Phonics at Carden

Phonics is one of the tools used by teachers to support children's early reading. Phonics supports children by giving them a system to use when decoding words, whilst it does this well it is important to recognize that learning to read is so much more that phonics alone.  We want our children to develop a passion for reading, to recognize how valuable a skill reading can be for pleasure and for purpose.  Phonics sits within a much bigger picture of how we at Carden strive to reach this goal.  Here is a bit more information about how phonics fits into our wider literacy curriculum. 

At Carden phonics is taught throughout the EYFS, KS 1 and into KS2.   We teach phonics through 5 progressive phases.  Our Nursery class focuses mainly on phase 1, and early phase 2.  Reception classes focus on phase 2 up to phase 4. Year 1 will briefly recap phase 3 and 4 moving into phase 5.  Children in Year 2 focus on phase 5 before moving swiftly onto no nonsense spelling.   All members of staff use a system called ‘cued articulation’ to support their phonic teaching.  Cued articulation is a set of hand actions, one for each phonic sound taught.  The system was designed by a renowned speech therapist called Jane Passy.  Each action is designed to help the children make the sound correctly, thinking about volume, where the sound comes from and the mouth shape they need to form to make the sound correctly.   

Please follow this link to see the order in which phonics sounds are taught at Carden.

Phase 1

In our nursery children are initially taught to ‘tune into sound’.  The curriculum is divided into seven aspects; environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body percussion, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and oral blending and segmenting.  These key aspects are implemented throughout the day using a range of engaging activities.  Such as games, circles times and small group work, songs, rhymes, stories, using instruments and in our wider environment through our general play!  The key skills, knowledge and development children gain through this phase are:

  • Listening kills: Children are actively ‘tuning in’ to the noises, sounds and words around them.
  • Vocabulary development: Children are exploring new words, and using words they know to express their opinions about the sounds they hear.
  • The rhythm within words: Children are exploring and identifying the pattern of different words through syllables and the rhythm of sentences through rhymes and songs.
  • Identifying initial sounds: Children begin to group words around the sounds they start with, developing and linking words through sound.
  • Blending skills: Children begin to blend sounds they hear together and identify the words they make, for example hearing c-a-t, and replying cat!
  • Segmenting skills: Children begin to hear a word and can break it down into the sounds it makes, for example, hearing dog and replying d-o-g.


Phase 2

In our nursery, and at the beginning of Reception children learn a set of phonic sounds and their corresponding letters (graphemes).   Children learn a new sound and explore this sound in a range of ways.  Children hear and see each new sound at the beginning of words, in the middle of words, and at the end.  We focus on children experiencing the sound as part of a word right from the beginning.  Children are able to then practise blending and segmenting the sounds they know in order to read and write simple words.  Within this stage children are also introduced to common irregular words irregular words which cannot be decoded using our phonic knowledge, for example I, no, the, to, go.   Children recap on all they have covered at the beginning of every new session to help them develop rapid recognition of all the phase 2 sounds and words. 

The key skills knowledge and development the children gain through this phase are:

  • The ability to recognise phoneme / grapheme correspondence: Children are able to see a grapheme (written representation e.g. ‘k’ ‘m’ , ‘l’) and link it to a sound and vice versa.
  • The ability to blend some known sounds together to begin reading words (e.g. in, at, is, top, pen).
  • The ability to hear the taught sounds within words, for example knowing the sounds ‘a’ is the first sound ‘ant’ and the medial sound in ‘cat’. Knowing that the sound ‘l’ is the first sound in ‘leg’ but the final sound in ‘doll’.
  • The ability to hear words and write them down using our phonic knowledge, for example hearing the word map and breaking it into sounds     m-a-p then writing the corresponding letters in the correct order.
  • The ability to read simple captions using the sounds and tricky words taught.

Phase 3

Phase 3 introduces children to a range of new sounds.  Many of these sounds are made using two letters, for example ‘sh’ is shop (sh-o-p), ‘ch’ in chip (ch-i-p).  When a single sound is made of three letters is called a triagraph, for example, ‘ear’ in dear and ‘air’ in hair.  Most sounds taught within phase 3 are diagraphs however some are triagraphs.  Similarly to Phase 2 children spend time practicing these sounds in the contact of a word.  They then read sentences containing words with these sounds and practise writing captions or simple sentences themselves.   Phase three introduces children to the next stage of common irregular words.  As with phase 2 children are constantly revisiting taught sounds and words, at this stage the children are then able to use their rapid recall skills to blend and segment words much quicker and move towards reading simple captions and sentences without needing to overtly blend and segment.  

The key skills, knowledge and development the children gain through this phase are:

  • The ability to recognise taught diagraphs and triagraphs when they appear in words.
  • The ability to rapidly recall all taught sounds.
  • The ability to read all common exception words taught.
  • The ability to read simple texts with increasing levels of independence.
  • The ability to write simple words and captions; moving on to simple sentences.
  • The ability to spell some common exception words correctly.

Phase 4

Phase 4 is all about giving the children the opportunity to maximise on their prior learning.  There are no new sounds taught in this phase as children are working on consolidating what they have learned so far.  We know that children often find it difficult is making the leap from reading simple words which are often referred to as CVC words (consonant – vowel – consonant), to reading words which contain adjacent consonants CCVC words (consonant – consonant -vowel – consonant).

Example CVC

Example CCVC

t – o – p      top

S – n – a – p                 snap

g- oa – t    goat

g – r – i – p                   grip


This phase gives children the opportunity to further develop their blending and segmenting skills by decoding longer words including words of more than one syllable (polysyllabic words).  Children practise breaking these words into syllables, and identifying the sounds within each syllable. Phase 4 introduces the next set of common irregular words.

The key skills, knowledge and development the children gain through this phase are:

  • The ability to segment and blend CCVC words when reading and writing.
  • The ability to break down polysyllabic words to support their writing.
  • The ability to read simple captions and sentences ‘on sight’ without overtly blending every word encountered.

Phase 5

Phase 5 introduces a range of new sounds and to broaden the children’s phonic knowledge.  It also focuses on alternate spellings and alternate pronunciations.  Many words may feature the same sound within them but this sound may be spelt in different ways, for example:





Vowel sound   ‘a’

m-ay        may

t-r-ai-n        train

c-a-k-e      cake (a/e)

Vowel sound  ‘e’

m-e          me

b-ee-n         been

t-ea-ch      teach

Vowel sound  ‘o’

n-o           no

s-n-ow        snow

b-oa-t        boat


During this phase children also learn alternate pronunciations for sounds, this is when the same grapheme can produce two different sounds.  For example:





ch-ie-f               chief

p-ie              pie


n-ow                  now

s-n-ow        snow


t-ea-m               team

h-ea-d         head


Whilst this is complex, the children have built up to this stage over a number of years and are therefore able to access it readily.  Phonics sessions at this stage are main supplementing the children’s wider literacy curriculum.  Children are encountering these words daily when reading independently as well as during guided reading sessions.  Phonics is a step towards children being able to automatically read all words on sight, being able to do so is effectively the ‘end goal’.  This phase is the stepping stone to that goal.  Children reading sentences containing all the grapheme representations in this scheme can also use their phonic knowledge to support their writing.  Phase 5 introduces the next set of common irregular word for children to learn.  

 The key skills, knowledge and development the children gain through this phase are:

  • The ability to use their phonic knowledge to decode any unfamiliar words.
  • The ability to make informed spelling choices.
  • The ability to spell a wide range of common exception words.
  • The ability to read a range of texts with fluency and accuracy.

 Click on the link below to see the parent work-shop presentation for Phonics in Reception:

Reception Phonics and Reading Workshop  Nursery Phonics and Reading Workshop 
Year 1 Phonics and Reading Workshop  Year 2 Phonics and Reading Workshop