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 Phonics (also known as ‘synthetic phonics’) is the teaching of reading by developing awareness of the sounds in words and the corresponding letters used to represent those sounds.

The Early Reading Framework (ERF) is a new, non-statutory guidance document released by the Department for Education (DfE) which examines best practice in early reading, and how you can give children the best start in reading.

It looks at core areas of reading: phonics, comprehension and reading for pleasure, and the importance of all three of these core areas in ensuring children are confident, fluent and competent readers.

Systematic synthetic phonics should be the sole strategy for teaching children to decode and read words. Schools choose a suitable systematic synthetic phonics programme to ensure books are at the right level for children, ensuring texts are a perfect match to children’s developing phonics knowledge to ensure that children can practise and feel confident in the grapheme-phoneme correspondences they have learned.



At St.Mary’s we use the Pearson Phonics Bug scheme of learning and corresponding phonetically decodable books.

 There are also resources and books that you can access from home. Your child has their own login and username.

Click here for a parents welcome letter

Click here for a user guide.

If you have lost your username/password then please contact the class teacher.


There are 6 main phases of phonics teaching and learning:




Reception / Year 1

Year 1

Year 2


When we teach the children phonics, we share and use the correct terminology with them. It is very common for adults to not know the meaning of some of the terms that we use. Here is a quick jargon buster, that will help! We ask that you use the same terminology with your children, when reading and working with them at home.


Pure Sounds – pronouncing the sounds of letters and combinations of letters correctly, for example not saying ‘muh’ but ‘mmmmm’. Avoid trying to say an ‘uh’ at the end of the sound.

Oral blending – hearing a series of sounds and merging them together to say the word, for example an adult says ‘b-u-s’ and the child says ‘bus’.

Blending – children see a word, say those individual sounds in the word and then merges those sounds together to hear the whole words like c-a-t makes ‘cat’. This is vital for reading.

Segmenting – the opposite to blending. Children break up the word into its component sounds. This is vital for spelling and writing words.

Phoneme – The smallest unit of sound. There are approximately 44 in the English language to learn.

Grapheme – the written form of a phoneme. They can be made up of different numbers of letters for example 1 letter – s, 2 letters – ai, 3 letters – igh.

Digraph – two letters that make one phoneme, for example oo, oa, ee

Trigraph – three letters that make one phoneme, for example ear, igh, air

Split digraph –you may know this as the’magic e’? It is when a digraph (ie) has been split and a consonant has been placed in the middle. The ‘ie’ is still making the sound despite a letter in the middle. There are five split digraphs to learn:

i_e like in time

a_e like in cake

o_e like in joke

e_e like in theme

u_e like in tube

Long vowel sound – The long vowel sound is the same as the name of the vowel itself. Follow these rules: 1. Long A sound is AY as in cake. 2. Long E sound is EE an in sheet. 3. Long I sound is AHY as in like. 4. Long O sound is OH as in bone. 5. Long U sound is YOO as in human or OO as in crude. Long vowel sounds are often created when two vowels appear side by side in a syllable

Short vowel sound - If a word contains only one vowel, and that vowel appears in the middle of the word, the vowel is usually pronounced as a short vowel. c-a-t, or th-u-n-d-er

Decoding/decodable – being able to ‘sound out’ the word into its component phonemes.

Syllable - Words are made up of different parts, these are called syllables. We often count syllables in a word by clapping the units of sound e.g. Christ-mas (2) hel-i-cop-ter (4) tin (1) cin-e-ma (3)

Polysyllabic – a word that is made up of more than one syllable.

Tricky words – there are words within each of the phonics phases that may not be decoded and sounded out. These words just need to be learnt by sight. Sometimes a tricky word taught within a phase can become a decodable word once your child moves up the phases, for example ‘out’ and ‘like’

High Frequency words – these are words that occur most often in books and stories. They can be both decodable or tricky words. Ideally children should be able to spell and read these words.


Non-words/Alien Words – Words that can be decoded but are made up and do not make sense. These words really test phonics skills. If a child has good phonic knowledge they will be able to decode both real and alien words.

Sound buttons – a button drawn or placed under each individual grapheme. Every time the button is pressed your child makes the sound and then blends all the sounds together to read the words. The word ‘cat’ would have three dot sounds buttons and ‘moon’ would also have three but the ‘oo’ would have a longer line button underneath.


CVC – Consonant, vowel, consonant. These can be simple three letter words like ‘mat’ but also the word ‘rain’ is a CVC word as the ‘ai’ is a vowel digraph in the middle. This is the same for words like moon, chain, sheet. The ‘ch’ and ‘sh’ are a consonant digraph and one sound. The word ‘boy’, for example, even though has 3 letters is not a CVC word as it only has two phonemes b-oy. This is the same for words like cow, tie, say. 

Phonetically Decodable Texts: A phonetically decodable text is a book that can be read using the individual pupil’s knowledge of the sounds that letters make. For example, if a pupil was learning the letter sounds s/a/t/p/i/n, the words that the pupil would encounter in the text would be made up of these letter sounds: sat, tap, pin, nip etc.



Multisensory learning:

It is really important that the children recognise and can play with these graphemes in different ways:

1 – Sight recognition in isolation e.g. oa = the sound oa as in boat.

2 – Recognition when segmenting. Segmenting is the process of separating a word into its individual letters and sounds e.g. sp-oo-n. Vital for spelling.

3 – Recognition when blending. Blending is the process of pushing the letters and sounds in words together, to read or hear the word e.g. h-au-n-t ---------haunt. Vital for reading.

4 – Choosing the correct grapheme to spell a word, when there is more than one possibility (known as alternative sounds) e.g. ay/ai/a-e/a. They all make the same sound!

5 – Knowing that some graphemes can make different sounds e.g. the grapheme ‘ea’ in b-r-ea-d actually makes a short ‘e’ vowel sound, whereas in g-l-ea-m, it makes a long ‘e’ vowel sound.


Tricky Words:

These are words that the children should be able to read (and ideally spell) by the end of each phase. They are called tricky words as they can not all be sounded out.


Websites that can also be used to support learning: (Brilliant practical ideas for easy games and activities to engage learners. She’s on Facebook and Instagram)