St Joseph's Catholic Infant School

St Joseph's Catholic Infant School


Phonics at St Joseph’s

At St Joseph’s we recognise how important reading is.

A first step in learning to read is to know your sounds. We teach sounds through a system of synthetic phonics based mainly on the Letters and Sounds programme.

There are six phases that the children progress through in order to become familiar with the sounds (phonemes) and the way these are written (graphemes).

Phase 1 (nursery/reception)

Activities are divided into seven aspects, including environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body sounds, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and finally oral blending and segmenting.

Phase 2 (reception)

Learning 19 letters of the alphabet and one sound for each. Blending sounds together to make words. Segmenting words into their separate sounds. Beginning to read simple captions

Phase 3 (reception)

Learning the remaining 7 letters of the alphabet, one sound for each. Graphemes such as ch, oo, th representing the remaining phonemes not covered by single letters. Reading captions, sentences and questions. On completion of this phase, children will have learnt the "simple code", i.e. one grapheme for each phoneme in the English language.

Phase 4 (reception/Year 1)

No new grapheme-phoneme correspondences are taught in this phase. Children learn to blend and segment longer words with adjacent consonants, e.g. swim, clap, jump.

Phase 5 (Year 1)

Now we move on to the "complex code". Children learn more graphemes for the phonemes which they already know, plus different ways of pronouncing the graphemes they already know.

Phase 6 (year 2 and beyond)

Working on spelling, including prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters etc.


The Year 1 Phonics Screening Check

The phonics screening check is a short, light-touch assessment to confirm whether individual children have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard.

It will identify the children who need extra help so they are given support to improve their reading skills. They will then be able to retake the check so that we can track children until they are able to decode. This is undertaken in all state schools in Year 1 and for children in year 2 who did not meet the year 1 standard. It is administered internally by teachers.

The phonics screening check is a short and simple assessment of phonic decoding. It consists of a list of 40 words, half real words and half non-words, which Year 1 children read to a teacher. Administering the assessment usually takes between four and nine minutes per child.

Non-words (made up words) are included because they will be new to all children, so there won’t be a bias to those with a good vocabulary knowledge or visual memory of words. Children who can read non-words should have the skills to decode almost any unfamiliar word. The non-words are presented alongside a picture of an imaginary creature, and children can be told the non-word is the name of that type of creature. This helps children to understand the non-word should not be matched to their existing vocabulary. Examples of words include:   star, shelf. Examples of non-words include:e    dov, vead.

The threshold in 2012 was 32 words out of 40 (80%) and is likely to be similar in future years.

All children need to be able to identify sounds associated with different letters, and letter combinations, and then blend these sounds together to correctly say the word on the page. The same skill is needed whether the word is a real word or a non-word.

The words gradually get harder through the check as the combinations of letters become more complicated. As long as the child has said 32 out of the 40 words correctly, they will be considered to have met the standard.

Children should not realise that they are being formally assessed. The check should be seen as part of their everyday phonics activities and not as a test. The international phonetic alphabet can be downloaded by clicking on the link below:     

International phonetic alphabet


If you would like to hear the sounds (phonemes) for each grapheme (the letter/s used to represent that sound) please click on the link below:

For further activities and games which we use in the classroom. Please click on the link below: