Our reading scheme begins with very simple picture books containing an illustration and a few words on each page.
Each illustration is closely related to the words on the page so that the meaning of each word is clear.
When teachers are sure that the words are in the child's spoken vocabulary, they may go on to split (segment) each word in three different ways to demonstrate how the letters relate to the sounds in the word.
1. Teachers may begin by segmenting each written word into ‘onset and rime’ e.g. 'c-at, m-at, h-at, b-at, r-at, h-en, d-og, b-ig, b-ox'. By splitting words in this manner, children are able to pick out the initial sound of a word and notice how this sound corresponds to a letter. They can also pick out the rhyming ending of the words.
2. The easiest way to split a word so that it is spoken as naturally as possible, is into ‘body and coda’, e.g. 'ca-t, ma-t, ha-t, ba-t, ra-t, he-n, do-g, bi-g, bo-x'. It is easier for children to split spoken words in this manner, because humans speak in syllables which always contain a vowel sound.
3. Teachers may also split each word into ‘phonemes’, where each letter can be seen to correspond to a sound within the word, , e.g. 'c-a-t, m-a-t, h-a-t, b-a-t, r-a-t, h-e-n, d-o-g, b-i-g, b-o-x'. In this way children can see how the letters and sounds match each other.
At the same time children may be taught how to write the letters.
While children are practising writing each letter, they are internalising its corresponding sound, either vocally out loud, or silently to themselves. (This is phonics - letter/sound correspondences)
Most importantly, children should also write the whole word by writing the letters in the correct order from left to right.
In this way children learn how to spell the word. Their visual memory for the letters and the order in which they appear in the word grows at the same time as their memory for the sounds in the word.
While children are going through the above process and learning how simple regular CVC words are written, they are learning how sounds correspond to letters, how to write the letters and how to write whole words.
But most of the common words in English are not phonically regular words. When children begin to learn common irregular words, it is important that they learn how to say, write and spell the whole word explicitly.
They will notice that each letter does not always correspond to a specific sound. These words have to be learnt by visually remembering their spelling patterns and the sound of the whole word, as well as the sound of each letter, or group of letters, e.g. the, to, go, no, me, you, she, they.
It is not until children come to learn to read and write that they need to be aware of the sounds within words.
In our reading scheme the letters of the alphabet are first introduced in phonically regular three-letter CVC words, (consonant-vowel-consonant).
The first letters introduced in Starter Book A are:
Story 1. 'a, c, t, h, m, o, n' in the words 'cat, hat, mat, a, on'.
Story 2. 'b, i, g, x' in the words 'big, box, in'.
Story 3. 'd, l, f, r' in the words 'dog, log, frog, and'.
Story 4. 'e, u, s' in the words 'bed, mud, rug, cats, the'.
Starter Book B reinforces Starter Book A and uses more CVC words at the appropriate places.
The letters are introduced in the following order:
Story 1. 'm, a, n, o, c, t, h' in the words 'cat, hat, mat, man, cot, hot, on, a
Story 2. 'b, i, x, d' in the words 'bat, bin, tin, bin, box, in, and'.
Story 3. 'g, s' in the words 'dog, mad, sad, bad'.
Story 4. 'p, u, e' in the words 'pan, hop, cup, mug, nut, bug, the'.
The letters 'f, l, r' are not used.
The book Tom and Bella Pink Stories also has four stories to reinforce the above work. The letters are introduced in the following order:
Story 1. 't, o, m, a, c, d, g, n, s'
Story 2. 'b, i, f'
Story 3. 'e, l, r'
Story 4. 'p, u, h'.
These three books make up our Pink Book Band for Phonic Phase 2.
The high-frequency words a, on, in, and, the are used to join the CVC words in phrases.
We do not introduce sentences and capital letters initially, other than in the names Tom and Bella, so that children learn lower case letters first and they do not have to deal with punctuation.
In our books for the Red Book Band we begin by introducing the remaining letters of the alphabet, except 'q'.
These are 'j, k, v, w, y, z'.
High-frequency words, not of the form CVC, are introduced at this stage. These words are I, the, see, to, go, off, is. These words are essential joining words necessary to write complete sentences and most of them are classed as 'tricky' words.
The characters Jelly, Bean, Lotty, Wellington and Kevin are also introduced in 8 stories in Series A Set 1 and Series B Set 1. Complete sentences with punctuation are now used.
Words with adjacent consonants at their beginning or end are also used. They are used consistently throughout our reading scheme because it is impossible to write stories in natural language without them.
The 4 stories in Tom and Bella Red Stories 1 also reinforce the use of the letters j, k, v, w, y, z.
We then go on to introduce words containing consonant digraphs in 8 stories in Series A Set 2 and Tom and Bella Red Stories 2. A consonant digraph is two letters written together to represent one consonant sound.
The consonant digraphs we introduce are 'ck, ng, th, sh, ch'.
We then go on to introduce vowel digraphs and trigraphs. The vowel digraphs and trigraphs we introduce are ee, ai, oo, oa, er, ar, or, oo, ow, ur, oi, igh, air, ear, ay, ea.
We introduce them in 16 stories in 4 books in Vowels Sounds Sets 1, 2, 3, 4 at the rate of one new grapheme in each story.
We also introduce the high-frequency words me, my, he, we, she, you, her, are, oh, no, by, they, into, all, very, have at this stage.
The 4 stories in Series B Set 2 reinforce some of these consonant digraphs and vowel digraphs.
Consonant digraphs and some of these vowel digraphs are consolidated in the 16 stories in the 4 books Rhyming CVC Stories, Tom and Bella Yellow Stories and Consolidation Stories Sets 1 and 2.
More high-frequency words are introduced including they, all, come, so, goes, one, when, do, water.
These 4 books make up our Yellow Book Band.
Words with other vowel and consonant graphemes are used in our books for the Blue Book Band.
The vowel digraphs ir, oy and the consonant digraphs wh, ph, dge, tch are introduced in the 14 stories in 4 books in our Blue Book Band as well as alternative pronunciations of the letter a, i, o, g.
The books are Alfie and Harpo Stories Sets 1 and 2, Consolidation Stories Set 3 and Tom and Bella Blue Stories.
More high-frequency words introduced at this stage include two, want, some, there, where, here, called.
In the Green Book Band we introduce stories about Follifoot Farm. There are two books, each having 3 stories, describing events on the farm. These books are Follifoot Farm Stories Sets 1 and 2.
There is one complete story of 48 pages told in six chapters entitled The Cats Who Fell Out of the Car.
Then we introduce text written in the past tense, with another picture story chapter book of 60 pages, Alfie's Big Adventure.
The split vowel digraphs a-e, i-e, o-e, and soft 'c' (place) are used in the stories for this band.
New high-frequency words introduced at this stage include what, through, their, was, were, said, came.
The books in the Orange Book Band introduce more vowel spellings. There are ow (snow), ew (flew), ue (blue), u-e (tube, June), au (autumn), aw (frogspawn), ea (heavy), ear (bear), (ear) early.
These are introduced in 4 books, each containing 3 stories. These are English Vowels Stories Sets 1, 2, 3, 4.
The stories are written in the past tense. The verbs used include was, were, said, could, heard, thought, caught. All three pronunciations of ed are used in verbs such as wanted, jumped, lined.
All the vowel spellings to be taught to pupils in Year 1 of the National Curriculum are included.
The vocabulary in all our books is especially made up of common words that we hope children have already met in their spoken language. There is no intention to include uncommon words to expand children's vocabulary at this time.
The aim of the scheme is to help children turn the words they know from speaking and listening into a written form so that they get over the first hurdle on the road to becoming literate.
The multiple letter/sound correspondences of English make it a difficult language to learn to read and write. It is said to have a 'deep orthography', i.e. many spelling/sound correspondences are found in the written words.
Here are two charts that show the 'deep orthography' of written English.
This first chart is arranged by sounds - phonemes - and it shows the graphemes - spelling variations - of these phonemes in real words.
/e/ bed, head, said, many
/i/ pin, crystal, business, pretty, build, money, happy* (*depending on accent)
/o/ hot, sausage, was, yacht, squash, because
/u/ up, could, wood, does
/ae/ baby, rain, play, gate, steak, vein, ballet, weigh, reign, they
/ee/ see, me, these, leaf, pony, field, protein, radio, key, machine, happy* (* depending on accent )
/ie/ my, pie, high, like, find, I, eye, goodbye, type
/oe/ toe, go, toad, glow, bone, folk, though
/ue/ blue, moon, flew, soup, fruit, to, move, shoe
/yoo/ rescue, new, use, music, beauty, you,
/ar/ farm, half, father, heart
/er/* the, dinner, tractor, nectar, murmur, centre, colour, picture, thorough, button, listen, about, triangle, pizza (*schwa)
/ur/ were, kerb, girl, curl, heard, worm, journey
/or/ for, saw, autumn, fall, warm, thought, caught, walk
/ow/ down, out, drought
/oo/ look, put, some, mother, love, young
/oi/ soil, royal
/ear/ near, here, deer, pier
/air/ hair, bear, stare, there, their
/ure/ pure, your,
/b/ bat, rabbit
/d/ dog, add, crowned
/f/ fun, off, cough, phonic
/g/ got, egg, ghost, guard, league
/h/ hat, whole
/j/ jet, edge, orange, giant
/k/ cat, kitten, chemist, black, plaque, biscuit
/l/ leg, doll
/m/ man, summer, lamb, some, autumn, salmon
/n/ not, annex, know, gnome, engine
/p/ peg, puppet
/r/ rat, lorry, write, rhyme
/s/ sun, mess, city, scent, dance, castle
/t/ top, letter, two, debt, thyme
/v/ van, of, have
/w/ will, one, when, penguin
/z/ zebra, his, cheese, freeze, scissors, xylophone
/sh/ ship, chef, sure, special, station, admission
/ch/ chip, picture, tune, cello
/th/ them, breathe
/zh/ vision, treasure, beige.
The second chart is arranged by letters - graphemes. It shows words with different pronunciations of the letters/graphemes.
1. Single letters and their pronunciations
a cat, baby, father, was, any, again, ball, water, metal - and in many words with vowel graphemes e.g. sea, road, haul, raw, because, etc
b bat, lamb, debt
c cat, city, - and in words with consonant digraphs, e.g. rich, machine.
d dog, jumped, ledge
e the, he, bed, debut, filled, where, elephant, - and in many words with vowel graphemes e.g. her, leaf, goes, field, pure, stare, news, etc.
f off, of
g got, giraffe, cough, through, gnome, thought
h hot, - and in words with consonant digraphs, e.g. chop, shop, phonic, them, thin
i in, sign, fruit, friend, business - and in many words with vowel graphemes e.g. girl, rain, cries, chief, soil, etc.
k kitten, knee
l lip, half, could, salmon, walk
n not, autumn
o hot, one, to, go, crocodile - and many words with vowel graphemes, e.g. out, down, storm, boat, toe, shoe, toy, boil, good, look etc.
p pan, pneumonia, pterodactyl, psychology, phonic
q queen, cheque
r run, iron, girl
s is, sun, island, sugar - and words with consonant digraphs e.g. sh in ship
t top, castle, ballet, listen - and in words with consonant digraphs in e.g. think, them
u but, put, build, guard, busy, music - and in many words with vowel graphemes, e.g. out, autumn, turn, soup, thought, though
w was, whole, sword, written - and in many words with vowel graphemes e.g. down, saw, few, flew
x box, exam
y my, mummy, gym, yes
ed jumped, wanted, scared
2. Digraphs, trigraphs, adjacent letters and their pronunciations
ai rain, said
a-e came, have, camel
ea leaf, head, steak, create
e-e these, never, there, here, eye
ey they, key, honey
ie pie, field, diet, friend
i-e like, give, police, swivel
oa toad, broad, oasis
o-e stone, love, move, grovel
oe toe, shoe, does, poet
oo took, moon, cooperate
u-e rule, use, cure
ue true, rescue, tongue
ew flew, new, reward, sew
ow down, show, towards
ou out, soup, cough, thought ,through
ar farm, warm, nectar, parallel
er her, butter, very
ir girl, pirate, giraffe
or storm, worm, borrow, doctor, forest
ur burn, bury, during
oi soil, going,
al ball, shall, half, false
au autumn, sausage, laugh
aw dawn, aware
ey key, they
oy boy, yoyo
igh high, straight,
are stare, are
ear near, bear, heard, heart
ure pure, picture, burette
our pour, hour, colour
sh ship, mishap
ch chip, chemist, machine, yacht
th this, think, Thomas
ng bang, mango, angel
wh when, whole
ph phonic, haphazard
It can be seen that when these letter combinations appear in separate syllables within words they are not digraphs at all e.g. diet, oasis, create, grovel, poet, camel, angel, mango, mishap, forest, yoyo, aware, going, during, borrow, mirror, reward, towards.
They are letters either side of the syllable boundaries, e.g. 'diet' has two syllables di-et, 'forest' has two syllables fo-rest, 'mango' has two syllables man-go, 'oasis' has three syllables o-a-sis and 'haphazard' has three syllables hap-haz-ard.
These lists are not exhaustive and entire. The book Dictionary of the British English Spelling System by Greg Brooks (2015) lists them all.