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Our approach to Phonics and Spelling and Grammar

At Upton Heath Church of England Primary School we teach phonics, spelling and grammar using the learning objectives from the National Curriculum.  

So, what exactly is phonics?

Words are made up from small units of sound called phonemes. Phonics teaches children to be able to listen carefully and identify the phonemes that make up each word. This helps children to learn to read words and to spell words

In phonics lessons children are taught three main things:

  • GPCs

They are taught GPCs. This stands for grapheme phoneme correspondences. This simply means that they are taught all the phonemes in the English language and ways of writing them down. These sounds are taught in a particular order. The first sounds to be taught are s, a, t, p.

  • Blending

Children are taught to be able to blend. This is when children say the sounds that make up a word and are able to merge the sounds together until they can hear what the word is. This skill is vital in learning to read.

  • Segmenting

Children are also taught to segment. This is the opposite of blending. Children are able to say a word and then break it up into the phonemes that make it up. This skill is vital in being able to spell words.

What makes phonics tricky?

In some languages learning phonics is easy because each phoneme has just one grapheme to represent it. The English language is a bit more complicated than this. This is largely because England has been invaded so many times throughout its history. Each set of invaders brought new words and new sounds with them. As a result, English only has around 44 phonemes but there are around 120 graphemes or ways of writing down those 44 phonemes. Obviously we only have 26 letters in the alphabet so some graphemes are made up from more than one letter.

ch th oo ay (these are all digraphs - graphemes with two letters)

There are other graphemes that are trigraphs (made up of 3 letters) and even a few made from 4 letters.

Another slightly sticky problem is that some graphemes can represent more than one phoneme. For example ch makes very different sounds in these three words: chip, school, chef.

So why bother learning phonics?

In the past people argued that because the English language is so tricky, there was no point teaching children phonics. Now, most people agree that these tricky bits mean that it is even more important that we teach phonics and children learn it clearly and systematically. A written language is basically a kind of a code. Teaching phonics is about teaching children to crack that code. Children learn the simple bits first and then progress to get the hang of the trickier bits. Some children who have specific learning difficulties may not find phonics very easy however using our teaching knowledge we use a range of different strategies so that your child learns to read successfully.

How is phonics taught?

Some people worry that phonics is taught to children when they are too young. However, those people might be surprised if they stepped into a phonics lesson. Phonics sessions are made up from games, songs and actions and these sessions last for 15-20 minutes per day. Teachers then plan opportunities for children to play phonics games with them at other times of the day.

At Upton Heath Church of England Primary School we use 'Anima Phonics'  as the basis of our phonics teaching in school, which  is a multi -sensory method, teaching children  actions  and poems for each of the 42 letter sounds and which enhances provision. Anima Phonics generally follows the order of teaching outlined in 'Letters and Sounds' with a slight difference in that digraphs are introduced alongside single letters. This is designed so that children are more able to spot these digraphs when reading words instead of sounding out individual letters. You can access the website for free games and activities to further support your child at home.

You can download more details of the spellings taught from our files listed.

You may also wish to have a look at our leaflet on 'Helping your child to spell'.

Always remember the teachers are here to help support you if you want any furthe advice or support.  Please feel free to ask.  There are also many websites which have great resources.  Using BBC websites is a particularly safe way of accessing learning resources.


Files to Download