What is Phonics?

Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write. It helps children hear, identify and use different sounds that distinguish one word from another in the English language. Written language can be compared to a code, so knowing the sounds of individual letters and how those letters sound when they’re combined will help children decode words as they read. Understanding phonics will also help children know which letters to use when they are writing words. The government strongly recommends the use of synthetic phonics when teaching early literacy skills to children. Synthetic phonics is simply the ability to convert a letter or letter group into sounds that are then blended together into a word.

Why do we teach phonics?

Children who read regularly or are read to regularly have the opportunity to open the doors to so many different worlds! More importantly, reading will give your child the tools to become independent life-long learners.

At St Silas we teach phonics using Read Write Inc (RWI) to get children off to a flying start with their English. RWI is a phonics complete literacy programme which helps all children learn to read fluently and at speed so they can focus on developing their skills in comprehension, vocabulary and spelling. 

“Reading opens the door to learning. A child who reads a lot will become a good reader. A good reader will be able to read more challenging material. A child who can read more challenging material is a child who will learn. The more a child learns, the more he or she will want to find out.” (Ruth Miskin)

RWI was developed by Ruth Miskin and more information on this can be found at www.ruthmiskin.com/en/find-out-more/parents 

How do we teach phonics?


Children learn the English Alphabetic code: first they learn one way to read the 40+ sounds and blend these into words, then they learn to read the same sounds with alternative graphemes.

They experience success from the very beginning. Lively phonic books are closely matched to their increasing knowledge of phonics and ‘tricky’ words as, as children re-read the stories, their fluency increases. Along with a thought-provoking introduction, prompts for thinking out loud and discussion, children are helped to read with a storyteller’s voice.


The children write every day, rehearsing out loud what they want to say, before spelling the words using the graphemes and ‘tricky’ words they know. They practise handwriting every day: sitting at a table comfortably, they learn correct letter formation and, as they move up through school, how to join letters speedily and legibly.

Children’s composition (ideas, vocabulary and grammar) is developed by drawing on their own experiences and talking about the stories they read.

The programme is designed for children aged 4-8. Children begin learning to read and write using the Read Write Inc approach as soon as they enter Reception. At St. Silas we continue teaching RWI to children beyond the age of 8 if they still need support in their reading. Phonics teaching must be embedded in a language rich curriculum, as children begin to develop the skills to read and write from the very first RWI session they are then able to transfer these skills into other areas of the curriculum.

Oracy remains central to the teaching and understanding of reading, as children continue to extend their comprehension skills. During this crucial stage, great emphasis is placed on teaching children to use their growing knowledge of phonics and sight words to encourage them to read and write with increasing accuracy whilst developing their understanding of the writing process. RWI further broadens all children’s breadth of vocabulary through the introduction of eight unknown, tier two words weekly using our favourite ‘Talk Through Stories’. You can find out more about the importance of sharing stories with your child at home by watching the following videos.

Why read to your child? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjHqJQ8sxs4&list=PLDe74j1F52zSCiOMSn3zQDSzgu9TrbQ1c&index=8

10 things to think about when you read to your child. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHMl70ZmxIQ&list=PLDe74j1F52zSCiOMSn3zQDSzgu9TrbQ1c&index=9 

What do we teach?


In EYFS all children will learn how to ‘read’ the sounds in words and how those sounds can be written down. RWI sessions at the beginning of EYFS last for approximately 20 minutes building towards 45 minute long sessions by the end of the year.


The children will:

  • Learn 44 sounds and the corresponding letters/letter groups using simple picture prompts.

  • Learn to read words using ‘Fred talk’ and sound blending.

  • Read from a range of storybooks and non-fiction books matched to their phonic knowledge.

  • Work well with partners.

  • Develop comprehension skills in stories by answering discussion based questions.


The children will:

  • Learn to write and form the letters/letter groups which represent the 44 sounds with the help of fun phrases.

  • Learn to write words by using Fred talk.

  • Learn to build sentences by practising sentences out loud before they write.


The children will work in pairs so that they:

  • Answer every question

  • Practise every activity with their partner

  • Take turns in talking and reading to each other

  • Develop ambitious vocabulary

Year One and Year Two:

Children follow the same format as EYFS but will work on complex sounds and read books appropriate to their reading level. Daily sessions of RWI last for one hour. Once children become fluent, speedy readers they will move onto English lessons and continue to develop their breadth of reading using Oxford Reading Tree. 

One-to-one tutoring:

One-to-one tutoring sessions are used to provide the individual attention that some children need when learning to read. Read Write Inc Phonics teaches every child to read. With daily one-to-one tutoring for the slowest progress readers, we ensure that no child gets left behind.

Fred Talk:


We use pure sounds (‘m’ not’ muh’,’s’ not ‘suh’, etc.) so that your child will be able to blend the sounds into words more easily. At school we use a puppet called Fred who is an expert on sounding out words! We call it, ‘Fred Talk’. e.g. m-o-p, c-a-t, m-a-n, sh-o-p, b-l-a-ck.

The following video is an example of saying pure sounds and blending sounds with Fred. www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEzfpod5w_Q

Children are taught the sounds in three sets.

RWI Step 1:

Set 1 sounds are taught in the following order together with rhymes to help children form the letters correctly and instantly recognise the sounds ready for blending.

Set 1 Sounds:




Maisie, mountain, mountain


Round the apple, down the leaf


Slither down the snake


Round the dinosaurs bottom, up his tall neck and down to his feet


Down the tower, across the tower


Down the body, dot for the head


Down Nobby, over his net


Down the plait and over the pirate’s face


Round the girl’s face, down her hair and give her a curl


All around the orange


Curl around the caterpillar


Down the kangaroo’s body, tail and leg


Down and under the umbrella, up to the top and draw the puddle


Down the laces to the heel, round the toe


Down the stem and draw the leaves


Lift off the top and scoop out the egg


Down the long leg


Down the horse’s head to the hooves and over his back


Slither down the snake, then down the horse’s head to the hooves and over his back


Down the robot’s back then curl over his arm


Down his body, curl and dot


Down a wing, up a wing


Down a horn, up a horn and under the yak’s head


Down, up, down, up the worm


Down the tower, across the tower then down the horse’s head to the hooves and over his back


Zig-zag-zig, down the zip


Curl around the caterpillar then down the horse’s head to the hooves and over his back


Round the queen’s head, up to her crown, down her hair


Down the arm and leg and cross the other way


‘A thing on a string’ down Nobby, over his net then round the girl’s face, down her hair and give her a curl


‘I think I stink’ down Nobby, over his net then down the kangaroo’s body, tail and leg

Please do not use letter names at this early stage when supporting your child with their reading and writing.

You can hear how to pronounce sounds correctly in the following video. www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkXcabDUg7Q&t=11s 

Each letter is also introduced with a picture to help children recognise the sound and recall the rhyme to practise the correct formation of the letter.

RWI Step 2:

Children are then taught Set 2 sounds - the long vowel sounds. When they are very confident with all of set 1 and set 2 they are taught Set 3 sounds - the alternative spellings.


Set 2 Sounds (Teach these first)

Set 3 Sounds (Alternative spellings)


ay: may I play

a-e: Make a Cake   ai: snail in the rain


ee: what can you see?

ea: cup of tea          e: he, me, we, she, be


igh: fly high

i-e: nice smile


ow : blow the snow

o-e: phone home     oa: goat in a boat


oo: poo at the zoo

u-e: huge brute        ew: chew the stew


oo: look at a book



ar: start the car



or: shut the door

aw: yawn at dawn


air: that’s not fair

are: care and share 


ir: whirl and twirl

ur: nurse with a purse   er: better letter


ou: shout it out

ow: brown cow


oy: toy for a boy

oi: spoil the boy


ire: fire fire


ear: hear with your ear


ure: sure it’s pure

Nonsense Words:

As well as learning to read and blend real words children will have plenty of opportunities to apply their sound recognition skills on reading nonsense words. We use nonsense words during Speed Sounds lessons to assess children’s sound knowledge and blending. These words will also feature heavily in the Year One Phonics Screening check in the Summer term. More information about the Screening check can be found in the ‘Phonics Screening check Assessment’ section of this page.

RWI Step 3

Children will be introduced to ‘Ditty books’ when they successfully begin to read single words. The short vowels should be kept short and sharp. Children use sound-blending (Fred talk) to read short ditties. They will bring these home once they have read and discussed the book in class. Children will then be challenged to use their developing phonic knowledge to write short sentences. Within all the books children will have red and green words to learn to help them to become speedy readers. Red words are words that are not easily decodable and challenge words to extend children’s vocabulary.  Green words are linked to the sounds they have been learning and are easily decodable. 

Dots and dashes represent the sound each letter makes. Once your child has been introduced to and taught these words we will send them home for you to continue practising with your child. 

During the RWI sessions children will read the same storybook three times. Each read develops a different skill:

  • The first read teaches children to read with accuracy. 

  • The second read encourages children to develop their fluency. 

  • The third read helps children to develop their comprehension. 

Children will then bring the storybook home so that they can share the story with you with the confidence of knowing they can read and enjoy it, developing a love of reading for pleasure. Children will also bring home a Book Bag book linked to the storybook they have practised in class. This book will be new to them allowing them to practise their reading skills with you.

Get Writing:

Children complete writing activities linked to each storybook they read. You may hear your child talk about ‘hold, build or edit a sentence’. 

Hold a sentence is an activity that encourages children to remember a whole sentence while focussing on spelling and punctuation. 

Build a sentence gives children the opportunity to create their own sentence with a clear structure and meaning. 

Edit a sentence allows the children to critique a sentence using their knowledge of spelling, punctuation and grammar. Children complete a longer piece of independent writing which gives them the opportunity to show off their creativity and to practise their spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Expectations of progress:

This is the order of sounds and storybooks that children will follow as they progress through the Read Write Inc Phonics programme. 


Expected number of sounds:




As soon as children enter school, either at the beginning of EYFS or as a new child to school, they are assessed on their sound recognition blending and reading skills. This enables us to track their progress from day one. The assessment is repeated at the end of each half term. The reading assessment checks children’s ability to Fred talk to read words, use Fred in your head to decode words - including nonsense words, and allows children to demonstrate their fluency and comprehension skills. Children are then grouped according to their ability. 

Phonics Screening Check - Year One:

The Year 1 Phonics Screening check is a short, light-touch assessment to confirm whether individual children have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard. It will identify the children who need extra help so they are given the right support to improve their reading skills. They will then be able to retake the check the following year. You can find out more about the Phonics Screening check in the following video.


SEND support:

RWI provides pupils of all ages with the skills and knowledge they need to read and spell. Relevant training provides support for staff working with pupils who are predicted to make slower progress in learning to read. 

Pupils are taught in a group using RWI Phonics, or individually following Fast Track tutoring. This breaks down RWI phonics into small, incremental steps to help pupils who need extra support – including those who have SEND. Although pupils are taught in small cumulative steps, lessons are well-paced, engaging and motivating. Pupils are taught new sounds each week, but importantly review previous sounds and words until they can read them confidently – and in closely matched decodable texts. Assessment matches these steps, so progress can be recognised and celebrated.

Support for Parents:

Please find below useful links that you may find useful in helping you and your child learn about phonics. 

Finally, don’t worry if your child is struggling at first with their sounds and words, they will get there in their own time. If you have time (we know it is very precious!) we would encourage you to try and build reading a bedtime story to your child into your daily routine. This will not only help to develop a wider vocabulary which makes a vast difference to their quality of writing but it will also encourage them to enjoy a good story. Re-reading the same story time and time again is also proven to increase vocabulary and deepen understanding with every read.

Useful links:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc4jJHiQyjE&t=6s - An introduction to Read Write Inc and how it is taught at St. Silas.

https://home.oxfordowl.co.uk/reading/reading-schemes-oxford-levels/read-write-inc-phonics-guide/ - Lots of free resources to support Read Write Inc at home including ebooks and downloadable practice sheets.

https://www.ruthmiskin.com/parents/ - Films for parents and carers.

Early Reading Leader: Miss Ghadiyali