Our phonics Scheme Explained
Phonics Guidance for Parents
Set 2 and Set 3 Speed Sounds Year 1 and Year 2. The set 2 sounds are primarily taught at the end of Reception, and then Set 3 sounds are taught in Year 1 and Year 2.
By the end of Year 1, pupils are expected to recognise all Set 1, Set 2 and Set 3 sounds by sight.
Before your son/daughter can start to read, s/he needs to learn to:
• Say the sound that is represented by each letter or groups of letters. These are called ‘speed sounds’.
• Know how to blend the sounds together in a word to read it e.g. s-t-r-ee-t = street; p-l-ay = play. This is called ‘sound-blending’.
What are Speed Sounds?
In phonics the individual sounds are called ‘speed sounds’. This is because we want your son/daughter to read them effortlessly. In Nursery and Reception, your son/daughter will learn to read the Set 1 sounds by sight. They will also learn how to blend them together to read words e.g. c-a-t = cat. In Year 1 and Year 2, they will then move onto learning to Set 2 and Set 3 sounds.
To begin phonics, we learn a sound a day. We use pure sounds so that your son/daughter will be able to blend the sounds into words more easily.
Sound pictures are used to help your son/daughter learn these sounds quickly. Each sound is also accompanied by a rhyme to help them remember the sound and remind them of the correct spelling.
Set 2 Sounds At the end of Reception and beginning of Year 1, your son/daughter will progress to learning their Set 2 sounds. When your son/daughter learns their Set 2 sounds in school they will learn:
• The letters that represent a speed sound e.g. 'ay’
• A simple picture prompt linked to the ‘speed sound’ and a short phrase to say e.g. ‘may I play’
There are 12 Set 2 ‘speed sounds’ that are made up of two or three letters which represent just one sound, e.g. ‘ay’ as in play, ‘ee’ as in tree and ‘igh’ as in high. It is important that your son/daughter does not pronounce these as 2 or 3 separate sounds. When your son/daughter sees the ‘speed sound’ letters together in a word, s/he must say just one sound for these letters.
When a sound contains two letters that makes just one sound e.g. ‘sh’, we call it a ‘digraph’. When a sound contains three letters that make just one sound e.g. ‘igh’, we call it a ‘trigraph’. There are videos on Ruth Miskin’s YouTube page to model how to say each sound correctly.
How to Practise Set 2 Speed Sounds
When you practise your son’s/daughter’s Set 2 ‘speed sounds’, you either have to stretch or bounce them.
Example of how to practise recognising a sound e.g. ‘ay’ sound
• Identify the ‘ay’ sound on the sound mat. Look at the picture and say aaay. Ask your son/daughter to say aaay.
• Stretch the sound and say the phrase, aaay, may I play? Repeat the phrase again.
• Cover up the picture and just look at the sound and say ‘ay’.
• Use the green words set 2.1 and encourage your son/daughter to sound out and sound blend the words containing the speed sound they have just practised e.g. t-r-ay = tray.
• Point to each sound in the word as you say the sound e.g. p-l-ay or d-ay. Be sure you do not add an instructive ‘uh’ to the end of consonant sounds. Say ‘p’ not ‘puh’.
• Repeat sounding out the word, getting faster each time.
• In the end your son/daughter should be able to read the green words without sounding or blending. Once your son/daughter knows a sound well, drop the bouncing/stretching to enable him or her to soundblend. Also stop showing the picture prompt so that your son/daughter doesn’t become too reliant on it.
Set 2 Green Words
‘Green words’ are words which your son/daughter should be able to read independently as they are made up of the speed sounds that s/he will have learnt. The dots and dashes below each sound are called ‘sound buttons’. A dot represents a single letter sound; a dash represents a digraph (two letters that make one sound) or a trigraph (three letters that make one sound). These are the appropriate set 2 green words:
Set 3 Sounds
After learning the Set 2 sounds, your son/daughter will have learnt one way in which each long vowel sound is written. When learning their Set 3 speed sounds, they will be taught that there are more ways in which the same sounds are written, e.g. ee as in tree, and ea as in tea.
Reading Set 3 speed sounds will be taught for most of Year 1, and spelling the Set 3 speed sounds during Year 2. When your son/daughter learns their Set 3 sounds in school they will learn:
• The letters that represent a speed sound e.g. 'ea’
• A simple picture prompt linked to the ‘speed sound’ and a short phrase to say e.g. ‘cup of tea’
There are 20 Set 3 speed sounds that are made up of two or three letters which represent just one sound, e.g. ea as in tea, ow as in cow, and are as in care. As before, it is important that your son/daughter does not pronounce these as 2 or 3 separate sounds. When your son/daughter sees the ‘speed sound’ letters together in a word, s/he must say just one sound for these letters.
When a sound contains two letters that makes just one sound e.g. ‘ea’, we call it a ‘digraph’. When a sound contains three letters that make just one sound e.g. ‘ure’, we call it a ‘trigraph’. When a sounds has two letters, which work as a pair to make one sound, but are separated with the word e.g. ‘a-e’ (cake), we call it a ‘split digraph’.
There are videos on Ruth Miskin’s YouTube page to model how to say each sound correctly.
Every speed sound has a list of green words linked to it, so your son/daughter can ‘sound out’ and ‘sound blend’ words containing the new speed sound they have just learnt, for example s-p-oil _ spoil.
How to Practise Set 3 Speed Sounds
Only practise Set 3 speed sounds once your son’s/ daughter’s knowledge of the Set 2 ‘speed sounds’ is secure. Your son/daughter should know all the Set 2 sounds and the letters that represent them without having to rely on the picture prompt.
Example of how to practise Set 3 speed sounds:
• Review the similar sound from the Set 2 cards e.g. show the ee, what can you see, sound say – ee
• Hold up the letter side of the new speed sound e.g. show the ea, cup of tea, sound say – ea ask your son/daughter to repeat the sound ea
• Show the pictures for each sound e.g. say the phrase ea, cup of tea. Repeat
• Show your child the written sound and the picture your son/daughter must say either ea, cup of tea
Some cards have three different spellings e.g. ‘ir’ in bird, ‘ur’ in burn, and ‘er’ in fern. It is important you do not introduce all the sounds together for the first time. For the ‘ir’ speed sound, practise ‘ir’ and ‘ur’ first and then practise ‘er’.
Practise the Set 3 speed sounds in these groups. Those in bold are Set 3 sounds. Those not in bold, your son/daughter will have learnt in Set 2.
oy and oi
ay and a-e (as in make)
igh and i-e (as in smile)
ow and o-e (as in home)
oo and u-e (as in huge)
or and aw
air and are
ir and ur
ay and a-e and ai
ow and o-e and oa
oo and u-e and ew
Please do not practice all the Set 3 green words until your son/daughter knows all their Set 2 sounds. Concentrate on one sound at a time and when they know it, move onto the next.
Set 3 Green Words ‘Green words’ are words which your son/daughter should be able to read independently as they are made up of the speed sounds that s/he will have learnt.
The dots and dashes below each sound are called ‘sound buttons’. A dot represents a single letter sound; a dash represents a digraph (two letters that make one sound) or a trigraph (three letters that make one sound).
These are the appropriate set 3 green words:
Complex Speed Sounds Chart
Once children are secure with recognising all sets of speed sounds, they are introduced to the Complex Speed Sounds Chart.
This shows how the same sound can be spelt in alternative ways e.g. ‘ay’ as in play, ‘a-e’ as in cake, and ‘ai’ as in rain are all shown within the same sound box.
Learning these alternative spellings will be the main focus in Year 2.
Some everyday words in English have tricky spellings and can’t be read by blending e.g. you can’t blend the words ‘said’ or ‘does’.
These are sometimes called high frequency words, tricky words, or red words. These words just have to be learned by sight and flashcard-type games are a good way to practise these. These are the red words that children should be able to read by the end of the phonics programme.
Year 1 National Phonics Screening Check
The National Phonics Screening Test was introduced in 2012 to all Year 1 pupils. It is a short, statutory assessment to confirm whether individual pupils have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard. The test is usually completed in June in Year 1.
How is the check structured?
It comprises of a list of 40 words that the children are required to read. The list is a combination of both real and nonsense words which rely purely on using phonics to decode. The nonsense words are words that have been made up and will be shown with a picture of an imaginary creature to help them. During the assessment, the children will be sitting with a teacher one to one reading the words. It should take between 5-10 minutes. The children will largely be unaware of it being a test as they have already participated in some practice ones.
What are nonsense words?
Your child will be told during the check which words are nonsense words (words that he/she will not have seen before). Your child will be familiar with this because we already use nonsense words when teaching phonics in school. Nonsense words are important to include because words such as ‘vap’ or ‘jound’ are new to all children. Children cannot read the nonsense words by using their memory or vocabulary; they have to use their decoding skills. Pupils who can read nonsense words should have the skills to decode almost any unfamiliar word.
What happens if a child struggles with the screening check?
All children are individuals and develop at different rates. The screening check ensures that teachers understand which children need extra help with phonic decoding. Following the data from the test, we will then provide extra support and intervention work for the children who did not pass.
How to Help Your Child Learn to Read Through Phonics
• Read their weekly reading book with them. With all books, encourage your child to sound out unfamiliar words and then blend the sounds together from left to right rather than looking at the pictures to guess. Once your child has read an unfamiliar word, you can talk about what the word means and help them to follow the story.
• Try to make time to read with your child every day. Grandparents and older brother or sisters can help too. Encourage your child to blend all the sounds in a word themselves.
• Practise reading the set 1, 2 and 3 sounds on the sound mat attached. You can then highlight these sounds when you read with your child.
• Practise reading the sounds on the complex speed sound chart attached. This helps the children to recognise that the same sound may have alternative spellings.
• Practise reading some of the example real and nonsense words attached. This is a similar format to how the words will appear in the actual screening.
• Immerse them in a love of reading. Share books and magazines with them, take them to the library to choose books, read to them regularly, point out words and sentences around you.
• Word games like ‘I-spy’ can also be an enjoyable way of teaching children about sounds and letters. You can also encourage your child to read words from your shopping list or road signs to practise phonics.
• Create your own nonsense words with your child using the speed sounds and then see if they can decode the words accurately.
Phonics Play has lots of fun games where the children have to distinguish between real and nonsense words. https://www.phonicsplay.co.uk
• BBC Bitesize has lots of phonics games and videos to support with reading. https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize
• There are some example phonics lessons on the Ruth Miskin Training YouTube page. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDe74j1F52zR84egIycRjjXMafuet0zJI
• There are some guidance documents to support home reading on the Ruth Miskin Training website. https://www.ruthmiskin.com/en/find-out-more/parents/
• There are lots of fun online reading games on the Top Marks website. https://www.topmarks.co.uk
• Phonics Bloom has lots of interactive online phonics games. https://www.phonicsbloom.com
• ICT Games has a range of phonics, reading, writing and spelling games. https://www.ictgames.com/mobilePage/literacy .html
Key Vocabulary to Use
All children are expected to learn, use and understand all the following key terms.
Phoneme: The smallest unit of sound. Phonemes can be put together to make words.
Grapheme: One letter or one group of letters used to write one sound e.g. the sound ‘f’ can be written with the graphemes ‘f’ (fun) or ‘ff’ (huff).
GPC: Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence. Knowing a GPC means being able to match a phoneme to a grapheme and vice versa.
Fred talk: Fred is a puppet who says, read and spells words in pure sounds. He never says the whole word so the children blend it for him.
Fred fingers: A way for children to physically sound out each phoneme in a word to support reading as well as spelling.
Oral blending: This involves hearing phonemes and being able to merge them together to make a word. Children need to develop this skill before they can blend written words.
Blending: This involves looking at a written word, looking at each grapheme, and using knowledge of GPC’s to work out which phoneme each grapheme represents, then merging these phonemes together to make a word.
Oral segmenting: This is hearing a whole word and then splitting it up into the phonemes that make it. Children need to develop this skill before they will be able to segment words to spell them.
Segmenting: This involves hearing a word, splitting it up into the phonemes that make it, using the knowledge of GPC’s to work out which graphemes represent those phonemes, and then writing those graphemes down in the right order.
Green words: Words made up of graphemes that children have been taught. Children use ‘Fred Talk’ to read and ‘Fred Fingers’ to spell these words.
Red words: Common words with an uncommon spelling that cannot be phonetically sounded out e.g. said, you, the. Challenge words: Topical words particular to a story.
High frequency words: Words that occur most frequently in written material.
Alien/nonsense word: A pseudo word used to assess children’s phonetic decoding ability.
CVC word: Consonant-vowel-consonant words e.g. pin, cat, ship.
Digraph: A grapheme containing two letters that makes just one sound e.g. ‘sh’.
Split digraph: Two letters, which work as a pair to make one sound, but are separated with the word e.g. ‘a-e’ (cake), ‘i-e’ (smile).
Trigraph: A grapheme containing three letters that makes just one sound e.g. ‘igh’. Syllables: Chunks within long words.
Root: The part of the word that gives the most meaning.