The Six Phonics Phases Explained

Phonics is an essential part of early reading and writing development. Learning phonics can help children understand the relationship between sounds and letters, which lays the foundation for reading and spelling. The process is typically divided into six phases, each building upon the previous one. For parents, understanding these phases can greatly assist in supporting their children’s literacy journey.

So, let’s dive into an informal explanation of each of the six phonics phases!

6 Phonics Phases

Phase 1: Phonemic Awareness (Pre-Phonic or Introduction to Phonics)

Before diving into specific letter-sound relationships, kids need to develop phonemic awareness. This phase focuses on recognizing and manipulating individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. This can help your child to improve his awareness of the sounds around him. It also lays important foundations for the phonics work that will follow in later phases, which includes learning the phonic sounds of letters, graphemes and blending.

Activities like rhyming games, identifying beginning sounds, and segmenting words into sounds help children tune their ears to the nuances of language. This phase provides the vital groundwork for phonics learning. No worksheets need to be completed nor reading or writing needs to take place here.

The sounds your child will be engaged in Phase 1 will entail:

  • Environmental Sounds
  • Instrumental Sounds
  • Body Percussion
  • Rhythm and Rhyme
  • Alliteration
  • Voice Sounds
  • Oral Blending and Segmenting

Phase 2: Letter Sounds (s, a, t, p, i, n)

In this phase, kids start looking at letters and connecting sounds to letters. They learn the basic letter sounds, known as phonemes. In total, there are 44 different phonemes used in the English language!

There are phonemes which can be made up of one or two letters, but here in Phase 2 of teaching phonics, the focus is placed on the common single-letter sounds. Simple words are introduced using these sounds, making it easier for children to blend sounds together to read words like “sat,” “pin,” and “pat.” Interactive activities, flashcards, and fun games help kids recognize and remember these letter sounds.

More specifically, your child will learn 23 phonic sounds of letters, which are arranged into five separate set, each week focusing on one specific set of sounds. These sounds are:

  • 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

As they’re learning phonics sounds, pupils will also learn to spell some simple VC (vowel-consonant) and CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. Alongside this, your child will start to pick up certain words that need to be learned by recognition – these are known as tricky words, and we start with simple words such as ‘no’, ‘the’ and ‘go’.

Phase 3: Digraphs and Blends

Now, children progress to understanding that some sounds are represented by two letters, which are called digraphs (e.g., “sh,” “ch,” “th”). They also learn about consonant blends, where two or more consonant sounds are blended together in a word (e.g., “bl,” “st,” “fr”). This phase expands their reading abilities as they encounter words like “ship,” “chat,” “step” and “clap.”

By the end of Phase 3, children should be able to recognise and recall all 26 letters of the alphabet. They should also be able to blend and read CVC words made up of the graphemes they’ve learnt. As well as learning phonics sounds, children will pick up a new set of twelve new tricky words, including ‘my’, ‘they’ and ‘me’.

Phase 4: Long Vowels and Tricky Words

Children by now should be confident in phoneme recognition. Phase 4 introduces long vowel sounds (e.g., “ai,” “ee,” “oa”) and more complex letter patterns. Kids are also introduced to “tricky words” that have irregularities in English spelling (e.g., “she, “said,” and “there”). By now, children are becoming more confident readers and are able to read longer sentences.

Here, children will learn to recognise sets of adjacent consonants (called consonant clusters). They should also be able to write out words and be able to say them without sounding out each phoneme individually. Once again, there’s another set of tricky words to add to their list, including words such as ‘some’, ‘come’ and ‘were’.

Phase 5: Alternative Spellings and More Tricky Words

Phase 5 delves into alternative spellings for the sounds kids have already learned. For instance, the sound “ai” (in “said”) can also be spelled as “ay” (e.g., “play”). Moreover, more tricky words are added to their vocabulary. Children are honing their ability to decode words and read them accurately. They’re also working on their comprehension skills, understanding the meaning of what they read.

Alongside these new phonemes and graphemes, you child will become quicker at recognising and blending graphemes and spelling knowledge will be worked on extensively. There’s also another load of tricky words to be learnt – including ‘people’, ‘looked’ and ‘asked’.

Phase 6: Advanced Phonic Knowledge

In the final phase, children refine their skills with complex word structures and learn more advanced spelling patterns. They explore different prefixes and suffixes that change the meaning of words. By this point, children are reading with increasing fluency and are better equipped to tackle challenging texts.

By Phase 6, your child will also be able to sight-read many words and recognise the tricky words that they’ve learnt so far. When children come across a word that is unfamiliar, they’ll be able to try and pronounce it using skills such as sounding out and blending.

In this phase, the focus is placed upon becoming more confident in reading and spelling, and your childshould be able to progress onto more advanced reading schemes when they are ready.


Remember, every child progresses at their own pace. Some might breeze through these phases, while others might take more time, and both scenarios are absolutely okay. The key is to create a supportive and engaging environment that encourages exploration and learning. Reading aloud together, playing word games, and celebrating small victories can make the phonics journey enjoyable for both parents and kids.

In conclusion, these six phonics phases lay the foundation for your child’s reading and writing abilities. By understanding each phase and participating in your child’s learning journey, you’re setting them up for success in literacy and beyond.

Happy phonics learning!

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