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Phonics at Berkeley

All you need to know about phonics - Bug Club Phonics - Pearson

Sophie Thomson, Head of English and extended curriculum at Pearson, explains on this video the basics of phonics, how they work and provides practical guidance to help your child learn to read at home.

In the early years classrooms, we start by encouraging ‘book talk’.  Teachers read daily to the children so the children get to know and love all sorts of stories, poetry and information books.  The children learn to handle books, they talk about what’s happening and they begin to recognise a few key words.  The children will also have books which have no words and we use these to encourage discussions about the pictures, what is happening, the characters and setting and the story as a whole.


We buy our Nursery and Reception children a Nursery Rhyme book and set them a challenge to learn some as part of their induction to the school.  Rhymes are an important step in learning to read; they extend vocabulary, have rhyming words, actions, patterns and rhythms.



All this is happening alongside a phonics programme so that when the children are learning letters and sounds, they can apply these skills to the books they are reading.  Phonics means learning how to read the sounds in words and how those sounds can be written down.  This is essential for reading and it also helps children learn to spell well. 

Phonics is taught through a daily 30 minute session.  This allows children to learn strategies to support early reading and spelling.  We teach phonics through the ’Bug Club Phonics’ programme.  This provides a brisk, systematic, rigorous and enjoyable approach to the learning and teaching of the 44 phonemes.  The children learn to link the sounds to the letters of the alphabet and graphemes, they use their phonic knowledge to blend and segment words for reading and writing.  They are also taught that some words are not phonetically correct and are therefore learnt as ‘tricky’ words, such as once, have, said and where.  





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.

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.

3 (Reception & Year 1)

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.

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.

5 (Year 1 & Year 2)

Now we move on to children learning more graphemes for the phonemes which they already know, plus different ways of pronouncing the graphemes they already know.

6 (Year 2)

Working on spelling, including prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters etc.

Phonics links to spelling and as children become competent in learning to read the sounds they begin to learn to spell.  Children will begin to learn ‘spelling rules’.


We use Bug Club phonetically decodable books in order to help our youngest children get off to a good start in their reading.  These are sent home and changed weekly and are directly aligned to the sounds taught each week and the children’s increasing phonics knowledge.  In order to promote reading for pleasure, children also take home a library book each week.  This is often read to the child (it may be too difficult for the child to read alone) and discussed together to provide them with wider reading opportunities.  We buy our Nursery and Reception children book bags to help keep these altogether and promote children caring for books. 


All children are encouraged to read with a carer at least 3 times a week in order to develop fluency, comprehension and a love of reading.  Reading Records are used as a communication tool between home and school. 


Phonics lessons

Within a phonics lesson the children will either be taught a phoneme or common (tricky) words.  The fast paced lesson routine is:


Target phoneme lesson

  • Introduction – alphabet song
  • Share learning intentions
  • Revision of previously learnt sounds and tricky words
  • Introduce new sound
  • Visual search for new grapheme
  • Reading – shared reading activity
  • Independent spelling / writing
  • Wrap up – recap of lesson intentions


Common (tricky) words

  • Introduction – alphabet song
  • Share learning intentions
  • Revision of previously learnt sounds and tricky words
  • Introduce tricky words
  • Spelling tricky words
  • Reading – shared reading activity
  • Independent spelling / writing
  • Wrap up – recap of lesson intentions


Phonics is assessed every half term which informs us of additional support needed.  We have catch up and keep up sessions running daily throughout the school.


Our children love phonics and their journey to being fluent readers.


Reading Practice – Reception, Year 1, Year 2 Autumn term and any child who needs additional support with their phonics

Children read in small groups twice a week with a Bug Club Phonics book.  All the children have the same book.  The teacher models and supports the children reading this book which has known sounds in from the previous week’s learning. 


What is sent home? Books are changed weekly.

  • In Nursery our children will get a story book and a wordless book to take home in their book bag. 
  • In Reception and Year 1 the children will have 2 books a week – a book with a recent phonic sound/s they are learning and another book (fiction or non-fiction) to share for extra enjoyment. 
  • In Year 2

-in the autumn term the children will have a book with a recent phonic sound/s they are consolidating and another book (fiction or non-fiction) to share for extra enjoyment.  The children that require further support will continue with these books into the spring and summer terms.

-in the spring and summer term the children who are secure with their phonics knowledge will begin ‘Book Club’.


Phonics Check in Year 1 & 2

In the summer term, the government asks us to do a phonics check of all our Year 1 children and any Year 2 children who didn’t meet the pass mark in Year 1.  This check gives us extra information about their progress.  We will talk to you about how well your child has done.  We use this information to guide the children’s next steps. 

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