Town Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS27 7AB | Tel: 0113 201 2450

Gildersome Primary School

Nurture, Aspire, Achieve


Key Stage 1 Phonics

In Early Years and Key Stage 1 we use the Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS) phonics programme.

How we teach Phonics

Phonics is a way of teaching children to read and write. It is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate sounds and understand the link between the sound (phoneme) and the way it is written (grapheme).

In Reception and Year 1 we teach children to read using a systematic synthetic phonics approach called Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS). We use early learning environment that is rich in talk and story, where children experience the joy of books and language whilst rapidly acquiring the skills to become fluent independent readers and writers. ELS teaches children to:

  • decode by identifying each sound within a word and blending them together to read fluently
  • encode by segmenting each sound to write words accurately.

We know that for children at the end of Key Stage 1 to achieve the age-related expectations, they need to read fluently at 90 words per minute. As children move into Key Stage 2, it is vitally important that even those who have made the slowest progress are able to read age-appropriate texts independently and with fluency. For children to engage with the wider curriculum, they need to be able to read well, making inferences and drawing on background knowledge to support their developing understanding of a text when they read. To do this, they need to be able to draw not only on their phonic knowledge but also on their wider reading and comprehension skills, each of which must be taught. The first step in this complex process is the link between spoken and written sounds.

ELS whole-class, daily phonics teaching must begin from the first days of Reception. Through the rigorous ELS teaching programme, children will build an immediate understanding of the relationship between the sounds they can hear and say (phonemes) and the written sounds (graphemes). ELS is based on simplicity and consistency, and the programme is delivered through whole-class lessons.

Year 2 and Key stage 2

We use teacher knowledge and assessment to identify children who need additional support in phonics and use a range of interventions to support them. These children will use the rhymes and mnemonics that they taught with.

In pursuit of this aim,  there is minimal opportunity for cognitive overload and a robust structure in place for the teaching of phonics. This gives the children the opportunity to not only practice but to overlearn, ensuring that they are all accessing learning.
  • Interactive whiteboard resources for teaching every lesson from the beginning of Reception to end of the programme
  • Flash cards including mnemonics and rhymes for assisting with letter formation and spelling
  • Wall frieze
  • A physical and electronic Handbook
  • Training videos
  • Lesson plans
  • Videos to exemplify the lessons being taught
  • Assessment, both diagnostic and tracking
  • A comprehensive training package.
  • Many of the decodable books you have in schools will match and further texts are available to support the teaching of the programme from Oxford University Press
weekly lesson structure for teaching new phonemes and graphemes
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5
Review  Review  Review  Review  Review newly taught sounds for the week, previously taught graphemes and harder to read and spell (HRS) words
Teach new sound  Teach new sound  Teach new sound  Teach new sound 
Practise  Practise Practise Practise Practise - reading and writing words
Use the Apply sound-specific sheet  Use the Apply sound-specific sheet  Use the Apply sound-specific sheet  Use the Apply sound-specific sheet  Apply - reading decodable books and writing phrases and sentences 
Review Review Review Review
Here are some of the terms we use when we teach phonics:
  • phoneme- the smallest unit of sound in a word.
  • grapheme – letter or a group of letters representing one sound, e.g. s, sh, ch, igh.
  • digraph – two letters making one sound, e.g. sh, th, ph.
  • vowel digraphs – two vowels which, together, make one sound, e.g. ai, oo, ow.
  • split digraph – two letters, split, making one sound, e.g. a-eas in make or i-e in kite
  • VC word: vowel consonant e.g.  up
  • CVC: consonant vowel consonant e.g. cap.
  • CCVC: consonant consonant vowel consonant e.g.  clap.
  • vowels – the open sounds / letters of the alphabet: a, e, i, o and u
  • consonants – sounds/ letters of the alphabet that are not vowels.
  • blend – to merge individual sounds together to pronounce a word, e.g. s-n-a-p, blended together, reads snap.
  • segment- to split up a word into its individual phonemes in order to spell it, e.g. the word 'cat' has three phonemes: /c/, /a/, /t/.
How could you help at home?
  • Try to say the short sound of the letter, not the letter name. This will help children when they come to blend words together. E.g. the letter names dee-oh-gee don’t blend together to make ‘dog’. (Please see the videos below to support this.
  • Read regularly with your child - Encourage children to recognise sounds and as they grow more confident, encourage them to blend the sounds together and to read sentences independently.
  • Please record your child's reading in their reading record.
  • When you are reading to your child, emphasise the rhyming words and ask what is special about them.
  • Initial letter sound hunt – Say a sound to your child and see if they can find something in their house that starts with that letter. This also works well with ‘I spy’ but remember to use the letter sound and not its name.  
  • Songs – Sing nursery rhymes and traditional songs with your child and talk to them about the patterns that they notice in the words.
Useful websites 

Oxford Owl for home and school - free e-books

Phonics Play - interactive phonics games 

BBC Bitesize - KS1 phonics learning resources