Swing Gate Infant School and Nursery

Phonics Teaching at Swing Gate  

In January 2022, we changed our approach to teaching phonics in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 to reflect the training our teachers and leaders have undertaken. At Swing Gate, our intent is that all our children become fluent readers. In order to achieve this we have implemented the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme. This is a systematic and synthetic approach to phonics. We start this programme in Reception and follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised progression, which ensures children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering phonics to read and spell as they move through school.

 How we teach phonics 

Whole class discrete daily phonics lessons start at Phase 1 in the Nursery, Phase 2, 3 and 4 in Reception and Phase 5 in Year 1. The sequence of phonemes taught from Phase 2 follows the progression within the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme. The progression has been organised so that children are taught from the simple to more complex Grapheme-Phoneme Correspondence (GPC), as well as taking into account the frequency of their occurrence in the most commonly encountered words. All the graphemes taught are practised in words, sentences and fully decodable books. Children review and revise GPCs daily, weekly and across terms and years, in order to move their knowledge from their working memory to their long-term memory. Tricky words (words which are not phonetically decodable) are taught alongside Phases 2-5. 

In Year 2, all children take part in a daily spelling lesson following the objectives set out in the National Curriculum. Those who are not fluent readers or have specific gaps will also take part in a phonic ‘catch-up’ session at least three times a week following the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme. 

Phase 1 Phonics is taught throughout the Nursery year. It has seven different aspects which all develop auditory skills. The aspects are as follows: environmental sounds; instrumental sounds; body percussion; rhythm and rhyme; alliteration; voice sounds and oral blending and segmenting. Aspects are taught daily, either whole class or in groups, depending on the aspect being taught. Rhythm and rhyme and alliteration continue to be taught throughout the Primary years. 

Phase 2 Phonics begins at the start of Reception. During the daily whole class lessons, the children are taught phoneme-grapheme correspondence. There are thirty three graphemes taught in Phase 2. Four graphemes are taught every week, with a revision lesson on the fifth day. The children learn how to blend to read and segment to write words and sentences containing these graphemes. The following graphemes are taught in Phase 2: s a t p i n m d g o c k ck e u r h b f l ll ss j v w x y z zz qu ch sh th ng nk.

Phase 3 Phonics is taught in Reception and introduces more words with two or more digraphs, words with double letters, longer words, compound words, words ending in –ing, words with s /z/ in the middle, words with –s /s/ /z/ at the end and words with –es /z/ at the end. The following graphemes are taught in Phase 3:  ai ee igh oa oo oo ar or ur ow oi ear air er.

Phase 4 Phonics is taught in Reception and introduces short and long vowels with adjacent consonants, longer words, compound words and words ending in suffixes: ing, ed, er, est.

Phase 5 Phonics is taught in Year 1 and introduces a set of new graphemes, alternative pronunciations for graphemes already known and alternative spellings for phonemes. These lessons revise the previously learnt graphemes and then introduce the new graphemes.

For example, /ai/ ay play, /ow/ ou cloud. Phase 5 usually finishes at the end of Year 1 and is revisited as part of the spelling programme taught in Year 2. The following graphemes are taught in Phase 5:

/ai/ ay play, /ow/ ou cloud, /oi/ oy toy, /ea/ ea each/, ur/ ir bird, /igh/ ie pie, /oo/ /yoo/ ue blue rescue, /yoo/ u unicorn, /oa/ o go, /igh/ i tiger, /ai/ a paper, /ee/ e he, /ai/ a-e sha_e, /igh/ i-e time, /oa/ o-e home, /oo/ /yoo/ u-e rude cute, /ee/ e-e these, /oo/ /yoo/ ew chew new, /ee/ ie shield, /or/ aw claw, /ee/ y funny, /e/ ea head, /w/ wh wheel, /oa/ oe ou toe shoulder, /igh/ y fly, /oa/ ow snow, /j/ g giant, /f/ ph phone, /l/ le al apple metal, /s/ c ice, /v/ ve give

/u/ o-e o ou some mother young, /z/ se cheese, /s/ se ce mouse fence

/ee/ ey don_ey, /oo/ ui ou fruit soup, /ur/ or word, /oo/ u oul awful could, /air/ are share, /or/ au aur oor al author dinosaur floor wall, /ch/ tch ture match adventure, /ar/ al a half, father, /or/ a water, /o/ a want, /air/ ear ere bear there, /ur/ ear learn, /r/ wr wrist, /s/ st sc whistle science, /c/ ch school, /sh/ ch chef,/z/ ze freeze, /ai/ eigh aigh ey ea eight straight grey break, /n/ _n gn _nee gnaw, /m/ mb thumb, /ear/ ere eer here deer, /zh/ su si treasure vision, /j/ dge bridge, /i/ y crystal, /j/ ge large, /sh/ ti ssi si ci potion mission mansion delicious

/or/ augh our oar ore daughter pour oar more.  Please watch our video, which explains more about how we teach for mastery at Swing Gate Infant School and Nursery.


Please watch our video, which explains more about how we teach for mastery at Swing Gate Infant School and Nursery.


Reading practice sessions

Children in Reception and Year 1, apply their phonic knowledge in small group reading practice sessions. In these sessions, the children read a book which is fully decodable and matched to their phonic ability. These sessions happen twice a week with an adult and focus on decoding, prosody (reading with rhythm, stress and intonation, to the punctuation), and comprehension. The class teacher chooses a different comprehension focus for each week dependent on the children’s needs. The children then take the same book home on a Friday so they can celebrate their success and continue to practise fluent reading.  

In Year 2, when children are secure with Phase 5 phonics, the class move to whole class reading practice. Here, teachers select high quality texts which challenge all children. These are read aloud each day. Children read the same text over the week and the teacher will hear each child read aloud. The sessions focus on developing a wide range of skills including reading with fluency, intonation and expression, looking at vocabulary, inference, prediction, explanation, retrieval and sequencing. Children who do not have secure Phase 5 phonics, also take part in additional small group reading practice sessions following the same approach as Year 1. 



In Reception and Year 1, at the end of each week there is a review session which recaps the learning. There are also whole review weeks to address gaps identified by the teacher’s ongoing assessment.

Children identified as at risk of falling behind are immediately identified and daily ‘keep up’ sessions are put in place following the Little Wandle Letter and Sounds Revised programme. 

In Reception and Year 1, the children are assessed at the end of every half term using the Little Wandle Letter and Sounds Revised assessments. These assessments are used to match the children to the correct decodable book and to identify any gaps which teachers then address through daily teaching, one-to-one and small group ‘keep up’ sessions. Children, in Year 2, who are not secure with Phase 5 phonics and are taking part in ‘catch up’ sessions, will be assessed half termly and also through teacher’s ongoing formative assessment within sessions

In Year 1, children complete the national phonics screening check. It is a short, statutory assessment to test children on their phonic knowledge. In 2021, the screening was not carried out in Year 1 due to COVID-19 but Year 2 children completed this in the autumn term. In the screening, children sit one-to-one with a familiar teacher and read forty words (twenty real words and twenty alien/pseudo words). The results are shared with parents. Children who do not pass the Phonics Screening Check in Year 1 will re-sit this in Year 2.


Supporting your child with reading at home


Children will bring home a book every night that they have chosen.  We encourage parents to read and enjoy books with their children.

Reception and Year 1

There are three types of book that children will bring home each week:

  • A reading practice book – Collins Big Cat (new books). This will be at the correct phonic stage for children. They should be able to read this fluently and independently. At the beginning of Reception, these will be picture books (that do not contain written text). 
  • We have sorted through our existing books and matched them to the  correct phonic phases being taught in class. These books will be sent home each week and are available in classrooms. 
  • A book for enjoyment.  Children are not expected to read these books on their own, as it will not match their phonics level. These books are for parents/carers and children to read and enjoy together and will be taken from the class or school library. 

 Children who have secured Phase 5 phonics

Children who are reading beyond our new reading scheme will continue to bring home the colour banded books which we have previously used - these progress from turquoise, purple, gold, white and lime levels to being a free reader. 

There are two types of reading books that children will bring home. They can independently change these as frequently as they wish:

  • Reading practice books – labelled with a coloured book band. They should be able to read this fluently and independently, focusing on reading with expression and discussing the book at home. 
  • A book for enjoyment.  Children are not expected to read these books on their own, as it will not match their phonics level. These books are for parents/carers and children to read and enjoy together and will be taken from the class or school library.  


Please click here for the following guides for parents:

Reading Leaflet Nursery

Reading leaflet Reception & beginning of KS1

Reading leaflet for children who have completed Phase 5 phonics and the Little Wandle Reading Scheme


The Little Wandle website has a range of resources for parents including videos explaining how we teach phonics and pronunciation videos. 

Jargon Busting

Below is some of the vocabulary that we use with children during their phonics lessons.

Phoneme: The smallest unit of sound in a word eg c-a-t has three phonemes and so does sh-i-p.  Phonemes can be put together to make words.

Grapheme: The written form of a phoneme. Graphemes can be made up from different numbers of letters - 1 letter eg t, 2 letters eg sh, 3 letters eg igh, or 4 letters eg ough.

GPC: Short for Grapheme-Phoneme Correspondence. Knowing a GPC means being able to match a phoneme (sound) to a grapheme (written representation) and vice versa.

Oral blending – hearing a series of sounds and merging them together to say the word, for example, an adult says ‘d-o-g’ and the child says, ‘dog’.

Blending: This involves looking at a written word, looking at each grapheme and using knowledge of GPC to work out which phoneme each grapheme represents and then merging these phonemes together to make a word. This is the basis of reading. For example, c-a-t blends to make ‘cat’. 

Oral Segmenting: This is the act of hearing a whole word and then splitting it up into the phonemes that make it. Children need to develop this skill before they will be able to segment words to spell them.

Segmenting: This involves hearing a word, splitting it up into the phonemes that make it, using knowledge of GPC to work out which graphemes represent those phonemes and then writing those graphemes down in the right order. This is the basis of spelling.

Digraph: a grapheme containing two letters that makes one sound (phoneme) eg sh, ch, th 

Trigraph: a grapheme containing three letters that makes one sound (phoneme) eg igh, ear, air

Split digraph: A split digraph is a digraph that is split by a consonant. Usually a long vowel sound, eg ‘a-e’ (cake), 'e-e' (sphere), ‘i-e’ (five), ‘o-e’ (code) and ‘u-e’ (rule).

Pure sounds: Pronouncing the sound (phoneme) correctly and not adding 'uh' to the end of the sound. Children who add 'uh' to the end of phonemes eg b'uh', m'uh' etc struggle to blend words for reading.

Decoding/decodable: being able to ‘sound out’ the word into its component phonemes.

Non-words/Pseudo/ Alien Words: Words that can be decoded but are made up and do not make sense. If a child has good phonic knowledge they will be able to decode both real and alien words.

Below are a list of links to online activities and games which you may find useful playing at home:

CBeebies Alphablocks
Phonics Play
BBC Bitesize KS1 Phonics
Phoneme Pop


Swing Gate Lane, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire HP4 2LJ

01442 863913