There are six overlapping phonics phases and children are carefully matched to the phase they need. The information below, adapted from the Letters and Sounds Guidance for Practitioners and Teachers, details what happens in each stage and when it is typically taught.
Phase 1 – Nursery / Reception
Activities are divided into seven aspects, including environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body sounds, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and finally oral blending and segmenting.
Phase 2 – Reception
Learning 19 letters of the alphabet and one sound for each. Blending sounds together to make words. Segmenting words into their separate sounds. Beginning to read simple captions.
- Set 1: s, a, t, p
- Set 2: i, n, m, d
- Set 3: g, o, c, k
- Set 4: ck, e, u, r
- Set 5: h, b, f, ff, l, ll, ss
Phase 3 – Reception
The remaining 7 letters of the alphabet, one sound for each. Graphemes such as ch, oo, th representing the remaining phonemes not covered by single letters. Reading captions, sentences and questions. “Tricky Words” are introduced – words that cannot be decoded using phonic knowledge so must be learnt by heart. On completion of this phase, children will have learnt the "simple code", i.e. one grapheme for each phoneme in the English language.
- Set 6: j, v, w, x
- Set 7: y, z, zz, qu
- Consonant digraphs: ch, sh, th, ng
- Vowel digraphs: ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er
Phase 4 – Reception / Year 1
No new grapheme-phoneme correspondences are taught in this phase. Children learn to blend and segment longer words with adjacent consonants, e.g. swim, clap, jump.
Phase 5 – Year 1
Now we move on to the "complex code". Children learn more graphemes for the phonemes which they already know, plus different ways of pronouncing the graphemes they already know.
Phase 6 – Year 2
Children are taught about past tense. They learn to spell polysyllabic words, how to use suffixes, proof read their work and to use/spell contractions. They also learn lots of spelling strategies.