Market Drayton Infant & Nursery School

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Phonics in Nursery-Support guidance for parents and carers

What is phonics?

Words are made up from small units of sound called phonemes. Phonics teaches children to be able to listen  carefully and identify the phonemes that make up each word. This helps children to learn to read words and spell words. In phonics lessons children are taught three main things:


  • Phonemes: Each letter has a name (a=ay, b=bee, c=see, etc), but spoken English uses about 44 sounds (phonemes). These phonemes are represented by letters (graphemes). In other words, a sound can be represented by a letter (e.g. 's' or 'h') or a group of letters 9e.g. 'the' or 'ear'). These sounds are taught in a particular order. The first sounds to be taught, in line with the  Read, Write Inc reading programme are m, a, s, d.


  • Blending: Children are taught to be able to blend. This is when children say the sounds that make up a word and are able to merge the sounds together until they can hear what the word is. This skill is vital in learning to read.


  • Segmenting: Children are also taught to segment. This is the opposite of blending. Children are able to say a word and then break it up into phonemes that make it up. This skill is vital in being able to spell words.


What makes phonics tricky?

In some languages learning phonics is easy because each phoneme has just one grapheme to represent it. The English language is complicated, it only has 26 letters in the alphabet. So some graphemes are made up from more than one letter, such as ch, th, oo, ay. These are all diagraphs (graphemes with two letters), but there are other graphemes that are triagraphs (made up of three letters e.g. 'igh') and even a few made up from four letters (e.g. 'ough') Another slight problem is that some graphemes can represent more than one phoneme. For example 'ch' makes very different sounds in these three words; Chip, School, Chef!


How is phonics taught?

Phonic sessions are very structured and last for approximately 10 minutes per day. The children are given the opportunity to explore what they are learning in phonics in independent. or adult-led activities throughout the nursery day. Phonics forms part of how we teach reading, but it is also important to help children become fluent readers by teaching them to recognise key words by sight. These are called 'tricky' words, words that cannot be segmented and blended to read. Phase two 'tricky' words include; I, no, go, to, the, into. These are words that children will need to learn by sight.

Writing / Mark Making

Early writing: Making marks, lines and shapes. Giving meaning to the marks they make.