Sounds has this process of learning letters and sounds broken down into phases so that children experience a systematic approach to learning about them.

Phase 1:

This relates to children listening and speaking in such a way that they learn to identify the sounds in the words they hear and say. There are no books for this phase.

Phase 2:

Children learn to identify the 19 most common letters of the English alphabet and a sound that corresponds to each.  They learn the letter/sound correspondences for these letters. C = consonant: 'b, c, d, f, g, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t'.  V = vowel: 'a, e, i, o, u'.

Phase 3:

Children learn the rest of the letter/sound correspondences for the single letters of the alphabet: 'j, q, v, w, x, y, z',

and the consonant letter/sound correspondences (digraphs): 'th, sh, ch, ck, ng', (where two consonant letters represent one sound).

and one vowel digraph or trigraph for each of the other vowel sounds of English: 'ay, ee, ie, oa, oo, ow, ar, er, or, ur, oi, oo' (digraphs) 'air, ear, ure' (trigraphs).

Phase 4:

This phase relates to the clusters of consonants at the beginning of English words: e.g. 'bl, fl, cr, pr, sp, st' in words like  'blog, flag, crab, pram, spot, stop'.

and the clusters of consonants at the end of English words: e.g. 'mp, nd, st, nt, sk' in the words like  'jump, hand, fast, tent, ask'

Phase 5:

Children learn that there are other ways to pronounce the letters they see in words: e.g. 'a' is pronounced differently in the words 'cat, lady, father, fall, was'.

They also learn that some words have different letter spellings for the same sounds: e.g. /oa/ in 'boat, show, gold, toe' and /ie/ in 'find, night, fly, time, cried'.

The categories for our books on the left hand side of the Product page begin with the easiest books for Phase 2 and progress down through the Phases 3, 4 and 5.

The phonic knowledge in these phases is taught in the Reception Year and Year 1 in schools in England.

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