From the Early Years Foundation Stage onwards, children are encouraged to steadily develop their phonics knowledge through daily practice. At the early stages, they are supported to link letters and sounds in the order that they occur in words and to name and sound out the letters of the alphabet. They do this through adult led teaching which is consolidated by freely chosen activities that are child initiated during periods of free and structured play.
Children benefit enormously from exposure to books at this early age, especially those that fire their imagination and interest. Enjoying and sharing books leads to children seeing them as a source of pleasure and interest and this motivates them to value reading.
At Phase Two, children learn to recognise the early letter sounds and start blending and segmenting letters. They also start to learn to recognise some of the high frequency “tricky” words that they cannot sound out.
Soon children move into Phase Three by which time they know around nineteen letters of the alphabet and can read, blend and segment many simple CVC (Consonant, Vowel, Consonant) words. At this phase they learn another 25 graphemes, mostly two letter sounds (e.g. oa).
By Phase Four, children have some experience in reading simple two-syllable words and captions. They will know the letter names and be able to read some of the tricky words for themselves. During this phase they consolidate their knowledge.
Children broaden their knowledge of graphemes and phonemes for use in reading and spelling. They will learn new graphemes and alternative pronunciations for these where relevant. Children start to gain confidence in recognising words and enjoy spelling some words correctly in their own writing.
By the beginning of Phase Six, children should be able to read many words – some automatically if they are very familiar. Their spellings may seem unconventional at times but should be phonemically accurate; this is fine as spelling usually lags behind reading as it is much harder to master. Most children will become fluent readers during this phase and increasingly accurate spellers.
At this stage, many children will be reading longer and less familiar texts independently and with increasing fluency. The shift from learning to read to reading to learn takes place and children start to enjoy reading for information and for pleasure. As children find that they can decode words quickly and independently, they will read more and more.