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Geoff Ashton

Blogs by Geoff Ashton
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35 minutes reading time (7064 words)

Teach Your Child How To Read Using Phonics - A 5-Step Guide For Parents


INTRODUCTION: The 'problem'

PART 1: What is 'phonics'?

PART 2: What does a phonics lesson look like?


PART 3: What is the Year 1 phonics screening check?


PART 4: How is phonics taught?


PART 5: Your simple, 5 STEP GUIDE to teaching phonics.


CONCLUSION: What can you realistically hope to achieve?








Phonics - a parent's guide: Ash Tutors














So, you've been to Parents' Evening. You've had some bad news.


Most likely, you've ranted a bit; raved a bit; you've possibly cried, and maybe your child has too.


"Your child isn't keeping up!"


You'd sat there, all hopeful and tense, wanting to hear the best, perhaps expecting the worst. You'd suspected things weren't quite right.


"Their reading is behind. They don't know their phonics," said the teacher.


Some time later, after the initial shock, you eventually get down to business.


What can we do? How can we solve this?


For some people, hiring a private tutor is the option they take.


It's certainly quicker, easier and likely to deliver excellent results.


(If you prefer the easy life, and live in the North West of England - go to


But, there is another way...


You really CAN do it yourself! Yes, you read that correctly.


All it takes is time, patience, some key (but relatively simple) information, and of course, THIS GUIDE!


There are plenty of parents out there who are perfectly capable of 'consuming' the simplified information here and using it to make huge improvements in their child's literacy.


We're not trying to turn you into a super-teacher or to replace the excellent work schools do. That isn't our aim.


This guide is for those who simply wish to give their child a boost in phonics, and consequently, improve their reading, writing, spelling, and their accessibility to many other subject areas...




INSIDER TIP: Don't underestimate what you'll be able to do. Phonics is one of the few areas of learning that can make or break a child's development, yet it's so easy to fix!



But first of all, before we give you a step-by-step procedure for teaching phonics to your own child, you need to have some background skills and knowledge (no skimming this part, or you'll come unstuck later on!).

Read on…


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PART 1: What exactly are phonics...

and why your child needs to know them.


'Phonics' are a crucial part of how we teach children to read and write. Through the teaching of phonics, children will learn to read, write, speak and recognise the sounds of the 26 letters of the alphabet and the 44 sounds of the English language.



INSIDER TIP: Teachers (including me within this guide!) will very often refer to these sounds as the following, thus adding to the confusion:


  • Sounds
  • Phonics
  • Patterns
  • Phonic patterns
  • Phonic sounds
  • Graphemes
  • Phonemes
  • Trigraphs
  • digraphs


There are subtle distinctions between them all (see glossary), but for our purposes at present, they all mean the same thing! For example:


ph, sh, ch, ai, bl, igh, ough and so on...


Phonics also teaches children how to 'blend' and 'segment' letters (more on these later) so that they can pronounce words when they are reading and construct words when they are writing.


Over time, phonics becomes an automatic skill that children use to support their reading and writing. Without it, children's learning will flounder, in pretty much EVERY academic subject.


And here's the key 'woah' moment - you as an adult, already know your phonics! Assuming of course that you're a reasonably educated adult who can read and write to a proficient standard - then you know your phonics.





Since 2007, schools in England have followed a scheme of work set by the Department For Education called 'Letters and Sounds'.

The document outlines the different phases of phonics and the correct order for sounds and patterns to be taught. You can view and download the document online for free.


This document also outlines for you the precise activities that many schools use to teach phonics to your child. So if you're feeling ambitious, simply download it, deliver it, and you need read no further here! (No refunds mind!)


However, I wouldn't advise that course of action - it is much easier to follow our somewhat lighter and more accessible version.

(Boring - yet vitally important!)

Letters and Sounds organises the teaching of phonics into six phases: Phase 1 starts in Nursery. The programme, Letters and Sounds, is a systematic and progressive phonics programme, meaning that each phase builds on the knowledge and understanding of the last one.



Children progress through the phases at different rates and only move on to the next phase when they are secure and confident in all elements of their current phase. At school, your child will most likely be placed into an 'ability' phonics group so that they can continue to learn at a pace most suited to them.


Hang in there with me - the actual 'how can I solve it' bit is pretty easy, but it's useful to know some background.



PART 2: What does a phonics lesson look like…in pretty much every school in the country?


There are several phonics schemes that the majority of schools use. The most popular are Jolly Phonics and Read, Write, Inc. You can ask your child's teacher what scheme their school use if you wish to find out more about it, but this is not absolutely necessary if you wish to make use of this guide...

...which you clearly must intend doing! So don't bother - stick with us instead.



Schools do not necessarily have to follow a scheme and there are some schools who incorporate elements of both. All phonics lessons, no matter what scheme, generally follow the same pattern.


Phonics are phonics, and by that measure, every scheme will be precisely identical.

By reading this guide, you'll be able to adopt this format yourself at home!



INSIDER TIP: A 'dedicated' phonics lesson usually takes place daily and lasts for around 20 minutes. That isn't much time! You can quite easily implement our guide in just a few minutes per day.

Depending on ability, timing and phase, your child may learn a new sound (and the associated letters) each day or a new sound every week.


All phonics lessons follow the pattern of revisit, learn and apply. This gives children the opportunity to practise previous sounds, learn a new one and apply this learning to their reading and writing.


So let's get this clear.


In an average phonics lesson, your child might learn one new 'phonic pattern'. For this example, it might be ph, ie, ough, igh and so on...


They will look at this pattern in a piece of text; they will make the sound of this pattern out loud; they will look at words containing this pattern; they will do an activity (or several) that involves reading, writing, recognising and generally practising and applying this pattern.



This is the simple, repeatable format that the vast majority of phonics lessons take.





You'll see it written and explained in many different formats but essentially they are all the same. It's a cyclical process.


Realising it is this easy SHOULD reduce any intimidation you might be feeling about delivering this with your own child.


The activities referred to above might include speaking and listening games. They will also include lots of opportunities for your child to practice writing and using the new sound.


You might do this with magnetic letters, interactive formation games or through a multi-sensory approach such as the Jolly Phonics songs and actions (there are LOTS of these online which we'll link to later on, and they are all free!).


Your child will also learn 'tricky words' (words that do not follow a phonetic pattern, for example, 'said') and 'high-frequency words' (words that we use quite a lot!) alongside new sounds (more on tricky words and high-frequency words later).


Phonics lessons are very interactive and teachers can easily adapt phonics lessons to further support and challenge a child.


Phonics is not a standalone subject, and your child will apply their phonics learning in any writing or reading that they do throughout the day, even when they are at home!


Your child's 'guided reading book' will also usually follow the same phase of phonics that they are working on, but the colours or numbers will change depending on the Reading Scheme and Phonics Scheme used in school.


Many schools also link weekly spellings to the particular phonic patterns being covered, thus consolidating the phonics learning of the current week.


This is all good background information - BUT FEAR NOT! Our 5 step system will make things very simple.



PART 3: What is the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check?


The screening check is a government assessment designed to assess your child's understanding of 'decoding' (the linking of sounds to letters i.e.reading! ) at the end of Year 1.



The assessment aims to identify those children who need additional help with their phonics and it consists of 40 words. Half of these words are real and the other half are made-up 'nonsense' pseudo-words. Veep, pob and spoom are examples of nonsense words given in the assessment.



Just like reading their book, your child will read through the list whilst in a one to one arrangement with their teacher.


Why nonsense words? Well, the theory behind it is that if your child can read individual phonic patterns correctly, they'll be able to read nonsense words correctly too. By reading nonsense words, your child is able to demonstrate their phonics ability, not just their ability to recognise the shape of a word in sight.



Many children who struggle with phonics, necessarily get very good at reading 'sight words'. This means they memorise the outline (or shape) of the word. For example, in the word 'said' they'll remember the number of letters; the fact it ends in a tall letter; the curly nature of the initial letter and so on…



While this is a useful skill in itself, it can then hide the phonics issues they have, which only present themselves when the child attempts to read an unfamiliar word and is unable to 'blend' the patterns together.



All Year 1 pupils must take the Phonics Screening Check (at time of writing!), however, there are some exceptions to this. Some children may take the test in Year 2 if they did not meet the standard required in Year 1.



Headteachers can decide which children are ready to take the assessment and teachers should discuss the assessment with the parents of any children not yet ready for the Phonics Screening Check. Checks are carried out in the final summer term, usually in June, and the data from the assessments is reported to the Local Authority who submit it to the Department For Education (who then use the information to produce league tables and data - but that goes beyond our remit!).



Headteachers will then report your child's results to you by the end of the summer term. Children who have not taken the assessment by the end of Year 2 will not need to take it and it is not uncommon for this to happen.



So let's go through the basics of what the actual phonics sounds and patterns are, in the order that they're delivered.

And you know what? You already know them!


Why? Because you can read of course!


Alternatively, you can skip through the individual phases, just to get the general gist of them, and then head straight for the step-by-step guide to teaching phonics to your child - and simply return to the appropriate phase later on.



PART 4: How is phonics taught?


Letters and Sounds Phase 1 (in general, this is taught during Reception class, with some cross-over into Year 1)


Phase 1 starts in Nursery, with schools often recapping this phase in the first few weeks of Reception. Phase 1 supports the essential speaking and listening skills that your child will need to be able to read and write and lays the foundations for the phonetic alphabet that is used when teaching sounds.



The phonetic alphabet is pronounced differently from the normal alphabet. For example, a as in apple, not a as in angel and b as in bat not as in bee. (This is where we really need a speaking guide! It's important to recognise that sounds can and do sound different according to localities, which makes it more difficult for a young child to cope when they arrive from a different area in the country and speak with a different accent!)



More on 'sounding out' phonic patterns later on.


Phase 1 is separated into 7 different units, all centred around sound and listening. The aim of Phase 1 is to provide children with lots of speaking and listening opportunities, particularly with recognising and identifying sounds. This is a crucial part of phonics, as your child will need to identify sounds in words throughout each phase, starting with the final unit of Phase 1.



In Phase 1 your child will explore sounds from instruments, sounds in the environment and body percussion. They will be immersed in lots of rhymes, rhythm and alliteration and experiment with vocal sounds. It is only when your child has a strong grasp of sound that they will move onto the basic stages of 'sound talk' - oral blending and segmenting.


So let's define 'blending' and 'segmenting' - skills your child will need to master if they are to read and write at all.


Again, you already know this! Fancy words for simple ideas that you've done many times.



TO BLEND: This is when a child 'decodes' (reads) letters or phonic patterns to make the sound of the word out loud. e.g. c-a-t makes 'cat'. The blending part is when they come to the word they can't read. They will make the individual sounds, then say those sounds without the gaps - in other words, they draw them together. (Didn't I tell you it was easy?!)



TO SEGMENT: This is when a child does the opposite to this. They know the word they want to write down. e.g. snap. They then mentally focus on each sound and separate (or segment) them out in order to spell it correctly (s-n-a-p).

It takes a bit of getting your head around, but when you read with your child or write something, you've most likely gone through these two processes naturally.




INSIDER TIP: In general, you blend when you read, and segment when you write.



'Sound talk' introduces the idea that sounds belong to words through phrases such as 'Sssss for snake', 't t t for train' incorporated into their play as a way of introducing word-level phonics.



Letters and Sounds Phase 2 (in general this phase is taught through Year 1 with cross-ver into Year 2)


Children continue to do lots of speaking and listening games within their phonics lessons and teachers will still use lots of 'sound talk'. Phase 2 introduces children to sounds and words, usually CVC (consonant - vowel - consonant) words such as cat, mat, and pin.


In Phase 2, children also learn which sounds are represented by which letters, and end the phase by learning which two letters can represent one sound, for example, ff as in puff, ss as in grass.


Children are usually taught using lowercase letters in the earlier phases, however, some schools will teach both upper and lowercase letters at the same time.


The sounds are taught in the following order as it is generally much easier to build new words using the initial letters of s, a, t, p, i and n.


Your child will also learn high-frequency (commonly used) words and tricky words (exceptions to the phonic rules!) so that they can begin to read and write at the sentence level, for example, the cat sat on the mat.


Sounds and letters taught in Phase 2:

s a t p i n m d g o c k ck e u r h b f ff l ll ss


Tricky words taught in Phase 2:

the, to, am, I, go, no



Letters and Sounds Phase 3 (possibly taught in Year 1, mostly in Year 2 and above)


Phase 3 builds on the sounds and letters previously learned in Phase 2. By the end of Phase 3, your child will have learned all letters of the alphabet and their respective sounds. In Phase 3 your child will learn more graphemes (sounds made out of two letters) and learn more words that they can use in their reading and writing.



In many cases, it is Phase 3 where some children can get left behind, and Ash Tutors' own experiences prove this to be the phase that causes the most problems.



Children can struggle with Phase 3 at any age, but in general, many children in Years 2 and 3 find this phase to be a struggle.



Sounds and letters taught in Phase 3:

j v w x y z zz qu ch ar sh or th ur ng

ow ai oi ee ear igh air oa ure oo er


Tricky words taught in Phase 3:

he, she, we, me, be, was, my, you, her, they, all


Letters and Sounds Phase 4 (taught through year 2 and above)


Phase 4 continues to develop your child's vocabulary. Children add to their word banks by learning more CVC and CVVC (see glossary) words.



Tricky words taught in Phase 4:

said, so, do, have, like, some, come, were, there, little, one, when, out, what


Letters and Sounds Phase 5 (taught towards the end of Year 2 and above)


In Phase 5, children learn that sounds can be represented by more than one letter, for example, the f sound can also be spelled as ph, f, and ff. They also learn that sound combinations, for example, ea can be pronounced in different ways. ea as in dead and ea as in leaf.


By this phase, your child should be able to read words fluently and spell most words correctly. They will also learn how to spell the remaining 100 high-frequency words, with some children moving on to the next list of over 200 high-frequency words.


Examples of high-frequency words taught in Phase 5:

because, Mr, Mrs, house, look, have, once

(You can access all the high-frequency words here.)


Letters and Sounds Phase 6 (taught in Year 2 and above - by this stage children don't usually have a phonics problem!)


In Phase 6, children learn spellings and the spelling system, above and beyond the limitations of basic phonic patterns.

Phase 6 involves a lot of wordplay and word investigation.


Children learn about suffixes such as ing and ed (play, playing, played) and prefixes, such as un and dis (unwrap, dislikes). They also learn to spell in the past tense, for example, changing play to played, jump to jumped.

Frankly, if your child is at Phase 6, then YOU DON'T HAVE A PHONICS PROBLEM!




PART 5: Your simple, 5 STEP guide to teaching phonics to your own child.


Finally, the interesting bit!



OK, so now you know WHAT is taught, and HOW schools go about it. But what can YOU do with your own child?


Fear not, we have a system!



Follow our simple step-by-step procedure, and watch their reading improve.


You want a simple system to follow. Something that doesn't take hours to plan, but is still an effective way of improving your child's reading skills (ultimately leading to better writing and spelling skills too).


No-one is suggesting you completely take over the school's role and replace it with your own.


This isn't for homeschoolers looking for a comprehensive scheme.


This is for parents whose children still attend school and are looking for a boost.


Incorporating the school's resources (for example, your child's weekly spellings or guided reading books) into your own phonics tutoring will support your child's learning tenfold!

Here's how to do it:



STEP 1: Identify problematic phonic patterns by performing a simple assessment...


You can download free, printable assessment sheets that require your child to read each sound.


Or you can use our very simple assessment sheets that involve nothing more than asking your child to read a sound out loud.


Start with phonic patterns outlined above at phase 2 (we are assuming your child is reception age or older, and doesn't have severe learning difficulties).


You might be surprised to find there are letters they can't read out loud when it's in isolation. Be very strict here - you won't help them by making assumptions about what they can do - TEST it to find out. (Always stop if your child is starting to struggle! We want to help our children, not put them off phonics for life!).



EVERY letter has its own sound - don't miss any out, that includes j and x !


Simply work your way through the list of phonic sounds and patterns and ask them to make the sound out loud. For example, point to a letter, and ask them to make the sound it would make - NOT its name in the alphabet! Ask "what is this sound?" rather than "what is this letter?"


There is an important difference here.


The letter 'a' for example makes the sound of 'a' as in 'hat', not 'a' as in 'way'.


Another common mistake is to read the letter 'l' so it sounds like 'luh' instead of the much shorter 'l'. Or 's' as 'suh' instead of 's' as in 'snake'. There are others...


If they get it correct, put a tick, a cross if not. Don't let them see what you're doing as it can be distracting for them, and when they see a cross they'll make half a dozen further guesses!


You need to be firm, speedy and err on the side of caution.


If your child doesn't make the correct sound first time, and quickly, then mark it as a cross. Better to be cautious and cover the phonics they're not 100% secure with.


STOP assessing when you have 5 phonic patterns marked with a cross. No need to go any further, as you already have enough for your first lot of phonics teaching at home!


Simply copy and paste the following information - then use it as a quick assessment sheet to test your child on what they can read and say out loud:


Phonics Assessment

Phase 2

s a t p i n m d g o c k ck e u r h b f ff l ll ss


Phase 3

ai air ar ch ear ee er igh j ng oa oi oo sh th ur ure v w x y z zz




STEP 2: Once you've identified the problem phonic patterns, you need to teach and practise them...


First of all, one or two patterns are plenty enough to work on for each session, no matter how old the child is. If you're not sure, then just work on one pattern.


We don't want this to be a full-time job for you, but it really would help, at least initially, to think a little bit beforehand about how you're going to deliver this practice.


I've successfully taught children from Phase 3 to 5 in 2 months with only one lesson per week of 15 minutes - but you will see better results if you can increase the regularity.


15 minutes per fortnight is NOT enough. We suggest three 15 minute sessions per week. The more frequent, the better.

Short, interactive activities that allow your child to:

  • identify the letter sound,
  • say the letter sound,
  • and write the letter sound...

is all you need to do.

This is the best way to make progress as children need to see, hear, say and write each new sound and letter. Your child will pick up new sounds a lot faster than simply repeating/copying you and short bursts of fun activities are a lot easier to implement into your home life.




INSIDER TIP: Remember to take a look at our resources section and use these with your child. Children love using these resources at school and teachers will often use the games in their lessons too!


Here are a few examples of activities you could do. We understand that being a parent is a full-time job, so these activities are perfect to do while cooking tea, running a bath, or at bedtime when reading a story.



  • Burying magnetic or foam letters in sand/flour.
  • 'Fishing' for magnetic/foam letters in a bubble bath.
  • Using fridge magnets to form the sounds or find the sounds in words.
  • Pointing out the pattern in your child's school or favourite reading books.
  • Have your child look for the patterns in their books using a magnifying glass and acting as a phonics detective.
  • Look for the patterns in signs/things around the home (i.e food packets).
  • Finding the letters in 'alphabet spaghetti' just before tea, or 'alphabet shape' potatoes.


  • Painting (either with brushes or finger painting)
  • Invisible ink
  • Simply writing on a piece of paper with lots of their coloured pens and pencils.
  • Using letter stencils on paper.
  • Chalk on pavement/wall (simply wash away with water/rain)
  • Icing pens to write letter sound on biscuits/cakes (yummy! A great one for the weekend)
  • Write the letters yourself in highlighter and have your child trace over them to practise the formation.



  • Finding objects in the home/outside that match the letter/sound.
  • Recording on an iPhone or iPad and playing it back.
  • Using Apps - there are loads available - try Squeebles.

STEP 3: You then need to practise this learning by applying the sound in different situations.



INSIDER TIP: Put each letter or letter pattern you teach into a grid with words containing the sound pattern, along with little pictures of the word. So to be clear, if you've learned the grapheme 'ai', then you'd have a grid with several of the boxes containing 'ai'. Also in each box would be examples of words containing them along with prompting pictures. Continue to fill in the grid with other patterns.


This can act as a great prompt when reading with your child if they're struggling to 'decode' a word containing a sound pattern you've already covered.


As they get better, you can remove the pictures so they're just using the words to help.

Put this onto your fridge and get them to read through it once a day - brilliant reinforcement, and takes seconds.

Practise the sound by reading, writing and learning new words.


This is where the blending and segmenting come into play.


Provide lots of opportunities for your child to apply the new sound orally and in any writing they may do at home.


Involve your children in writing the weekly shopping list or writing their own cards to family and friends. Encourage them to write notes to their friends. Make the writing all about them, they shouldn't feel as though they're back at school!

Letters And Sounds has dozens of free printable resources for this stage, including word flash cards and sentence cards. All of the words have been done for you!




INSIDER TIP: Another much easier method than all of the above, is to invest in some brilliant software called Nessy. At time of writing it's a £60 per year subscription service that allows you to assess your child. Then they can practise each problematic pattern with interactive, online games. Careful though, it still needs structured use - you can't just set it up and leave them to it! And it DOESN'T include any writing activities - ignore that at your peril!


So now you've assessed, then taught, then practised. You now rinse and repeat…


STEP 4: Return to step one - re-assess to find out which pattern to teach next.


You will undoubtedly find that patterns you've already covered get picked up again as problem areas, but over time the trend should still be upwards.


Make some time, say after every 5 to 10 patterns you've taught, to return to those already learned to reinforce and consolidate that learning. Phonics games (see resources) are a great way to revisit old sounds in a fun way with your child!

In fact, if you can spend 5 minutes at the start of each session doing this, then all the better.

It can be the classic case of two steps forward and one back!


STEP 5: Work on the 'tricky words' and 'High Frequency Words'



So we've left these until the end, even-though schools will teach them hand in hand with each phase.


As we've said previously we're not trying to take over from school, and it's more important to initially get those phonic patterns secure.


Once you've achieved this, you can turn your attention to these words that usually buck the trend of all those rules and patterns you've been teaching! Isn't English great?!


Approach it with your child precisely like that i.e. TELL them that these words don't follow the usual rules and that they have to learn to read and recognise them by sight. Children all around the UK know that these words are called 'Tricky Words' for this reason.



Teaching tricky words:

  • Come up with mnemonics that help your child remember the word. (We all know Because: Big Elephants Can't Always Use Small Exits right?)
  • Hunt for the word in your child's school reading or favourite books.
  • Create the word using magnetic/foam letters.
  • Word snap using high-frequency flash cards (these can be ordered online from Amazon quite cheaply).
  • Creating silly (nonsense) sentences with your child using the tricky words.
  • The resources section of this handbook includes lots of games and websites that cover these words too. Play these games with your child!

Remember, all 200 of the high frequency (or tricky) words can be accessed here.




INSIDER TIP: When teaching tricky words, have your child sound out the letters and talk about which part of the word is 'tricky'. For example, 'have' becomes h-a-v, and the e  is silent!

NESSY will also give you plenty of games to help practise the tricky and high-frequency words.






So there you have it! A simple (ish) 5 step system to boost your child's literacy skills. And make no mistake, this will boost EVERY aspect of their school work.


You could even make a case that maths will be more accessible to them, especially with worded problems.


But there is little doubt that improved reading will have a major impact on all other subjects where reading or writing are involved.


The key is to make it frequent, short and fun.


If you're spending up to 30 minutes planning an activity then you're doing it wrong! And let's face it, who has that amount of spare time these days?

What can you realistically hope to achieve?


I see no reason why you can't completely 'crack' phonics over the course of 2 or 3 months, if not sooner. I've achieved this with many children, even those with a dyslexia 'diagnosis'.


It's perhaps important to point out that it's dangerous to make predictions, in that every child is different, and every 'learning rate' is different.


Once you get around to your first repeated cycle of re-assessment, then you'll be able to make some kind of prediction about how long it might take to completely cover all the phonic patterns.


And of course, your child's age will come into play too.


As a general rule of thumb 'average' children should know all their phonics by Year 3, although many forget some of them again!

And at this point, there is a gap in the current educational system. Because in many cases, these children won't cover phonics ever again.


I've taught many Year 6 children who have learned and consequently forgotten their phonics again, then after re-learning, have gone on to reach a high standard in their End of Year tests.


I've also spoken to several secondary school English teachers who need to revise phonics with their charges.

Good luck - I'd love to hear how you got on.



Free Resources

(Please note, links can change. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you find a broken link and we'll fix it in the next versions. Thanks!)


General Resources for All Phases


Teach Your Monster To Read Teach Your Monster To Read is a free online gaming resource that covers all stages of reading, from sounds to full sentences. Perfect for practicing phonics at home!

Mr Thorne Does Phonics With over 600 phonics videos, Mr Thorne is a fantastic YouTube resource covering all sounds and letters for every phase.

Oxford Owl A trusted reading scheme that is now available online to support your child's phonics phase and any reading stage.

Jolly Phonics These fun, short videos are a fantastic way of learning sounds and letters through songs and actions.

Phonics Play Although Phonics Play is a subscription service, there are still plenty of free games available for your child to use at home! Games are organised into phases and sounds and are used throughout schools. Subscribing to all games is £12 for a whole year.

Dinosaur Egg High-Frequency Words An interactive way to learn and practice all 200 high-frequency words organised into the appropriate phases.

NESSY Reading and Spelling A brilliantly interactive subscription software to assess and practice all phonics, tricky and high frequency words. Careful though, as it doesn't (and can't) practise writing.

Wordshark More software - looks like something from 1981, but for some reason kids love the retro style (it wasn't designed as retro, it's just really really old!). On the plus side for every phonic pattern there are dozens of simple, entertaining computer games to practise them. Fact is - it works!

Education City Another brilliant all-round resource that covers maths too. But it has a very comprehensive phonics section - and it's only £30 per year at time of writing.

Simplex Spelling Phonics 1 Costing £3.99, this app teaches over 450 words, mostly high frequency and tricky words. It also allows children to practice their formation through finger writing. It's an app that can be used when travelling or as part of your structured sessions.

Phase 1

Initial Sound Match Also great for Phase 2, this resource requires children to match the sound to the image.

Phonic Fighter (Google it)  Another initial sound resource that requires children to match images and sounds. A great tool for identifying the letters your child can recognise!

Phase 2 & 3

Alphablocks Aimed at younger children, Alphablocks is an invaluable video resource that covers all phonics sounds, letters and cvc/cvvc words (see the glossary to find out what they are!)

ABCLite (search on App Store) is a phonics app that focuses on letter formation in a fun and friendly way. Lite is the free version and is invaluable to your child's learning.

Stimulating Learning A fantastic blog filled with creative phonics activities you can do at home.

Help A Hedgehog A spelling game for Phases 2 & 3 that focuses on blending and segmenting. Add your own words to support your child's spellings homework!

Forest Phonics A great way of practicing new sounds and digraphs as your child moves each letter to create the word they hear.

CVC Machine Gives your child the opportunity to practice their blending, segmenting and decoding in a playful way. Great for children who are moving on to sentence level!

Phase 4

Interactive Magnetic Letters Although this can be used at any age, the interactive magnetic letters and board is brilliant for practicing your child's growing vocabulary at this Phase.

Blending Bingo Print out the bingo card that matches the sounds you are learning and have fun! This game covers Phase 3 right through to Phase 5.

Phase 5 & 6

Planetary Plurals A brilliant spelling resource for practicing plurals.

Fish 'Em Up! Interactive game that looks at prefixes and suffixes. A great tool for introducing this skill or practicing new spellings. 



Frequently Asked Phonics Questions


What if my child is struggling?

Children learn at their own rate and it can be hard for us parents to see them falling behind. DO NOT WORRY! Reinforcement at home is one of the best ways for your child to catch up and this guide will help both you and your child through this.

Where can I find lists of the sounds associated with each phase?

Our handy breakdown of each phonics phase lists the appropriate sounds associated with each phase.

Why does my child's reading book contain so few words?
This is a completely normal way of teaching reading and phonics to children. The reading book will focus completely on the sound or phase your child is at. They may also be repetitive so that your child can focus on the sound they are learning.

How come I'm achieving more with my child than the highly trained, highly paid teachers at school?!

It's very easy to throw mud. But the truth is, there is a world of difference teaching one to one than teaching a whole class full of different children, with different personalities, behaviour standards, degrees of focus, ability levels…

One to one is the (almost) ideal scenario. Everything you do can be tailored precisely for their needs. That's why it's so much more effective.

Even your 5 step guide is too complicated. Just give me the simplest method.

I would say the simplest method is to assess using our provided sheets, then use a mixture of software to practise and apply what's been learned. Which software you use will depend on your budget. Personally, I'd choose Nessy, closely followed by It could all be done with the latter - and it's the cheapest of the options.




Blend: Combining individual letters to make a word e.g. c-a-t becomes cat.

CVC Words: Words made up of a consonant, vowel and consonant e.g. cat, mat, pin.

CVVC Words: Words made up of a consonant, vowel, vowel and consonant e.g. leaf, pain, toad.

Decoding: Understanding what sound goes with what letter and saying that sound out loud; basically, 'reading' written text!

Digraph: Two letters that make one sound e.g. th, ng

Grapheme: A letter or group of letters that represent one sound e.g. sh, igh

High-frequency words: Common words that are used frequently e.g. and, we

Phoneme: The smallest unit of sound e.g. o, e, u

Segment: Separating a word to identify individual letters e.g. jam becomes j-a-m.

Tricky words: Words that are irregular and do not fit a phonics pattern e.g. said, no

Trigraph: Three letters that make one sound e.g. ear, air

Vowel digraph: Two letters which make one vowel sound e.g. ai, ow

Why Is Private GCSE Tuition Important?
Quick facts about dyspraxia