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What on earth is phonics though?

Updated: Nov 2, 2022

This 2 minute read is your complete guide to what, why and how, including access to our free resources.

❓What is phonics?

Phonics is how we teach children to read and write using the English language. It helps them to hear, identify and use different sounds, matching them to letters from the alphabet.

❓Why are the sounds taught in a funny order?

Ever watched Countdown? How hard would it be to make several words with the letters A to H? Imagine how many points you’d score if the letters given were S A T P I N M and D. Sounds are taught in this order so children can segment and blend them and therefore read and write words more quickly.

❓Why can’t we just use letter names?

If you were trying to write a word that you didn’t know how to spell would you guess it from the letter names? No. You’d work out the sounds you could hear in the word and write the letters that correlate. That’s exactly what happens when our children come across words like ‘bag’. Saying the letter names won’t help them to spell the words, they need to know the sounds for each letter.

❓How do we say the letter sounds?

This is the really good bit. We have FREE videos for you. For every taught sound, shared in order, we have a video. So next time you’re trying to help your child write someone’s birthday card 10 minutes before the party (yep, been there!) you can quickly check the video and make sure you’re pronouncing the sound correctly. Just head to our phonics tab.

❓It still sounds tricky, how do I help my child?

Do not worry, our Reception Play eBook is filled with ideas to help you with this. No matter your child's interests, it can help them with their reading and writing with minimal effort from you.


  • Blending

Sticking the sounds together in order to read the word. i.e. the sounds c-a-t blend together to become cat.

  • Common Exception Words

Also known as keywords and tricky words. These are words that are commonly used in English but cannot be sounded out. For example ‘the’, ‘said’ or ‘was’.

  • Consonants

The letters of the alphabet excluding A E I O and U

  • CVC words/decodeable words

Words that are made up of consonants vowels consonants (CVC). Examples include cat, dog, bin, sat, hip, cot, bed, rug, sad.

  • Digraph

Two letters that make one sound. Like ‘ck’ in sock.

  • Grapheme

The written representation of a sound. This can be one or more letters. For example ‘s’, ‘ck’, ‘igh’, and ‘ough’ are all graphemes.

  • Letter-sound correspondences

Also known as grapheme-phoneme correspondences. This is knowing the letter than goes with the sound you can hear and vice versa.

  • Phoneme

There are 44 phonemes (sounds) which are represented by graphemes (writing).

  • Segmenting

The opposite of blending. Segmenting is breaking the word down into individual sounds for spelling. i.e. dog becomes d-o-g.

  • Split Digraph

A digraph which is split by a consonant. For example, the ‘i-e’ in time. These are not usually covered in Reception.

  • Trigraph

Three letters that make one sound. Like ‘igh’ in night.

  • Vowels

The letters A E I O U

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