Dinnington Community Primary School



What is Phonics?

So, what exactly 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 to spell words.


In phonics lessons children get the opportunity to:

  • Revisit and overlearn
  • Learn new phonemes/graphemes/tricky words
  • Practice new learning
  • Apply new learning




They are taught GPCs. This stands for grapheme phoneme correspondences. This simply means that they are taught all the phonemes in the English language and ways of writing them down. These sounds are taught in a particular order. The first sounds to be taught are s, a, t, p.



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.



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 the 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 a bit more complicated than this. This is largely because England has been invaded so many times throughout its history. Each set of invaders brought new words and new sounds with them. As a result, English only has around 44 phonemes but there are around 120 graphemes or ways of writing down those 44 phonemes. Obviously we only have 26 letters in the alphabet so some graphemes are made up from more than one letter.

ch th oo ay (these are all digraphs - graphemes with two letters)

There are other graphemes that are trigraphs (made up of 3 letters) and even a few made from 4 letters.

Another slightly sticky 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.


So why bother learning phonics?

In the past people argued that because the English language is so tricky, there was no point teaching children phonics. Now, most people agree that these tricky bits mean that it is even more important that we teach phonics and children learn it clearly and systematically. A written language is basically a kind of a code. Teaching phonics is just teaching children to crack that code. Children learn the simple bits first and then easily progress to get the hang of the trickier bits.


How is phonics taught?

 Phonics sessions are entirely made up from games, songs and actions and these sessions last for 15-20 minutes per day. 

In Year 1, we will building on the phonics that the children have learnt in Foundation Stage. The children will access a daily phonics lesson. Some children will be initially recapping Phase 3 to deepen their understanding which will help them to begin to apply the phonemes previously learnt to their reading and writing.


These children will then move on to Phase 4. Other children will be working this first half term on Phase 4, reading, writing and spelling CVCC, CCVC, CCVCC, CCCVCC, CCVCCC words.


Then will move to Phase 5 where they will learnt the alternative sounds.


We use the Jolly Phonics actions, songs and rhymes to supplement the Letters and Sounds Phonics programme. Below are the actions that we use.

Weave hand in an s shape, like a snake, and say ssssss
Wiggle fingers above elbow as if ants crawling on you and say a, a, a.
Turn head from side to side as if watching tennis and say t, t, t.
Pretend to be a mouse by wriggling fingers at end of nose and squeak i, i, i.
Pretend to puff out candles and say p, p, p.
Make a noise, as if you are a plane - hold arms out and say nnnnnn.


c k
Raise hands and snap fingers as if playing castanets and say ck, ck, ck.
Pretend to tap an egg on the side of a pan and crack it into the pan, saying eh, eh, eh.
Hold hand in front of mouth panting as if you are out of breath and say h, h, h.
Pretend to be a puppy holding a piece of rag, shaking head from side to side, and say rrrrrr.
Rub tummy as if seeing tasty food and say mmmmmm.
Beat hands up and down as if playing a drum and say d, d, d.
Spiral hand down, as if water going down the drain, and say g, g, g.
Pretend to turn light switch on and off and say o, o; o, o
Pretend to be putting up an umbrella and say u, u, u.
Pretend to lick a lollipop and say l l l l l l.
Let hands gently come together as if toy fish deflating, and say f f f f f f.
Pretend to hit a ball with a bat and say b, b, b.
Cup hand over ear and say ai, ai, ai.
Pretend to wobble on a plate and say j, j, j.
Bring hand over mouth as if you have done something wrong and say oh!
Stand to attention and salute, saying ie ie.
Put hands on head as if ears on a donkey and say eeyore, eeyore.
Put hands on head as if ears on a donkey and say eeyore, eeyore.
Put arms out at sides and pretend to be a bee, saying zzzzzz.
Blow on to open hand, as if you are the wind, and say wh, wh, wh.
Imagine you are a weightlifter, and pretend to lift a heavy weight above your head, saying ng...
Pretend to be holding the steering wheel of a van and say vvvvvv.



Move head back and forth as if it is the cuckoo in a cuckoo clock, saying u, oo; u, oo. (Little and long oo.)
Pretend to be eating a yogurt and say y, y, y.

click here

Pretend to take an x-ray of someone with an x-ray gun and say ks, ks, ks.
Move arms at sides as if you are a train and say ch, ch, ch.
Place index finger over lips and say shshsh.
Pretend to be naughty clowns and stick out tongue a little for the th,
and further for the th sound (this and thumb).
Make a duck's beak with your hands and say qu, qu, qu.
Pretend your finger is a needle and prick thumb saying ou, ou, ou.
Cup hands around mouth and shout to another boat saying oi! ship ahoy!
Point to people around you and say you, you, you.
Roll hands over each other like a mixer and say ererer.
Open mouth wide and say ah


All the above are  from the Jolly Phonics Website.


**Letters and Sounds is a phonics resource published by the Department for Education and Skills in 2007. It aims to build children's speaking and listening skills in their own right as well as to prepare children for learning to read by developing their phonic knowledge and skills. It sets out a detailed and systematic programme for teaching phonic skills for children starting by the age of five, with the aim of them becoming fluent readers by age seven.


You can view the Jolly Phonics videos with songs online in our Year 1 class page on our school website…



Jolly Phonics Songs

Jolly Phonics Songs and Actions, Phase 2 - Phase 5

Jolly Phonics Phase Three