Phonics at Hillview Primary School and Early Years

At Hillview, we use a systematic phonics programme called Letters and Sounds. This is divided into six phases, with each phase building on the skills and knowledge of previous learning. Children have time to practise and rapidly expand their ability to read and spell words. They are also taught to read and spell ‘tricky words’, which are words with spellings that are unusual or spelling patterns that the children have not yet been taught.

Phase 1 of the programme is taught in our nursery – Hillview Early Years.

This Phase is all about listening skills. It focuses on hearing sounds in the environment, musical instruments or body percussion. Hearing nursery rhymes and then identifying rhyming words is crucial for supporting early reading skills. 

We start teaching Phase 2 from the very beginning of the Reception class.


Phase 2

In Phase 2, children begin to learn some of the sounds that letters make (phonemes).

There are 44 sounds in all. 

Some are made with two letters, but in Phase 2, children focus on learning the 19 most common single letter sounds and 3 double letter sounds

We do this by learning a song and an action for each phoneme. We follow the same order of letters from the phonics programme so that the children are able to blend the phonemes together and read words immediately.

This is the order of the letters.

  • Set 1: s, a, t, p.
  • Set 2: i, n, m, d.
  • Set 3: g, o, c, k.
  • Set 4: ck, e, u, r.
  • Set 5: h, b, f, ff, l, ll, ss

By the end of Phase 2 the children should be able to read some vowel-consonant (vc) and consonant-vowel-consonant (cvc) words and orally spell them out. They will also learn some high frequency ‘tricky words’, such as ‘the’ or ‘go’. 

The children will be reading books using phonetically built up words labelled ‘Phase 2 sets 1&2’ and then after  ‘Phase 2 sets 3-5’.

This phase will last 6 weeks.


Phase 3

Phase 3 introduces the children to the remaining, more difficult or less commonly used phonemes. There are 25 of these. Most of these phonemes are digraphs or trigraphs ( where 2 or 3 letters come together to make a completely different phoneme – for example – ng , oo, air ). The children learn the names of the letters as well. Activities will include using memory aids for tricky words, practising writing letters on mini whiteboards, using word cards and letter flashcards.

Phase 3 will take 12 weeks. By the end, they should be able to say the sound made by most, or all of Phase 2 and Phase 3 graphemes (written letters), blend and read cvc words made from these graphemes, read 12 new tricky words and write letters correctly.

The children will be reading books using phonetically built up words labelled ‘Phase 3 sets 6&7’ and then after ‘Phase 3 Digraphs’.

The order of the letters learnt is:

  • Set 6: j, v, w, x 
  • Set 7: y, z, zz, qu 
  • Consonant digraphs: ch, sh, th, ng 
  • Vowel digraphs and trigraphs: ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er

Here is a link to the Phase 3 songs that the children learn. Here you can find the pictures that show the actions.


Phase 4,

By now, the children should be confident with each phoneme in Phases 2 and 3.

In Phase 4, children will:

  • Practise reading and spelling CCVC words ( trip, flash, frog) and CVCC words (‘went,’ ‘belt,’ ‘milk’)
  • Practise reading and spelling high frequency words
  • Practise reading and writing sentences

Learn more tricky words, including ‘have,’ ‘like,’ ‘some,’ ‘little’

Children should now be blending confidently to work out new words. They should also be starting to be able to read words straight away, rather than having to sound them out.


The children will be reading books using phonetically built up words labelled ‘Phase 4 (short)’ and then after ‘Phase 4 (long)’

Phase 4 (short) means that the vowel has a short sound like in the words mist, snack or belt.

Phase 4 (long) means that the vowel has a long sound or is a vowel digraph like in the words snail, crook or stork.

This phase takes 4 to 6 weeks and will be completed during the Reception Class with lots of opportunities for consolidation of all phases so far.


Phase 5

Phase 5 generally takes the whole of Year 1 to learn and consolidate. Children learn new graphemes (different ways of spelling the sounds that have already been taught) and alternative pronunciations for some of these graphemes.

For example: learning that the grapheme ‘ow’ makes a different sound in the words ‘snow’ and ‘cow’.

The children should become quicker at blending on the go and will start to do this silently.

The children will learn about split digraphs such as /a-e/ in the word ‘name’.

They will start to choose the right graphemes when spelling, and will learn more tricky words, including ‘people’, ‘water’ and ‘friend’. 

By the end of Year 1, children should be able to:

  • Say the sound for any grapheme they are shown
  • Write the common graphemes for any given sound (e.g. ‘e,’ ‘ee,’ ‘ie,’ ‘ea’)
  • Use their phonics knowledge to read and spell unfamiliar words of up to three syllables

  • Read all of the 100 high frequency words, and be able to spell most of them
  • Form letters correctly

At the end of Year 1, all children are given a Phonics Screening Check, to ensure they have the expected level of phonic understanding and application. It is a reading assessment that takes approximately 5 minutes.

Here are some more alternative spellings for the certain words. The list is exhaustive and we concentrate on more common words first.


Phase 6

Phase 6 phonics takes place throughout Year 2, with the aim of children becoming fluent readers and accurate spellers.

By Phase 6, children should be able to read hundreds of words using one of three strategies

  • Reading them automatically
  • Decoding them quickly and silently
  • Decoding them aloud

Children should now be spelling most words accurately (this is known as ‘encoding’), although this usually lags behind reading.


They will also learn:

Prefixes and suffixes – ‘ing’ and ‘ed’

Although formal phonics teaching is usually complete by the end of Year 2, children will continue to use their knowledge as they move up the school. 

Updated September 2020