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Parents' guide to Phase 4 phonics

Family reading together
Phonics is a teaching method used across many UK primary schools. Phonics programmes are often broken down into phases, and this can get a little confusing for parents. We explain what Phase 4 phonics involves and how you can help at home.

What will your child learn in Phase 4 phonics?

In Phase 4 phonics, children will, among other things:

Practise reading and spelling CVCC words (‘bump', 'nest', ‘belt,’ ‘milk’, etc)
Practise reading and spelling high frequency words
Practise reading and writing sentences
Learn more tricky words, including ‘have,’ ‘like,’ ‘some,’ ‘little’

Once your child has reached Phase 4 phonics, they should be confident with each phoneme. In this phase Sara Wernham, a primary school teacher and one of the developers of the Jolly Phonics scheme, explains that phonics teaching is about consolidating existing knowledge and introducing different spelling patterns and trickier words, with the aim of increasing children's vocabulary. 

Children are expected to transition to reading words fluently without the need to sound them out. Additionally, they should demonstrate the ability to write each letter, achieving mostly accurate results. 

When is Phase 4 phonics taught?

Phase 4 phonics is usually taught near the end of Reception and/or at the beginning of Year 1 and typically lasts four to six weeks. However, it's a good idea to check with your school if you're unsure, as programmes may vary slightly between schools and practices evolve over time. It will follow on from Phase 3 phonics and focus on consolidation of knowledge with the addition of new patterns and tricky words. 

What sounds are taught in Phase 4 phonics?

Here are some sounds that your child may learn in Phase 4 phonics: 

Phase 4 phonics sound mat

You can print this sound mat out and stick it up at home to help your child practise their Phase 4 phonics sounds. 

How can you help your child with Phase 4 phonics at home?

Parents can play a crucial role in supporting their child's learning of Phase 4 phonics at home. Here are some practical tips:

  • Review previous phases: Before starting Phase 4, ensure that your child has a good grasp of the phonemes and graphemes learned in previous phases (Phases 1 to 3).
  • Practise blending and segmenting: When you read together, continue to reinforce blending and segmenting skills. Encourage your child to blend sounds to read words and segment words into individual sounds for spelling.
  • Introduce new graphemes: In Phase 4, new graphemes are introduced, including consonant blends (e.g., "st," "br," "fl"). Help your child become familiar with these combinations by practising reading and spelling words containing these blends.
  • Tricky words: Focus on tricky words that are introduced in Phase 4. These are common words that cannot be easily decoded using phonics alone. Practise reading and spelling these words with your child.
  • Reading books: Choose books that align with Phase 4 phonics. Look for books that contain words with consonant blends and tricky words. Reading together regularly can enhance your child's phonics skills.
  • Word games: Engage in word games that involve blending and segmenting. Create flashcards with words containing consonant blends and tricky words. Play games like Snap or Memory with these cards.
  • Phonic apps and resources: Use educational apps and online resources that are designed to support Phase 4 phonics learning. Many reputable platforms provide interactive games and activities.
  • Consistency and patience: Learning phonics is a gradual process, so be patient. Consistency is key, so try to incorporate short, regular sessions into your routine rather than lengthy, infrequent ones.
  • Communication with teachers: Stay in touch with your child's teacher to understand what they are learning in school and to align your home support with the school's phonics programme.