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Parents' guide to Phase 6 phonics

Child reading with father
Different primary schools use different ways to teach children about sounds and letters, called phonics. But most kids in early years and Key Stage 1 follow a set of steps, or phases, to learn phonics. In Phase 6, they deepen their phonics knowledge and use their skills to help them read and spell. Here, we'll explain what Phase 6 is all about and how you can help your child with it at home.

What will your child learn in Phase 6 phonics?

By Phase 6, children should be able to read hundreds of words using one of three strategies:

  • Reading them automatically
  • Decoding them quickly and silently
  • Decoding them aloud

In Phase 6 phonics, children build upon the skills they've developed in earlier phases. 

Here's what they typically learn:

  • Spelling rules: children learn prefixes and suffixes, e.g. ‘in-’ and ‘-ed’
  • Word endings: they focus on understanding different word endings, including plurals, verb endings, and suffixes like -ing, -ed, and -er.
  • Word families: they explore word families and common root words, helping them recognise patterns in spelling and meaning.
  • Homophones and homographs: children learn about words that sound the same but have different meanings (homophones) and words that are spelled the same but have different meanings and pronunciations (homographs).
  • Contextual understanding: they develop skills in using context clues to decode unfamiliar words and understand their meanings in different contexts.
  • Grammar and punctuation: children begin to learn more about grammar rules, sentence structure, and punctuation marks, enhancing their writing skills.

They will also learn:

  • The past tense
  • Memory strategies for high frequency or topic words
  • Proof-reading
  • How to use a dictionary

When will your child be taught Phase 6 phonics? 

Although formal phonics teaching is usually complete by the end of Year 2, children continue to use their knowledge as they move up the school and may be taught Phase 6 phonics into KS2. 

Sara Wernham, a primary school teacher and one of the developers of the Jolly Phonics scheme, explains: ‘The whole aim of phonics teaching is not just to learn the sounds, but to use them as a tool for reading and spelling. Everything leads on to independent reading and writing.’

What sounds will your child be taught in Phase 6 phonics? 

In Phase 6 phonics, children are not typically taught new individual sounds as they were in earlier phases. Instead, Phase 6 focuses on developing more advanced phonemic awareness and applying the knowledge they have gained from previous phases.

How can you help your child with Phase 6 phonics at home?

You can support your child with Phase 6 phonics at home in several ways:

  • Reading together: encourage your child to read a variety of texts, including books, newspapers, and websites. Discuss any unfamiliar words they come across and help them understand their meanings.
  • Word games: play word games such as Scrabble, Boggle, or word searches to reinforce spelling patterns and word endings.
  • Writing practice: encourage your child to write stories, poems, or journal entries, focusing on using correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Provide feedback and praise their efforts.
  • Prefixes and suffixes: help your child understand the meanings of common prefixes and suffixes by discussing examples in everyday language. Encourage them to identify and use these affixes in their writing.
  • Plural practice: practice forming plurals with your child, both regular (adding -s, -es) and irregular (changing the spelling). Create sentences together using plural nouns.
  • Word families: explore word families with your child, identifying common root words and discussing how words within the same family are related in meaning and spelling.
  • Homophones and homographs: discuss examples of homophones and homographs with your child, emphasising their different meanings and spellings. Create sentences together to illustrate the differences.
  • Context clues: encourage your child to use context clues to figure out the meanings of unfamiliar words when reading. Discuss how surrounding words and sentences can help determine the meaning of a word.
  • Grammar and punctuation: review grammar rules and punctuation marks with your child, practising their use in sentences. Provide examples and encourage your child to apply these rules in their writing.
  • Positive reinforcement: offer praise and encouragement to your child as they engage with Phase 6 phonics activities. Celebrate their progress and successes, and provide support and guidance when needed.