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Phonics Phase Guide

How do children learn to read and write in English? Primary school children in the UK build up an inventory of sounds, also known as phonemes, and spellings of these sounds, also known as graphemes.

Below is a guide of the typical step-by-step progression that children make on their literacy journey.

Approx age: 3–4 | Nursery/Reception
Phase 1 supports children’s developing speaking and listening skills and linking of sounds and letters. Activities are divided into seven groups:

  • Environmental sounds.

  • Instrumental sounds.

  • Body percussion.

  • Rhythm and rhyme.

  • Alliteration.

  • Voice sounds.

  • Oral blending and segmenting.

Children should be encouraged to enjoy books from as early an age as possible. However, the focus of this phase is on listening to and repeating sounds, rather than on directly reading words.

Approx age: 3–4 | Nursery/Reception
Phase 1 supports children’s developing speaking and listening skills and linking of sounds and letters. Activities are divided into seven groups:

  • Environmental sounds.

  • Instrumental sounds.

  • Body percussion.

  • Rhythm and rhyme.

  • Alliteration.

  • Voice sounds.

  • Oral blending and segmenting.

Children should be encouraged to enjoy books from as early an age as possible. However, the focus of this phase is on listening to and repeating sounds, rather than on directly reading words.

Approx age: 4–5 | First term of Reception
Phase 2 introduces simple letter-sound correspondences. As each set of letters is introduced, children are encouraged to use their new knowledge to sound out and blend words. For example, they will learn to blend the sounds s–a–t to make the word "sat".

phase2 - set3.jpg

Approx. age: 4–5 | Reception
In Phase 3, children build on the letter-sound correspondences learned in Phase 2. They learn consonant digraphs (sounds made up of two letters together such as "ch" or "ll") and long vowel sounds (such as "igh" or "ai").

phase3 - set6.jpg
phase3 - set7.jpg