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When learning phonics, it’s essential that children have a system to follow and that no steps are skipped. It can be tempting to rush their practice and skip through books, but this will not be helpful in the long run. By making sure a child thoroughly learns the letter sounds and blends, you can ensure that they become better readers and spellers in future. 

Try not to worry about what other children are reading. Children learn to read at different paces but, with a bit of practice, most children are roughly around the same level by the time they reach Year 3. 

Learning Letter Sounds

When helping your child with phonics at home, start by ensuring that they know all of the letter sounds, e.g. “a” is read as “ah”, “b” is read as “buh”. Don’t assume that your child will have learnt all of these sounds at school. 

If you’re starting from scratch, begin with the letters s, a, t, p, i and n. Learning these letters first helps your child to start reading three letter words quickly, e.g. “nap”, “tin”, “sip”. 

One way to ensure regular practise of these letters is by putting magnetic letters on your fridge. Your child should practise reading these on a daily basis. Don’t forget to review the letters they already know every now and again. 

Learning to Read Books

Once your child knows the sounds of the letters, they can begin to read more two and three-letter words, like “cat” and “dog”. You can now start reading simple books at home. The Jelly and Bean book series is perfect for this stage of reading. If you’re practising for the Phonics Screening Check, this is also a good time to introduce the Phase 2 Word Cards available at letters-and-sounds.com.

To keep track of words your child struggles with, you’ll need a word book in which you write tricky words. Don’t forget to review these words regularly. Tick a word if your child reads it correctly, put a dot if they are incorrect. Three consecutive ticks mean you can move on from that word for a while. Remember, three ticks only count if they’re done on different days, not just one day!

Learning Letter Blends and Preparing for the Phonics Screening Check

Once your child knows the letters of the alphabet, they can go on to learn the names of the vowels (a, e, i, o and u), rather than just their sounds. Knowing the names of these vowels will help your child when sounding out split digraphs, like “cake”. 

At this point, your child should also start to learn letter blends (also known as “digraphs”), such as “ch” and “ow”. The book Letterland: Beyond ABC is great for learning blends; it’s wonderfully colourful and our pupils love it. 

Teach your child a couple of digraphs at a time. Once they’ve learnt that blend, you can review common words that use that blend, e.g. when you learn “ou”, start sounding out words such as “house” and “mouse”. This is an ideal opportunity to integrate spelling practice; your child can use magnetic letters to spell out words that include the digraphs they’ve just learnt.

When reviewing blends, remember that some – like “th” – have two different sounds. You’ll need to review both sounds with your child. 

Once your child has learnt some digraphs, you can start to practise words in phases 3 to 5 using flashcards from Letters-and-Sounds.com or from the government’s official webpage. You can also use our Phase 3 to 5 Word List, which sorts words by digraph. This will give your child targeted practice on blends that they may be struggling with. 

Flashcards and Word Lists

Phonics Screening Check Practice Materials – Go to \”Phonics Screening Check Resources\” and select a year. The \”Children\’s materials\” links give flashcards of real words and alien words.


Phonics Phases 3-5 Word list Kin Learning

Additional Resources

Cursive Magnetic Letters

Letterland: Beyond ABC

Jelly and Bean books

Kin Learning provide tuition in Bromley and Sidcup for ages 4+ in early literacy and numeracy. Classes for little ones are 30 to 45 minutes in length. Contact us to find out about classes for your child.

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