Starting School Phonics – A parents guide

book_words01Phonics may be new to you as a parent, something that I do not remember from my school days.  Phonics is the system which teaches children the sounds that make up the English language and how they are then used to build words. Kinda fundamental really when you are learning how to read and write.


Three Fun Phonic Facts 

There are 44 separate sounds in the English language.

You subconsciously use phonics to read all the time. You brain processes the information so quick as a fluent reader you do not know that you are doing so.

On average the human brain can remember 100 words by sight alone. These are taught as the tricky words.


Phonic Dictionary 

Your children will come home talking about phonemes, graphemes , digraph and trigraphs. No they have not eaten a dictionary, they are taught to use the correct words.

Phoneme – this is the smallest unit of sound.

Grapheme – this is the sound written down either, a letter or letter group.

Digraph – a group of two letters making one phoneme

Trigraph – a group of three letters making one phoneme


How is phonics taught in school? 


It is taught daily in a 10 – 20 minute sessions in which children recap sounds previously learnt, leant new sounds, practice using the new sounds to read and write words, learn to read tricky words.

During the first term typically children will learn 4 new phoneme-grapheme (sound- letter) correspondences a week.

The phonemes are taught as soft sounds. There is no ‘uh’ on the end of each sound. So the phoneme ‘s’ is taught as ‘ssssss’ not ‘suh’

It is normally taught in a particular order using the phonemes that are most common, not in alphabetical order. Typically the order for the phonemes is

s a t p

i m n d

g o c k

ck e u r

h b f,ff l ,ll ss

Children are not taught the letter names to start with.


How can I help my child?

Playing I spy is a great way to get children to identify the initial phoneme in words.

Saying silly sentences and really emphasising the initial phonemes.

Come back and read about more simple phonic games to play, plus free download games and flashcards.


So there you have it, a quick account of what phonics is all about. A little secret…it is one of my favourite things to teach, I know odd. It is incredible to see first hand how proud children are when they start to read for themselves. Phonics, it is giving them the key to unlock the written world which is all around us.

You can read more about starting school series

What really happens in the classroom? 

I just played all day – What this really means?

3 fun quick phonic games