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Phonics and sounds explained

Boy learning phonics sounds
Wondering what those noises that your child has been chanting to you are? They're probably practising their phonics sounds – we explain what the sounds of phonics are, and how you can help your child learn them in Reception and beyond.

What are phonics sounds?

When your child learns to read, they will be taught the sounds that letters make on their own as well as in different groups. For example, the letters ‘s’ and ‘h’ have their own individual sounds, but when put together as /sh/, a new sound is created.

Your child will learn blends like /sh/, /ai/ and /ck/, as well as how to synthesise all the sounds together to make words (blending). This is also called sounding out, which is the method your child will use as they read words they’ve not come across before.

In phonics, it's important to pronounce "pure sounds": for example, the sound /m/ is pronounced 'mmmm' and not 'muh' or 'em'. This makes it much easier for children to blend sounds together to read.

How will my child learn phonics sounds?

Each school will have its own phonics scheme. Two learning programmes that are commonly used are Jolly Phonics and Letters and Sounds. While the two are separate programmes, the methods are sometimes combined in the classroom.

They key for your child is to be able to recognise which sounds (phonemes) go with which individual letters and letter combinations (graphemes), and to begin understanding spelling rules. You can help them review the phonics sounds using our handy guide.  

Encourage your child to recognise sounds by turning it into a game; for example, spot objects on the way to school and list the sounds in their names!

Find out more about how and why phonics is taught, straight from the experts. You can also download phonics worksheets to help your child practise at home.

Phonics sounds songs

We love these animated monster songs (very catchy!) to help with revising and teaching letter sounds.

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