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St Peter In Eastgate Infant School

St Peter In Eastgate Church of England Infant School


Phonics at St Peter in Eastgate Infants

Why do we learn phonics?

We learn phonics to help us learn to read. “Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS) is a Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) programme, validated by the Department for Education. By distilling Letters and Sounds to its purest form, – its essence – we ensure every phonics lesson is taught to the highest standard. Essential Letters and Sounds is an SSP where only the essential elements are included. The name reflects the key principles of the programme; simplicity and consistency.”

What is the aim of ELS?

The aim of ELS is to get all children to read well, quickly.

In pursuit of this aim, we have ensured that there is minimal opportunity for cognitive overload and a robust structure in place for the teaching of phonics. This gives the children the opportunity to not only practice but to overlearn, ensuring that they are all accessing learning. This was developed by teachers, for teachers, with teaching in mind.

Using Pure Sounds

Helping children to understand how to say what we identify as 'pure sounds' from the start is an important factor in building a strong foundation for future and more complex phonetic skills. It is important not to add ‘uh’ on the end of a phoneme (the sound) as this means that children may not be able to connect letter symbols with their appropriate sound. Blending incorrect sounds causes additional confusion. For example, rather than

m-a-t, muh-a-tuh becomes an unrecognisable word and a blending frustration.

Watch this clip to see how to pronounce Phase 2, 3 and 5 graphemes using ‘pure sounds’:

This is the Phase 2 Sounds:

Phase 3 Sounds:

Reading and writing

ELS mnemonics and rhymes have been developed and created to provide opportunities for teaching vocabulary as well as supporting spelling and letter formation.

(Flashcard ‘t’: down her body and cross her shoulders, Reception Autumn 1 week 1; Flashcard ‘er’: a bitter winter, Reception Spring 1 week 4; Flashcard ‘c’: cycle through the city, Year 1 Autumn 2 week 2)


In every lesson, there is the opportunity to use newly acquired phonic knowledge to read. Every time the children encounter a word, caption or sentence, their new phonic knowledge is put into context.

Children read increasingly longer text extracts which are highly focused on the new grapheme to phoneme correspondences (GPCs) taught. Children are provided with the opportunity to re-read these extracts to support their developing fluency.

Reading fluently

To read fluently, or well, we need a strong orthographic map. This means that we need to learn sounds spelt by the letters or groups of letters in each word. We want children to create a strong orthographic map.

To consistently recognise that the <ea> in bread spells the sound /e/ we need to read it at least 4 times. This means we need to read the word many times to build fluency for reading.

Decodable Books

Once a week Reception and Year One will read a decodable book in class to consolidate the graphemes they have learned that week. Teachers model reading the decodable text highlighting factors that will enable the children to apply reading fluency. This includes paying attention to the punctuation in the text; reading at the correct rate; putting the words together so they flow fluently; and reading with expression to make it exciting (see the Child Fluency Rubric below).

Reading four times a week

Children will then take that book home in their book bag and we ask that parents/carers aim to listen to them read it at least four times over the week.

At this early stage, many children’s initial focus is largely on decoding the text. It is for this reason that we encourage children to read the text again so they can focus attention on the meaning, again to focus on the flow of words and punctuation and one final reading for appropriate expression to make the text exciting.

Children will also have a decodable book at their independent phonic level which will be changed each Friday. Children also continue to have weekly access to the library where they can choose a book for pleasure and to share.

Reading for pleasure

Reading for pleasure opens up new worlds for children. It gives them the opportunity to use their imagination to explore new ideas, visit new places and meet new characters.

Reading for pleasure can also improve children’s well-being and empathy. It helps them to understand their own identity, and gives them an insight into the world and the views of others. Research shows that reading for pleasure can be directly linked to children’s success throughout their time at school and even into adulthood.

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